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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
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Issue 62, 2021 Travellers’ Tales
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