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I’m not usually one for holidaying abroad; climate emergency guilt clipping my wings before they’ve even fully fledged. But, last month, this old bird flew to Turkey.
I’d anticipated a culture shock; visiting a country with an unfamiliar language in an alphabet I could not entirely recognise, with a reputation for desiccating temperatures, destructive earthquakes, and sweet sludgy coffee. But maybe the Isle of Wight has more in common with this pan-continental republic than you might think. Let’s compare the two.
The topography seemed exotic to my southern English eyes. I’m used to driving on undulating roads, over lush rolling downland, with beautiful coastal scenery. In north-western Turkey my similarly sinuous roadtrips afforded breathtaking views of the sparkling Gulf of Izmir edged with jagged mountains. Both areas’ verdant hills are pockmarked with conspicuous excavations; Mordoğan’s marble quarries gouging a pinky scar in the crag, correlating with the Island’s white chalk pits. The landscapes weren’t so different after all. One point each in this round.
I stayed in a seaside township on the Karaburun Peninsula. A sandy shore fringes this part of the North Aegean where, on plunging in, the sea temperature was akin to a decent summer’s day in Appley. The clear Turkish briny triumphed with its abundance of fish and a noticeably increased buoyancy, but then Ryde equalised with its expanse of sand, and dramatic tidal conditions – there’s not much of either at Mordoğan.
Turkey’s high speed limits would give your average Caulkhead bimbler a nosebleed; and, instead of triggering a traffic police officer with a speed camera, you might get pulled over by a gendarme with an actual gun. Also, rather than a hedgehog, it’s possible that you’ll need to dodge a porcupine. While I didn’t see any spikey mammals, I did encounter a wild tortoise; no match in a race for the Island’s spring hares.
A jaunt to Izmir necessitated a trip on a car ferry; well within my sphere of experience. Except this one required no pre-booking, nor early arrival at the terminal. I simply paid a fixed (not surged) price at the booth, before driving aboard; marshalled insouciantly into position on the deck. Straightforward, compared to cross-Solent operations.
Like Sandown, Turkey has an embarrassment of ruined structures. Our resorts’ derelict hotels lose this round; seasonal arson and woeful neglect are no match for historic crumbling temples and overgrown amphitheatres. The Island can claw back an equaliser though; both the ancient city of Ephesus and Brading Roman Villa fell into abandonment when their harbours silted up.
Back home, the clanging peal of All Saints Church bells wafted across Ryde into my open windows, accompanied by blackbirds warbling their evening song. This music was as magical and profoundly affecting as the call of the muezzin, amplified from elegant minarets, which I’d heard echoing around the valley of Istanbul‘s Golden Horn.
I’ve witnessed the sunset not only over the gateway to the Isle of Wight, but also that of both Europe and Asia. Top marks to both places.