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Adventures of the Three Donketeers

In August 1981, a writer, a painter, a geographer and four donkeys set out on a 600-kilometre journey from the Sea of Marmara to the Mediterranean. Rural Anatolia was on the cusp of great change, but the remote villages they passed through were holding on firmly to their way of life. Drawing on the diary he kept en route and long-forgotten photographs, Christopher Trillo brings a poet’s eye and pen to his account of an epic journey’s moments of humour and humanity – and sheer poetry

  • Bumper harvest, Aşağıbali, near Çaltılıbük, northwest Anatolia, photographed by Christopher Trillo on Day 1 of their eight-journey across Anatolia in 1981

It was August 1981 – not the most auspicious time for three Englishmen to embark upon a trek across Anatolia, from north to south, from Mustafakemelpaşa and the Sea of Marmara, to Serik and the Mediterranean.

Eleven months after the September coup, Turkey was still under military rule. The anarchy and violence were over, but, although 650,000 people had been arrested, suspects were still believed to be in hiding. It is really surprising, therefore, how little suspicion we encountered or how little the recent political traumas affected our reception. There was ample evidence of strong political affiliation among many of the people we met but we did not see signs of the intensity of violence, chaos and anger we had witnessed in Istanbul and the national media.

Our party numbered seven. The human contingent consisted of Simon, an artist; Stephen, geographer and photographer; and Christopher, writer, linguist and photographer. Along with us came four donkeys: Professor Plodder (stoical, obtuse, submissive), Dylan (wistful, poetic, a dreamer, rucksacks on his back); Mr (or Dr) Dobbs (cunning and vengeful), and King Trevor…

CAPTURING THE MOMENT Expressive Anatolian scenes by the artist Simon Nicholas, one of the three donketeers, now based in Oslo, feature in this article. His sketches would prove a rich resource for oil paintings. For exhibitions see A page is also devoted to his early work in Turkey: Selected Works 1978–81

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 62
  • Life after Life

    An affectionate tribute to Suna Kıraç by Özalp Birol

  • Sweet endings

    Fruit poached to perfection, the fragrant ‘hoşaf’, or compote, is a simple, soothing finale to any meal

  • Living the Ottoman Dream

    Berrin Torolsan is enchanted by the House of Hindliyan. Photographs by Tim Beddow

  • Behind palace doors

    Philip Mansel on a book that tells the story of the Pera-born dragoman Mouradgea d’Ohsson, the ultimate cosmopolite who lifted the lid on the Topkapı. This special 24-page feature, Cornucopia includes 28 of the images from Mouradgea’s magnum opus, Tableau général de l’Empire othoman

  • In the Realm of the Ice Queen

    Central Asia, a plant-hunter’s paradise, has long held Chris Gardner under its spell. For two decades the Antalya-based botanical writer and photographer has traversed countless miles of steppe and mountain in search of the hardier cousins of many of his favourite Turkish plants

  • The Fabric of Life: Ergun Çağatay’s Epic Journey

    Caroline Eden tells Ergun Çağatay’s remarkable story

  • King of the Gobi

    John Hare on how the two-humped wild camel was saved from extinction

  • The art of letter writing

    Tim Stanley on a celebration of Şeyh Hamdullah and the 500-year-old calligraphy tradition that almost vanished

  • ... And a magnificent Süleyman

    A newly discovered 16th-century painting of Süleyman the Magnificent, sold by Sotheby’s London this spring (and subseqently donated to the Istanbul Municipality by an anonymous businessman), is the most ‘immediate’ portrait of him until the last years of his life. This is Süleyman in his pomp. By Julian Raby

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Issue 62, 2021 Travellers’ Tales
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