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Extract

Roman Roads

In their second Turkish adventure, the acclaimed photographer Don McCullin and the author-publisher Barnaby Rogerson travel south in pursuit of Roman treasures. Originally drawn by the lure of gorgeous goddesses in unsung museums, they discover moody Sardis, with its ruined temple to Artemis, explore Ephesus, with its magnificent library, marvel at the enchanted city of Aphrodisias, and finally reach the mountain fastness of Hadrian’s Sagalassos. Photographs: Don McCullin. Text: Barnaby Rogerson

  • Sidamara Sarcophagus, Istanbul Archaeological Museums. Thirty-two tons of marble carved in Roman Afyon in the 2nd century, rescued for Turkey by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1900.

Earlier in the year I had unfolded an Ottoman firman allowing free passage to a pair of British travellers. It was in its original wallet, which had pride of place in an early-19th-century saddlebag specially designed to hold maps, sketchbooks and notebooks – just the sort of thing I imagined William Kinglake and Mary Wortley Montagu would have used. We have just republished their travel books, and I have become even more impressed with the freshness and genius of these early writers and disgusted with my own times.

Can we possibly be reaching the end of the purpose of travel? Blink after two days of travelling and you could be anywhere, with three-lane motorways sweeping past shopping malls filled with chain stores and overlooked by skyscraper apartment blocks.

Such thoughts come easily, especially at dawn when you are leaving a great metropolis in the rain and are being well cared for. Ahmet Kömürkıran is at the wheel, and Monica Fritz, a Turkish-speaking New Yorker, is our modern dragoman guide, busily plotting routes and unearthing interesting restaurants on her iPhone, while I daydream of mule trains in the past.

One refreshing reality about a long road trip across Turkey is that there is no such thing as a reliable driver who speaks English. You need a true patriotic Turk, trained by decades of driving lorries across mountain roads, fuelled with sweet black tea, if you aspire to be driven across the breadth of Anatolia without spotting so much as a single yawn or the alarming sight of your driver rubbing his eyes open. Monica is at least quadrilingual (Turkish, Italian, Manhattan English and some Yemeni Arabic) and has friends in any town you can name, none of whom seem to mind being called up at the last moment and quizzed on the best places to stay and eat. Best of all, she herself is a traveller and a photographer, with a passion for the authentic. She possesses an inbuilt tolerance for wilful individuals – perhaps the by-product of having a radical poet as a mother and a symbolist painter as a father. We were an odd group, who had travelled together before: one thin Turk from Antakya (Ahmet), one plump English publisher (me), Monica and the world’s most famous war photographer, Sir Donald McCullin.

Out walking in Istanbul before the trip, I had been bitten by a dog, which I made light of, while allowing my fellow travellers to admire the puncture holes in my linen trousers. Later I was upstaged by Don, who was stung by a rock scorpion. He was clearly in agony, yet managed a broad smile when I offered to pee on the wound. He waved me away, saying he could do that for himself. I whizzed a photograph of the pale scorpion, which did not survive the encounter, to my daughter, a veterinary nurse at a London research hospital, for identification. Don was in fine form that evening, turning up for dinner as if there was nothing to be alarmed about. There wasn’t, if you can master pain…

To read the full article, purchase Issue 64

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Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 64
  • The Silence of Snow

    Arnavutköy is a characterful old village on the Bosphorus, long famed for its strawberries and lively cosmopolitan community. But for 12 days in 1987, as Jenny White recalls, nonstop snow – and an eerie silence – descended on the neighbourhood. Happily, the Neşe taverna was there to offer warmth and raki

  • Small Wonder

    Delicious and versatile, the tiny lentil packs a powerful nutritional punch. Possibly man’s first food crop, this legume seed is as popular in modern Turkey as it was in Neolithic times. Berrin Torolsan has her finger on the pulse


  • A Grand New World

    Palaces, mosques, churches and the essentials of empire – the Balyan family’s creations epitomise the golden age of 19th-century Istanbul. A new book reveals the exquisite drawings and supreme organisation behind their landmark edifices – including one that mercifully got away. By Philip Mansel


  • Making an Entrance

    The gate guarding the Ottoman Ministry of War – today’s Istanbul University – is an eloquent example of the Orientalist style that took both East and West by storm in the 19th century. In the gate’s shadow stands the Princes’ Lodge, once the refuge of high-born officers on parade day, now an exotic refectory where professors of Istanbul University enjoy lunch. By Berrin Torolsan. Photographs by Monica Fritz


  • Golden Glories of Kazakhstan

    Caroline Eden admired the Saka treasures at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where an ancient Turkic steppe civilisation revealed its secrets

  • Prince of Painters

    The last Caliph’s passion for painting, By Andrew Finkel and Isobel Finkel



Buy the issue
Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
£12.00 / $14.63 / 243.77 TL
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