Cascoly Books: Journey to Kars

Cascoly Books - Journey to Kars

Journey to Kars Ė Philip Glazebrook Ė An entertaining read, mostly for the sections on the authorís trip through Turkey in the early 1980ís. Itís interesting to compare his descriptions with the current conditions to see how much has changed in just 20 years. Most striking is his description of the backwater tourist status of Istanbul at that time

Mass tourism makes no inroads into Stambul. The old town of khans and cobbled alleys is too baffling and dismaying to be sacked by tourists en masse. Ranks of coaches wait in the outer courts of the Topkapi Palace, more ranks are drawn up outside Santa Sophia: upon them are concentrated all the peddlers of souvenirs and ices, who line with their stalls the short walk which is all a coach-party is encouraged to take, the few hundred yards between Santa Sophia and the Blue Mosque. In the environs of one or two other mosques, and in the Grand Bazaar, you meet with parties of tourists, but in the streets and lanes of Stambul Ö I rarely met a single tourist walking alone like myself

Earlier heíd lamented the lack of cafes and other sitting places. Far different is the reality of Istanbul today, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere everywhere in the city, particularly in more modern areas like Taksim with its modern boutiques and fancy restaurants, or the Kumkapi area , the fishing market area with itís streets full of al fresco restaurants lighting up the night. He describes ramshackle old wooden houses, many now renovated in the Sultanahmet district to become stylish small hotels and B&Bs.

Glazebrook does an excellent job of inserting details from the many, mostly British, travelers who preceded him in the 19th century. Excerpts from their journals spark the otherwise spare descriptions, especially in the eastern Turkey sections. One has to pity the author in not being able to defeat the bureaucratic and military restrictions on visiting the medieval Armenian city of Ani, which at that time was a much more contentious border. It now forms the highlight of any trip to Kars.

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