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In Search of Sun and Tea

Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea
by Tom Brosnahan
Homer Kitabevi

The owners of Homer Bookshop, just down Yeni Çarsi street from Galatasaray, make it a point of honour to keep in stock every book on Turkey they can. Now they have gone one better. Following my gaze towards an unfamiliar volume on the counter, the co-owner Ahmet Salcan slipped a paperback into my bag of purchases. “Just published it,” he said, with an impish smile. “The text came in and I put it out. It read so smoothly, I couldn’t resist.”

He is right, mostly. The author of this unusual volume is an unstoppable pro, the man behind three-dozen guide books, from places as varied as Guatemala and New England. Tom Brosnahan has now crafted a charming, witty personal memoir of exactly what Turkey was like in the late 1960s when he first broke out of English teaching into travel writing.

After a touching portrait of Izmir from classes with idealistic students to the last aromas of the Ottoman Empire in the tobacco warehouse of a Levantine trader Brosnahan sets off to scour Turkey for remote Seljuk tombs and the perfect glass of tea. He was one of the first modern travellers through Anatolian villages, and tales tumble from the page as he faces everything from furious “get-lost” suspicion to overwhelming hospitality. He was even on the sidelines of the very first business congress in Istanbul ? the setting for a now long-forgotten outrage of Turkish press freedom, when papers gleefully published pictures of the fat cats’ wives naked in the hamam.

Brosnahan also pays tribute to the dedication of the 1,500 US Peace Corps volunteers, of whom he was one, who served in Turkey after 1962. Though threats from radical Turkish leftists forced an end to this enlightened programme in 1970, it did, he reminds us, build an enduring cultural bridge between Turkey and America. It also launched the career of a guidebook-writer whose Lonely Planet guide has led countless visitors to Turkey’s farthest corners.

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 33
  • Walking the Taurus

    Kate Clow, creator of Turkey’s first official walking route, has done it again. Caroline Finkel joined her on the new St Paul Trail, which crosses southern Turkey’s giant Taurus range. The photographs in this stunning 14-page article are by Kate Clow with Terry Richardson

  • Simply Sensational

    The börek has an extensive place in Turkey’s culinary repertoire, and the choice of fillings is infinite. From cheese to spicy ground meat or suateéd meat cubes with nuts and raisins; from chicken or turkey to fish and lentils; from offal such as brain or tripe to vegetables – the list is almost endless.
    More cookery features

  • On Your Marques

    Brave new wines from Turkey. Kevin Gould on the independent spirit of Turkish wine makers. Photograph by Berrin Torolsan

  • Mezes: Starting from the top

    Old favourites and new attractions: Andrew Finkel samples Istanbul’s best meyhanes. Photographs by Simon Wheeler

  • Tribe and Tribulation

    After years of wandering in western China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a group of Kirghiz have finally made a lasting home in the highlands of eastern Anatolia. The historian Hasan Ali Karasar, who as a boy in Van witnessed their arrival, recounts their extraordinary tale. Photographs by Jonathan Henderson

  • Speechless in Samarkand

    The most wondrous tiled dome, the biggest and best-ever food bazaar, the most handsome man in the world… Uzbekistan, as Min Hogg discovers, inspires a profusion of superlatives, even if she tangles with the transport. In Samarkand, Tamerlane’s fabled capital, she finds herself lost for words. Photographs by Min Hogg

  • Riddle of the Runes

    After years of delving deep into the origins of writing and language Kâzım Mirşan has put forward an astonishing claim: that at the root of it all is an ancient, proto-Turkish mother tongue. Genius or dreamer? Christian Tyler meets a man whose hypotheses threaten to turn the very history of man on its head.

  • One Thousand Years of Splendour

    A special report on the Royal Academy’s amazing ‘Turks’ exhibition

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Issue 33, 2005 Great Exhibitions
£12.00 / $15.57 / 514.85 TL
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