Turkey: Tales from a Turkish Odyssey
15 July 2022
Two of our Scott Dunn Private team members, Poppy and Tory, recently returned from a spellbinding journey to Turkey, taking in the highlights of this fascinating country from the lively bazaars of Istanbul to the rocky landscapes of Cappadocia and blissful coastline of Bodrum. Read on for Poppy’s tales from this mesmerising destination.
Cloudless sky, azure blue sea with extravagant yachts gliding by – you could be forgiven for thinking this is the south of France. But this is the view from the restaurant terrace of the glamourous Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul on the Bosphorus, the spellbinding waterway that divides Asia and Europe. My colleague Victoria and I are unashamedly devouring plates of delicious seafood and sipping chilled wine while we reflect on our first impressions of mesmeric Istanbul, quite literally where East meets West.
We are seated on the European side of the city, in the stately Besiktas district where we have explored Sultanahmet. This gem is full of historic treasures such as the Hagia Sophia mosque and the impressive Hippodrome, an ancient Roman circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, then the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The many visitors who come here to be wowed add to the hum of a buzzing metropolis; yet there is a surprising calmness. Istanbul is a far cry from Marrakech and its chaotic and somewhat overwhelming Medina. Peaceful green spaces have been carefully curated to welcome those seeking a reprieve from the sights and smells of the city. One such space is the rose garden enclosing the majestic tombs of the Sultans of the past. Hammams too offer a moment of serenity – a favourite is the beautiful Sultan Suleyman Hamam with its elegant marble interiors. Wellness is a way of life here, rather than a luxury, although, with such culinary temptations on offer, it is hard to respect the day of fasting advised before a day of pampering.
A huge variety of culinary – and not just Turkish delights – are to be found on every street corner. As a part-time veggie, I was in seventh heaven with so many restaurants offering vegetarian food. My personal favourite was Ciya Sofrasi, an authentic no-frills eatery in the Kadikoy Market district on the Asia side of Istanbul. As a Londoner, I am fondly reminded of the buzzing street food stalls of Borough Market. Chef Musa Dagdeviren is a culinary anthropologist and has been plating up traditional treats here for over twenty five years. His menu changes daily according to what is available in season. We loved the mezze style mains and for dessert – the cured tomato and pumpkin sounds bizarre but is delicious, especially when washed down with a rosemary-infused pick-me-up. We left feeling pleasantly full and deliciously refreshed.
After a delicious breakfast of Turkish eggs, you might be ready for a change of scene. Cappadocia, an easy hour’s flight from Istanbul, reminded me of JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth. It offers some of the most surreal panoramas I have ever seen; the landscape is punctuated by the famous ‘fairy chimneys’ which are volcanic rock formations whose colours vary according to the time of day. A balloon trip at sunrise is unforgettable. A closer experience of the landscape is at hand if you go on horseback, which I did and loved. Wonderful guides are on hand to take you around the underground city of Kaymakli. Yunus Ozdemir, an archaeologist and lecturer, has fascinating details to share. He was able to introduce us to the most talented ceramicist in the region. We visited his workshop and gallery and were lucky enough to have a go at throwing pots under his expert guidance.
For hedonistic travellers such as Tory and me, a Turkish odyssey is incomplete without some time spent on the Bodrum coast. One of the best hotels on this pristine coastline is Amanruya, with a private beach club that is nothing short of paradise. My time in Turkey is a trip that will live long in my memory, despite only having scratched the surface of this livley, diverse and utterly magical country.