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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in Turkey by Robin Esrock
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Behind the Scenes in Turkey
by Robin Esrock / Published November 11 2008
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Turkey is easily one of my favourite countries, and since this is where Julia and I met in 2005, there was a nice fit for our story about biblical tourism, knee deep in history.

Every week, I usually write a blog report for my website, moderngonzo.com.   My genesis as a travel writer began when I booked a round the world ticket to 24 countries, and disciplined myself to update my website weekly with writing, photos, reviews, and interviews with all the people I had met.    Many people keep travel blogs these days, but I took it to the extreme.   It would take me about 8 hours of work, once a week, holed up in a coffee shop or at some hostel.   Since I didn’t expect to travel much again, this would be my personal diary, and a chance to share my adventures with anyone who cared to follow.     For this week’s report, I take everyone behind the scenes during our week in southern Turkey, because I’ve always wanted to know how travel shows are put together, and here is my chance to share what I have learned.   You can read it by clicking here.

Eastern Turkey is more conservative than the west of the country, but no less friendlier or welcoming.  The food is outstanding, and there is much to see.   I found out about Mount Nemrut doing research online, and the moment I saw pictures of it I knew I had found my story.   It is officially my best sunrise, the counterpoint to Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca sunset.   Minutes after the sun had risen, the dozens of Turkish tourists left, leaving us alone with the statue heads, soaking up the views of nearby Iraq.    Modern civilization was spawned here thousands of years, amongst the dry and scorching mountains, along with three of the world’s major religions.

Julia and I first met on the other side of the country, in Koycegiz, a small lakeside town.  She was tapping away on her keyboard, and I was tapping away on mine, and some fellow backpackers made the connection that we were both travel writers.  Three years later, neither of us could have expected we’d return to Turkey with a film crew, Sean, Michael, Chris and Paul, the guys you see dancing at the end.   There’s no point denying that they exist, the way some reality shows pretend there’s nobody in the room (except for a TV crew).   TV crews impact the way people react to us.  As much as we try and ignore them, they define our experience, and are part of the journey.  

We did some long hours in the van in this episode.  If you’re going to be a travel writer, expect to do a lot of travelling.    The dust storm that blew in from Syria created a spooky, sepia-toned atmosphere.   CSI Miami use software to boost their orange colours, we use desert storms.     When the tour group first pulled into Harran, I was convinced they must be Americans.   Then I heard an accent, and figured they were Germans.   So it was a surprise to find Israelis, Jews travelling in a Muslim country.   Not only were they safe, they were welcomed, and had only positive words for their Turkish neighbours.   This is why I love Turkey.   For centuries, it has straddled the worlds of East and West, and somehow made it work.   Sometimes things get rocky, and there is always pressure from radicals on both sides of the political and religious fence.   But when Jews and Muslims can co-exist peacefully, surrounded by the ruins of their common ancient heritage, it’s all the more inspiring.    


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