Tur­key isn’t just for Christ­mas

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

short of mar­kets. Im­me­di­ately, we got lost in the Grand Bazaar. I had my purse pinched, and we ended up in a po­lice sta­tion.

As we sat shiv­er­ing with mis­ery, we were over­whelmed by kind­ness as one of the of­fi­cers dis­ap­peared for a rum­mage through a locker room and emerged with two brand new pairs of po­lice is­sue socks. His friend popped out to a street stall and brought in pa­per plates of men­e­men – de­li­cious scram­bled eggs, mixed with onions, toma­toes and pep­pers – to warm us up.

I never saw my purse again, of course. But that episode in­spired in me a mas­sive ad­mi­ra­tion for the cour­tesy and in­nate hos­pi­tal­ity of Turk­ish peo­ple (apart from the rat­bag who stole my purse) – a first im­pres­sion that’s been strength­ened over the years by count­less acts of gen­eros­ity and friend­ship. Hav­ing vis­ited al­most ev­ery sum­mer since that first trip, I’ve been able to get to know the coun­try so much bet­ter.

I ini­tially threw my­self into ex­plor­ing what be­came my favourite part of Tur­key: the glo­ri­ous Turquoise Coast. This en­chant­ing strip of Mediter­ranean seaboard in the south-west har­bours the bi­jou towns of Kalkan and Kas and lit­tle fish­ing vil­lages galore, along­side a trea­suretrove of ru­ins dat­ing back 3,000 years.

For me, there is noth­ing – but noth­ing – as mag­i­cal as weav­ing through silky creeks on board a beau­ti­ful tra­di­tional gulet, vis­it­ing de­serted pine-cov­ered is­lands or crys­tal coves by day, then fall­ing bliss­fully asleep on deck.

Later, I trav­elled fur­ther afield to other-worldly Cap­pado­cia, in cen­tral Tur­key, tak­ing a bal­loon ride over its as­ton­ish­ing sher­bet-coloured land­scape of fairy chim­neys.

I’ve also re­vis­ited Is­tan­bul many times, thrilled not just by Sul­tanah­met’s rav­ish­ing mosques and minarets, but also by the city’s vi­brancy as a fan­tas­ti­cally var­ied wa­ter­front me­trop­o­lis. The Bosporus ferry zigzags be­tween Europe and Asia for a be­guil­ing 20 miles on its way to the re­mote fish­ing vil­lage of Anadolu Kav­agi. Traf­fic-free Buyukada is­land, just 50 min­utes or so south-east of the city across the Sea of Mar­mara, is what the Hamp­tons are to New York: a leafy ru­ral idyll of clap­board houses and hon­ey­suck­led porches.

Only in the sum­mer of 2016 were my Turk­ish trav­els dis­rupted after a bar­rage of ter­ror at­tacks, closely fol­lowed by an at­tempted mil­i­tary coup. Vis­i­tor num­bers dwin­dled, but then a mirac­u­lous re­cov­ery be­gan. Per­haps peo­ple re­alised that Is­tan­bul is hardly unique in be­ing tar­geted – and that south-west Tur­key is as far from Syria as Lon­don is from Prague.

By this sum­mer, Tur­key was record­ing a 28 per cent rise in book­ings and peo­ple be­gan to re­turn. Like a boomerang, I landed back on the Turquoise Coast to re­visit my favourite haunts [see panel]. It was as though I’d never been away.

Har­bour town Kalkan was as gor­geous as ever – awash with pa­pery clouds of pink and pur­ple bougainvil­lea and twin­kling at night with its cheery of seafront restau­rants buzzing with smil­ing wait­ers. It was ex­actly the same in neigh­bour­ing Kas. Late in my stay, as I sat in the town’s cen­tral tea gar­dens, shaded by eu­ca­lyp­tus trees, an el­derly man I didn’t know came up to the ta­ble and pressed a blue “Evil Eye” lucky charm into my hand. “It’s good to see you Brits back,” he said, shyly.

The plea­sure, I was happy to tell him, was all mine. Linda Cook­son trav­elled as a guest of Fairlight Jones (020 3875 0351; fairlightjones.com). A week’s self-cater­ing in Kalkan’s one-bed­room wa­ter­front villa, Sun, starts at £675 per per­son, based on two shar­ing. The price in­cludes trans­fers from Dala­man air­port (flights ar­ranged on re­quest). UK car­ri­ers serv­ing Dala­man in­clude Bri­tish Air­ways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) and Jet2 (0800 408 1350; jet2.com). Or try the Turk­ish car­rier Pe­ga­sus (0333 300 3555; fly­pgs.com).

Bal­loons over homes carved into the rocks of Cap­pado­cia

The invit­ing wa­ters of Olu Deniz on the Turquoise Coast

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