Tag Archives: Turkey

Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2014 Ride, Part 2

August 14 TO 17
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

14 August 2014
Another very hot day and I am exhausted from doing little or nothing. Ercihan spent several hours on the phone to the heads of the various jandarma forces (state rather than municipal police) with whom we anticipated making regular contact along the way). A box of T-shirts and some saddle blankets from our new sponsors with their logo arrived. In the evening Jude arrived from Oregon to join the 2014 team of riders. Originally from the UK, Jude Vawter currently breeds Akhal-teke horses at the Page Creek Ranch.

16-August, Juno with Zorlu in the ring
16 August, Juno with Zorlu in the ring

15 August 2014
Two more of the team arrived from the US. Susan flew in with her good friend Ann Hume, who rode the EÇW in 2010 and fell in love with the Turkish countryside. There are still delays to airline schedules across Turkey. One of Ann’s bags and some new saddles that Susan bought in the States have failed to arrive. There is now only Jean Matton to arrive from Belgium to complete the group planning to ride. His flight to Kayseri is supposed to get in tomorrow evening. Everyone expects delays.

16 August 2014
Well, it is now looking like plans to send regular posts to Tracey, along with photos, is destined to be something of a problem. The first intimation was discovering, on arrival at the ranch that the red pen I had brought to keep notes does not work. Abandoning thoughts of keeping longhand notes, this morning I found that the laptop may have developed a new glitch, one that tells the internet to switch itself off seconds after switching on.though Ann tells me this may simply be a problem with the strength of the signal and that seems likely.

This morning Ann, Jude and Donna went off with Ercihan to see how they liked their assigned horses – Ann on Kelebek (‘Butterfly’), Jude on Zorlu (‘Difficulty’), and Donna on Aşgar. Susan joined them on her horse Juno.

16 August, Ann stays in the shade with Kelebek
16 August, Ann stays in the shade with Kelebek
16-August,, Juno and Susan ready to go
16-August,, Juno and Susan ready to go

At dinner this evening, with all the riders except Jean – yes, his flight was delayed and he would not be in Avanos until about 4am – we shared memories of ‘things that go wrong on horseback riding holidays.’ We quickly agreed that our most vivid memories of this kind were invariably about the personality of one or more of the group riding. And now we had all met, we were pretty certain that we would not have that sort of difficulty on this trip. Anyone who willingly sets out to ride across Central Anatolia in the heat of the summer was unlikely to be a whinger. All of us had travelled this way before and knew what to expect, and what to dread. All of us at one time or another had been on equestrian camping expeditions in company with Susan, who had hand-picked the riders for this trip.

Amidst the various activities and unanticipated complications, these days have been hot, cooling off only after 5pm in the evening to below 30 celsius. I know I won’t be able to take the heat and direct sun at these kinds of temperatures, so will set out with the support team tomorrow, driving the mini-bus.

17 August, Jean meets Zenopya
17 August, Jean meets Zenopya

17 August 2014
Now that he is here, all are agreed that Jean is certain to be a good member of the group and he has the right sense of humour about being among so many women. Anyone so eager to get going after less than four hours sleep following airport delays is certainly no whinger! But whingers are easy enough to find, especially in the pages of sites like TripAdvisor.

I’ve recently been reading a lot of nineteenth-century travel writing by Brits who travelled across Turkey, or the Ottoman Empire as some more correctly termed the region, and a surprising number of them were whingers. Many of them were going further east into Persia and Kurdistan and beyond. Like Evliya, these were writers who travelled by horse, and there were a lot of them, including some women. Trains and steam ships were rapidly making parts of what we now call the Middle East increasingly available to new kinds of European traveller. A new class distinction was in the making, one we now hear at work whenever someone talks of being a ‘traveller’ and not a ‘tourist.’ Except in extreme cases – choosing a package holiday to the sun is obviously different from setting out to hike the Himalayas – it can be a rather vague and fuzzy distinction, but one that attracts believers. I strongly suspect it inspired some of the writers I have been reading to travel by horse and write about it in order to stake a claim to a more traditional and certainly more arduous form of travelling than those earliest ‘tourists’ on organized group tours of Constantinople or the Holy Land. Whether diplomats or missionaries, military types exploring overland routes to India, archaeologists intent on finding the next big site with important (ie having a high market value) relics of some bygone age, or those who travelled simply because they could, all who published memoirs and narratives of their equestrian journeys east shared one thing besides a love of horses. The single most recurrent topic, one that regularly becomes a repeated theme for some of these writers, is the impossibility of leaving camp on time.

17 August, Jude waits in the shade
17 August, Jude waits in the shade

I don’t know if anyone believed that horses and riders would actually manage to leave the ranch at 8:30am as planned. In the end, it was close to 10:00am and close to approaching 30 degrees when the riders posed for a group photo or two before striking out for the national park at Göreme, where the support team would be waiting with lunch for horses and riders.

17 August, ready to go Zorlu and Asgar with riders
17 August, ready to go Zorlu and Asgar with riders
17 August, Zenopia and Jean ready to go
17 August, Zenopia and Jean ready to go
17 August, final photo
17 August, final photo one
17 August, final photo two
17 August, final photo two
17 August, Final photo, finally together
17 August, Final photo, finally together

 

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Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2014 Ride, Part 1

We have arrived in Turkey!
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

8-9 Aug
On the 8th, we got up at 3:00 am and by 5:00 were at Heathrow Terminal Three ready for our 6:50 flight to Istanbul only to find a delay until 10:00 was already posted. Storms had wrecked flight schedules in and out of Ataturk airport; we knew we could not make the internal flight to Nevşehir, so I texted Ercihan in Avanos not to try meeting us there at 19:30 (his time) as planned. We proved lucky. When we did eventually arrive at Nevşehir, only 20 hours behind schedule, the bags we had checked back at Heathrow were waiting for us and there was Ercihan with the minibus ready to take us to Avanos and the horses. In the 3 months since we left, Göksu had foaled, producing a perfectly conformed and beautiful filly foal, yet to be named.

The foal
The foal

10 Aug
Today is already a historical date in the evolution of the Republic of Turkey. Today Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected the 12th President of the Republic in the first popular election to the post (previous presidents have all been appointed by the Prime Minister from elected members of the Meclis, or parliamentary assembly).

We spent the day at the ranch, catching up on local events and playing with horses. It is proving to be as hot as we expected. That was among the reasons we came over a week before the 2014 Ride is scheduled to set off. Would I be up to riding in the heat? A few days to get the blood accustomed to daily temperatures in the 30s and the digestive system on track to accommodate local (yerli) water and food.

While Turks voted, the history of the EÇW Project was also in the process of being made at the Akhal Teke Ranch where we met our first major sponsor for the 2014 Ride, Dr Mehmet Küçük, Director of the Kütüphane-e Türkiye Projesi (‘Turkey E-Library Project’), which is establishing up-to-date digital resources and training programmes in provincial public libraries throughout Turkey with funding supplied by Bill and Melinda Gates. Dr Küçük and his team had driven down from Ankara, with his colleagues Drs Sinan and Göknür Akilli of the literature and technology departments respectively at Haceteppe University and METU (Middle East Technical University); other equestrian colleagues came to the meeting from Nevşehir University. Since the brief of Dr Küçük’s project shares ambitions with the EÇW Project of improving material and cultural conditions in impoverished rural areas, we soon found common ground. Sinan has recently translated Donna’s book about Eastern horses into Turkish and has are delighted to have this opportunity of thanking Dr Küçük for his support.

11 August

Donna taking some notes
Donna taking some notes

Another hot day at the ranch. Donna took time away from talking to horses to make a note of the horses being brought into condition for the forthcoming Ride.

The support vehicle
The support vehicle
Cleaning out the support vehicle.
Cleaning out the support vehicle.

Time to clean out the support vehicle and make sure the kitchen and shower facilities are in working order.

Drying out the camping equipment.
Drying out the camping equipment.

Time to dry out and test the camping equipment.

Shoeing the horses
Shoeing the horses

Time for the nalbant (farrier) to shoe some of the horses for the expedition.

Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2014 Ride

Getting ready: 7 August
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

Donna and I leave from Heathrow for Turkey first thing tomorrow morning. Why are we doing it again? Taking to the saddle to ride horses for weeks across central Turkey?

Anatolia Map
Anatolia Map

The 2014 plan is to ride from Avanos southwards, beneath the foothills of Hasan Dagi, the ancient volcano whose eruptions of tufa caused the strange geological formations that bring tourists to Cappadocia. We will continue southerly, skirting Nigde and Ereğli before turning westward to pass south of ancient Konya, home of the whirling dervishes. It will be very, very hot for the horses. We then ride northerly through ancient Pisidia and on past Afyon to join up with the UNESCO designated Evliya Çelebi Way at Kütahya, which we will ride to the south shores of the Sea of Marmara, passing Bursa and Iznik.

2013 Ride, Outside Iznik
2013 Ride, Outside Iznik

One simple answer for setting out on another expeditionary ride is that many of us who explored the 2009 route vividly recall just how horrible life was AFTER that ride ended. Donna and I had a six-day lay over in Istanbul before we could fly home, and I have never felt so depressed in a city that I have loved since my first visit in 1975. To put things another way:

When we set out in 2009 to ride the first stage of Evliya’s 1671 route from Istanbul on his pilgrimage to Mecca, one of our unexpected discoveries was how travelling for weeks with horses meant that every hour in the saddle, even when tired and sore, was experienced as pleasure.

En  Route to Bahcekaya
En Route to Bahcekaya

As your route unwinds limitlessly before you, with each ridge of the horizon promising something previously unknown, being ‘on the road’ becomes addictive. Horses bred for long distance riding know this, and eagerly eat up the miles in search of the next lush green space and the next source of water. This equestrian delight in being on the road is something that Evliya must have fully understood since he made travelling with horses his entire life.

Photo of Ottoman Horse Camp, Photo Credit: Topkapi Palace Library , TSM H2148-8A]
Photo of Ottoman Horse Camp, Photo Credit: Topkapi Palace Library , TSM H2148-8A]

If all goes to plan, we set out on Saturday 16 August, and will be in touch when we can find three bars!

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride, Part 6

The 2009 Ride – The Final Chapter
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

We camped in the open.

Anadolu keeps an eye on us.
Anadolu keeps an eye on us.

We were always happy to wake up in the morning.

Another beautiful day
Another beautiful day
Coffee was always ready.
Coffee was always ready.

And we were always eager and more or less ready to get going.

Carpe Diem
Carpe Diem
Getting ready for the day
Getting ready for the day
Getting ready for the day
Getting ready for the day

Some 1300 kilometres later, the horses and core riders fetched up in Kütahya, unfazed by adventures and ready for more.

The end of the Road: Titiz and Elis in Kütahya ready for more.

Titiz and Elis
Titiz and Elis
The supply vehicle was unloaded
The supply vehicle was unloaded

It was time to go home. The Ride was over. It had been a great success. Not one of the horses went lame. Did nothing go wrong?

~END~

Things that went wrong include:

  • matters that simply cannot be related in public
  • delays the first day over tack and rains that pour as soon as we set off
  • coping with the mud next morning
  • excessive hospitality on the part of villagers
  • getting lost in the forest
  • the problem of leaving waste behind
  • the politics of village life: the incident in the night at Ovacik
  • accidents to people requiring medical attention
  • the police arrest the supply vehicle
  • the snows come…

By any standards of comparison, the 2009 group of riders were and remained a happy bunch; there were far fewer of the kinds of personality clashes that I have known on other expeditions of this sort, and will draw a curtain over my memory of them, since they were seldom more than petty. And it is true to say that in general, the Ride that year was successful in all of its objectives. But there were, of course, unexpected problems along the Way. In addition to matters that should not be reported, these include:

  • delays the first day over tack and rains that pour as soon as we set off, and coping with the mud next morning
  • excessive hospitality on the part of villagers
  • getting lost in the forest
  • being suspected of being sheep rustlers
  • the problem of leaving waste behind
  • the politics of village life: the incident in the night at Ovacik
  • accidents to people requiring medical attention
  • the police arresting the supply vehicle
  • the snows arriving…

Note from Editor: Stay tuned for some reporting from the 2014 Ride – live from the saddle 🙂

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride, Part 5

The next installment
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

In some villages, elder statesman reported what they believed Evliya to have said about their locality. In Ücbaş, we were told Evliya had praised the local garlic, but have yet to verify this.

A formal welcome: tea in Ücbaş
A formal welcome: tea in Ücbaş

Thanks to the brave and agile horses, we forded rivers and climbed mountains.

In the River Yalak, September 2009. Photo: Mehmet Çam.
In the River Yalak, September 2009. Photo: Mehmet Çam.

We made friends with local villagers and stopped for tea in village tea-houses.

Magnificent plane tree hosting a tea house, Erdoğmuş, 2009.
Magnificent plane tree hosting a tea house, Erdoğmuş, 2009.
Tea-time in Kestel, while Ilos, Anadolu, Sarhoş turn their backs, 2009.
Tea-time in Kestel, while Ilos, Anadolu, Sarhoş turn their backs, 2009.

We explored ancient sites and Ottoman cities:

Temple of Zeus, Aizanoi, Çavdarhisar, 2009.
Temple of Zeus, Aizanoi, Çavdarhisar, 2009.

We attended rahvan (pacing) horse races and mounted cirit (javelin) matches:

Rahvan racing, all 4 feet off the ground, Bursa 2009.
Rahvan racing, all 4 feet off the ground, Bursa 2009.
Cirit; the hard halt immediately before the throw, Kediyünü village, (Uşak), 2009.
Cirit; the hard halt immediately before the throw, Kediyünü village, (Uşak), 2009.
We rode on unmarked trails through unspoiled landscapes of staggering beauty.
We rode on unmarked trails through unspoiled landscapes of staggering beauty.

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride, Part 4

The 2009 Ride: On Setting out and Returning…
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

Ready to Go! Thérèse, Caro and Susan, 22 September, Hersek.
Ready to Go! Thérèse, Caro and Susan, 22 September, Hersek.

The core group of riders set out on 22 September 2009, accompanied by our cook and driver, Metin Aker, and Sedat Varış who took care of the horses.

Sedat often stayed up all night feeding and taking care of the horses.
Sedat often stayed up all night feeding and taking care of the horses.

Riders who joined for shorter or longer periods included Patricia Daunt and botanist Andy Byfield, Turkish Jockey Club vet Ayşe Yetiş, Cappadocian entrepreneurs Özcan Görürgöz and Alper Katrancı, trekkist and academic Pınar Durmaz, and Montreal advertising executive Thérèse Tardif.

Tea-time: Özcan and Alper assist Metin welcoming our guests, Paçacıoğlu, 2009.
Tea-time: Özcan and Alper assist Metin welcoming our guests, Paçacıoğlu, 2009.
First evening by the camp fire: Thérèse, Caro, Donna and Susan, 2009.
First evening by the camp fire: Thérèse, Caro, Donna and Susan, 2009.

The expedition was accompanied for early stages of the journey by Mehmet Çam and other members of the Istanbul production company Ajans21, who shot footage for a potential documentary about Evliya and the expedition.

Caroline chats with camera crew, Hersek, 21 September 2009.
Caroline chats with camera crew, Hersek, 21 September 2009.

From Hersek, on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara, we followed Evliya to Iznik, Bursa, Kütahya, Afyon, Uşak and Simav, before turning back through Çavdarhisar and returning to Kütahya, Evliya’s father’s city.

Patricia Daunt, Donna, and Andy Byfield arrive at Ovaçık camp, 2009.
Patricia Daunt, Donna, and Andy Byfield arrive at Ovaçık camp, 2009.

While finding the Way, we established beyond a doubt that the Turkish countryside remains ideal for riding, trekking, and other forms of independent and sustainable tourism.

Ways best travelled by hoof or foot.
Ways best travelled by hoof or foot.

So long as traditional agricultural practices of semi-nomadic grazing and farmers’ shared use of the land keep the countryside open and unprivatised, Turkey remains one of the very few places in the developed world in which it is possible to make such long distance cross-country journeys unhindered by ‘No Trespassing!’ signs and barbed wire fences. Turkish hospitality guarantees travellers safe passage and a warm welcome.

An early-morning farewell from Ovaçık, 2009.
An early-morning farewell from Ovaçık, 2009.

Another thing we learned was just how widely Evliya is still known wherever he went. In every village that we passed through where there was a school, the children had mostly heard of him.

Not everyone was sure they had heard of Evliya.
Not everyone was sure they had heard of Evliya.

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride, Part 3

Part 3
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

Caroline discovered that Evliya’s 1671 itinerary to Mecca would serve our purposes ideally since, in his typically wandering fashion, after setting out from Istanbul, Evliya turned west, away from Mecca in the east, and went as far as Izmir. Since routes Evliya travelled between towns and villages regularly corresponded with one equestrian journey recorded by Lady Anne Blunt, in the summer of 2007 Donna and Caroline journeyed into rural Anatolia on an initial exploration by four-wheel drive that confirmed we could go this way by horse.

Ways you can best travel by horse.
Ways you can best travel by horse.

Meanwhile, we made contact with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism to tell them of our plans, and in the summer of 2008 the three of us made another brief exploratory trip of stretches of the planned route by four-wheel drive. Our eventual destination, however, was not on Evliya’s 1671 itinerary since we were headed to Cappadocia, ‘the land of the beautiful horses’ and the Akhal-Teke Ranch in Avanos.

‘Land of the Beautiful Horses,’ Sevda posing, Akhal-Teke Ranch, 2008.
‘Land of the Beautiful Horses,’ Sevda posing, Akhal-Teke Ranch, 2008.

Since travelling by horse along sections of Evliya’s route was central to our plan, we needed to find horses. Evliya had wealthy sponsors, and was regularly awarded horses as gifts or spoils from battle. We had better fortune when Patricia Daunt joined the team planning to ride, and suggested that we contact Ercihan Dilari for our horses. So in August 2008, Caroline, Donna and Mac arrived in Avanos, and stayed in a wonderful old stone house with our host Hakan and his Italian guests who were visiting from Yozgat!

Mac and Caroline, Hakan in the foreground (Donna took the picture), Avanos 2008.
Mac and Caroline, Hakan in the foreground (Donna took the picture), Avanos 2008.

After breakfast, we set out to meet with Ercihan and discuss logistics for a long-distance equestrian tour. He understood our project immediately and wanted to join.

Ercihan likes our plan!  Akhal Teke Ranch, August 2008.
Ercihan likes our plan! Akhal Teke Ranch, August 2008.
Donna helps out at the ranch, Avanos, 2008.
Donna helps out at the ranch, Avanos, 2008.

With an experienced horseman and horses now on our side, we were nearly all ready to go apart from two things: bureaucracy and finance. Meetings at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Ankara and the Turkish Embassy in London brought us formal support in the shape of visas and papers that we would show to local authorities along the way.

Metin Toprak, a Friendly Gendarme, Aydınlar, 2009.
Metin Toprak, a Friendly Gendarme, Aydınlar, 2009.

But costs remained a problem. The mayor of Kütahya, Evliya’s ancestral hometown to which we would be travelling, helped encourage local businesses to assist with sponsorship.

Evliya Çelebi’s ancestral house in Kütahya, now a museum in his honour.
Evliya Çelebi’s ancestral house in Kütahya, now a museum in his honour.

Thanks to Ercihan’s contacts and Caroline’s indefatigable efforts (and her instinctive sense of how to do these things!), the provision of horse-feed and transport as well as other essential supplies were eventually covered. Ercihan purchased a used kamyonet, and customized it to include a kitchen, outside sink with an over-head water supply, and internal racks to separate sacks of feed and bedding from luggage. Armed with a list of the villages visited by Evliya, Ercihan checked our projected route by motor-cycle. With the planned route approved, we were ready to set out.

All ready to set out: Donna and Caro arrive at Hersek camp, 21 September 2009.
All ready to set out: Donna and Caro arrive at Hersek camp, 21 September 2009.

And so it came about that the Evliya Çelebi Ride of 2009 took place. This would be an epic journey lasting a legendary forty days and forty nights.

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride, Part 2

The 2009 Ride: Before Setting Out
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

I ended the last post reporting that ‘On 22 September 2009, with seven horses and a supply vehicle, the first Evliya Çelebi Ride set out to follow the first stages of his itinerary.’

Setting up our first camp, Hersek, 21 September 2009.
Setting up our first camp, Hersek, 21 September 2009.

But how could it be that simple? Plans for the 2009 Ride had started to come to focus more than a decade earlier, long before our supply vehicle was designed and built.

Our supply vehicle and kitchen. Metin prepares lunch.
Our supply vehicle and kitchen. Metin prepares lunch.

In the mid-1990s, Donna and I first went riding in Cappadocia, sometimes camping overnight alongside the horses in spectacular landscapes, and we soon began imagining how wonderful it would be to travel across Turkey on horseback.

Ways best travelled by Horse.
Ways best travelled by Horse.

At about the same time, Caroline Finkel was thinking much the same thing, except that her plan involved travelling on foot. When we met in 1999, the two schemes began to combine, swiftly moving from topics of dinner conversation into serious possibilities.

The Pleasures of Travel with Horses, 1: Going for an evening stroll.
The Pleasures of Travel with Horses, 1: Going for an evening stroll.

Donna and I were already part of an academic research group exploring how and in what ways historical re-enactment was a useful method in historical and cultural research, but Caroline introduced the name of Evliya Çelebi for the first time as a way for thinking about the route we should take.

Thinking about our Route along the way: Ercihan confers with locals, 2009.
Thinking about our Route along the way: Ercihan confers with locals, 2009.

While finishing Osman’s Dream (2005), her narrative history of the Ottoman Empire, Caroline had been working with Kate Clow on pioneering trekking routes across Turkey. Kate was establishing The Lycian Way and St Paul Trail, seeking to promote sustainable inland tourism away from the coastal resorts.

Away from the coastal resorts: Ovaçık Village, 2009.
Away from the coastal resorts: Ovaçık Village, 2009.

Donna had begun research on Lady Anne Blunt’s manuscript journals of her equestrian travels in Turkey and elsewhere, and I was finishing a book about seventeenth-century English travellers in the Ottoman Empire. So Evliya quickly became a focus for our common interests: he travelled by horse along routes that would take us into remote areas where tourists seldom ventured.

The Pleasures of Travel with Horses, 2: There is always someone keeping an eye out for you while you are asleep.
The Pleasures of Travel with Horses, 2: There is always someone keeping an eye out for you while you are asleep.

365 Places: The Grand Bazaar

Day 68: The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

As promised here is another place I love in the old city of Istanbul – the Grand Bazaar.

The interior of the Grand Bazaar in the 1890s, by Ottoman photographer Sébah.
The interior of the Grand Bazaar in the 1890s, by Ottoman photographer Sébah.

I love this place because it symbolises the essence of Istanbul: bright, colourful, noisy, confusing and utterly seductive. It is a place that is rich in history and beauty, plus having the honour of being the oldest and one of the most visited bazaars in the world.

One of the kiosk from the 17th century, that used to be a small cafe. Located close to Aynacilar Sok and the Zincirli Hanı. Image Credit: Gryffindor
One of the kiosk from the 17th century, that used to be a small cafe. Located close to Aynacilar Sok and the Zincirli Hanı. Image Credit: Gryffindor

The Grand Bazaar also boasts being the largest covered bazaar in the world. The construction of the Grand Bazaar’s core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles.The Hurriyet Daily News states that:

The bazaar in Istanbul’s historical Fatih district employs 25,000 people and features 64 avenues and streets, two “bedestens” (covered bazaars), 16 khans and 22 gates containing its 3,600 shops.

You need a couple of hours at least to see the Grand Bazaar, to really get a sense of how large and wonderful this place truly is. It is also well worth heading out to the street and checking out the many other stalls. We discovered a wonderful cafe tucked away down a side street, which had been converted from an old hamam. It was a lovely quiet place to escape the activity outside.

Some things to note
Like most historic places in Istanbul, it will usually be very crowded with tourists. Busloads and busloads of tourist buses go there every day. A couple of hints:

  • Keep an eye on your wallet. Istanbul is a relatively safe place, but crowded places like the Grand Bazaar are tempting for thieves.
  • Don’t forget which gate you entered from – it is big and confusing inside and too easy to get lost (which is fine if that is your goal).
  • Bargain, bargain, bargain. The prices are very inflated here so do a check of prices beforehand. My rule of thumb is paying 1/2 to a 1/3 of the asking price. Ultimately, if you really want something you won’t feel too bad if you get ripped of a bit.

We also avoided the rug shops here, the apple tea is very tempting but I do not feel comfortable getting trapped in the store – the pressure is on for you to buy! There are also lots of copies of designer gear with varying levels of quality. I bought a beautiful fake Jimmy Choo bag, which I realised later was a copy, I didn’t care or realise as I am not one for brands, I just like what I like. Just be aware though that you are probably getting sold a fake. Most store holders we met told us when their stock was fake and would usually tell you what level of quality the copy was – #1, #2,#3, etc.

Something to also be mindful of is that sometimes the bazaar is closed, Eid and also Turkish Republic Day are two days we noticed it was shut.

How to get there
Catch the tram to Çemberlitaş (the stop after Sultanahmet), go down Vezirhan Caddesi (you will see the Çemberlitaş Hamam on the corner) to the end of the street. You will see the Nuruosmaniye Mosque on the left and then the Bazaar is just behind the mosque. Have fun!

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride

This post is the first in a series which will explore the expeditionary ride along Evliya Çelebi Way in 2009 plus linking you to some other writing about Evliya Çelebi Way. As more stories are published I will add the links across the related pages. You can also search for the 2009 stories by clicking the 2009 Expeditionary Ride tag in the tag list.
Tracey

The EÇW is one of the best experiences I’ve had anywhere in the world
Candace Rose Rardon, The Great Affair (Dec 2013)

Recalling the 2009 Expeditionary Ride
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

We set out, September 2009. Photo: Mehmet Çam.
We set out, September 2009. Photo: Mehmet Çam.

Reading Tracey’s wonderful job of editing the materials I sent her about the Evliya Çelebi Way Project, I realised that starting the story in October 2013 – when UNESCO formally opened the Evliya Çelebi Way (EÇW) as a European Cultural Route – meant there was still lots to tell that might be of interest to readers about the initial expeditionary ride of 2009 and how we first found the Way…

Finding the Way in 2009. Susan and Asya.
Finding the Way in 2009. Susan and Asya.

The other thing that has happened since starting to work with Tracey is that I learned that we already have an ideal fan, Candace Rardon, who walked the EÇW last autumn and published a compelling account of her adventures on her travel-blog, ‘The Great Affair.’ Candace is a very professional travel-blogger and can truly claim to be the first to have walked the EÇW as described in the Guidebook in its entirety! And we are obviously delighted that she has only wonderful things to say about the countryside, the hospitality of the people, and the sense of excitement and achievement that completing the trek – with hotel stops along the way – brought her. This is entirely unsolicited testimony and, after the Guidebook itself, the best guide for anyone who needs persuading to set out on the EÇW.

Sunrise on the EÇW, Seydikuzu, 2009.
Sunrise on the EÇW, Seydikuzu, 2009.

I was especially delighted that Candace not only enjoyed the journey but found, in addition to plentiful clean water and gifts of fruit, adequate supplies along the way from village shops (bakkals), and that she enjoyed finding herself staying most nights as a personally invited guest in villagers’ houses. As Caroline notes in the Guidebook, among our aims in establishing the EÇW is the hope that the home-stay system common along older-established trekking routes might develop, whereby ‘villagers offer rooms and meals in their houses.’

Travelling the EÇW: You are always welcome
Travelling the EÇW: You are always welcome

An invitation to share a meal or to stay overnight with a village family will always be genuine. At this stage in its development, when as Candace noticed, many villagers are still unaware of the EÇW, travellers are guests and are still subject to the traditional codes of hospitality and there are no expectations of payment. We have found that in lieu of other gifts small cash gifts presented for the youngest children of the household are unlikely to cause offence.

Commemorative coffee-mugs
Commemorative coffee-mugs

In 2009 one of our sponsors, Kütahya Porselen, provided us with 2,000 commemorative coffee-mugs that village children were delighted to receive wherever we went. While riding, we often carry pens and small toys to distribute.

Village children, Boyalı, 2009.
Village children, Boyalı, 2009.

Unlike the organized pilgrim trails of Spain and Japan, the EÇW remains a truly personal journey, as you will discover from reading Candace’s The Great Affair’s Guide to: Trekking the Evliya Celebi Way.