- What’s On
Anatolia’s new peat gatherers follow a rugged, self-sufficient way of life. But they are taking a toll on the rare flowers of the Turkish moors. Andrew Byfield confronts a burning issue
Ağabaşı, one of Turkey’s last remaining peatlands, is an unexpected sight, especially on a rare sunny day. Set in the mountains above Trabzon, this yayla (summer settlement) is normally shrouded in a cold, lingering mist, but when the sun pierces the clouds, it comes to life as villagers beaver about weilding heavy spades, stacking piles of black peat, and hauling sacks of this precious fuel to their homes.
A process as old as the hills themselves, you would think. The methods the villagers use are certainly traditional, but not to Turkey, where widespread peat collection only seems to have started in the last twenty years.
Wherever he went in search of books on Turkey for his collection, Omer Koç was dismayed to find that the mysterious Mr Atabey had been there before him. Then, in an apartment in Paris, all was revealed: the world’s most magnificent collection of volumes on the Ottoman Empire and the Levant - a veritable treasure trove of beautiful books.
Iskenderun and Aleppo were once vital trading posts of the Ottoman Empire. Today they straddle a border and are raffish outposts worthy of Graham Greene. Amicia de Moubray accompanied Iskenderun’s Honorary British Consul on a whistle-stop tour of the two cities. She discovered the legacy of liquorice and the East’s most enticing bazaar.
In the seventeenth century, Evliya Çelebi, the Ottoman traveller, praised the size of the pumpkins of Varna on the Black Sea: a single fruit could weigh up to 60kg. Today in the Balkans, the custom is to slice off the stem end of a ripe pumpkin, scoop out its seeds and pour honey into the cavity. The top is then replaced like a lid and the pumpkin baked in the oven.
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Veterans of the Peking-to-Paris rally know that if you can nurse your car across the deserts, mountains and yak tracks of the great Asian landmass and reach Istanbul in one piece, the final leg on Europe’s roads should be a cruise. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, an entrant in this year’s 90th anniversary event, sent home a diary of his - and others’ - adventures on this 12,000 mile marathon from Peking to Paris.
High on a honey-coloured Cappadocian hillside, a remarkable Frenchman set himself the challenge of restoring the crumbling stone houses in the village of Uçhisar. Today, lovingly brought back to life, they stand tall once again. David Barchard was bewitched. Photographs: Sigurd Kranendonk