07 November 2006

A lord in Europa Minor

At a time when Turkey's chances of joining the European Union seem to be rapidly diminishing, it might be pertinent to revisit this 1956 book, if anything, for its title the British author Patrick Balfour (1904-1976), who was perhaps better known as Lord Kinross, justified as follows.

It is a title incidentally which, in the political sense, might well be applied to modern Turkey as a whole. For the Turkish Republic, built by Atatürk on western foundations, is gradually developing, like Greece its neighbour, into an integral part of Europe.


Lord Kinross's book chronicles his many trips along the southern and western coasts of Turkey between 1947 and 1954. Unfortunately, he doesn't give specific dates and the chapters may not always follow a chronological order.

That was a time when paved roads, tourism (foreign and domestic) and the associated development hadn't yet entered Turkey. Travel was difficult by today's standards, World War II restrictions preventing foreigners from entering certain towns without permits (for example, Çanakkale at the mouth of the Dardanelles) were still enforced and trips to archaeological ruins were unheard of and looked upon with suspicion.

One of the highlights of the book is a long yacht trip Lord Kinross took from Antalya on the south coast to the southwest of Izmir on the west coast. This was decades before such yacht trips along the now heavily polluted coasts, nevertheless romanticized as "blue voyages", became fashionable (I have done 2 of them).

During his travels, Lord Kinross met many interesting characters. In Ermenek, a southern town, a World War I veteran who had learned English from the British after he had been taken prisoner by them (but who hadn't seen an Englishman for 28 years) befriended him, however briefly. In Bodrum, a drunk sponge fisherman told him about the wreckages of the British aircraft shot down during World War II that he had discovered during his dives. On the yacht, he listened to the stories of Mehmet the cook, another World War I veteran. He was a kurd who had fought on the Russian front: "Armenians kill plenty Kurds...But afterwards Kurds kill plenty Armenians."

Travel diaries by Turkish authors from the 19th and the early to mid 20th centuries are almost nonexistent. The books by foreign travellers are, therefore, priceless not only in their accounts of the country side, people, customs and culture, but also in revealing how their authors evaluated and almost always related to the Turks. Europa Minor is one of the better examples of that genre.


Snail said...

Thank you for your posts about Turkey. I confess to not knowing nearly as much about the country as I should. (Especially as Turkey and Australia do have connections --- Gallipoli and migration being the most important.) I enjoy the personal angle of many of your posts.


Who is migrating where? Are the Turks migrating to Australia? Don't let them in! But seriously, I didn't know there was migration between Turkey & Australia.

Snail said...

I think it's mostly from Turkey to Australia but I don't know that for sure.

I've had a quick look at information provided on-line by the University of Sydney---but their figures only go up to 1986.

Apparently, there was some migration in dribs and drabs after WW2, but it increased after the Australian and Turkish governments signed an agreement in 1967 to facilitated assisted migration. The figures say there were about 24500 people of Turkish origin in Australia in 1986. I should hunt around for any update on that.

Certainly, there is a strong Turkish influence in parts of Sydney and Melbourne.