Why I can’t wait for my next trip to Turkey.
In 2009 I touched down in Turkey for the first time with my father. We explored Istanbul, in awe of the mighty Bosphorus that splits Europe and Asia. We marvelled at the Blue Mosque and exquisite Topkapi Palace and we adored the food, people and culture. It was electric and began my lifelong obsession with the country.
I have been back to Turkey many times, exploring the abundant olive groves that grow around the intriguing city of Gaziantep. I went to the home of my favourite kebab, Adana, and enjoyed blissful holidays up and down the glistening Mediterranean coastline; Alaçati, Bodrum and Göcek are favourite destinations. I learnt how to make pide in Samsun and hiked up to the Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, near to the Georgian border. The result was my fourth cookbook, Turkish Delights, my love letter to Turkey.
Turkey was gaining a rep as one of the coolest tourist destinations in the world. You only have to look at the hotels that cut a swath down the coast. The Mandarin Oriental and D-Maris to name but a few, and then the epitome of cool, Soho House, landed in the capital. Sadly, since 2016 they have taken a battering. A series of cowardly terror attacks shook the country, including a shooting in Reina nightclub and an attack on Ataturk International Airport that claimed the lives of eighty people. Internal politics has not helped. It seemed like this progressive place was being dragged backwards and much of the work done towards the country being truly democratic was ignored.
Earlier this year I went back to Turkey for a smash and grab weekend in Istanbul. I was nervous that the city I have such a strong affinity with would not be the same. How wrong I was. It was fabulous. I feasted on the best food I have eaten in ages; crisp lahmacun, succulent lamb kebabs, smoky baba ganoush and sweet baklava. Elegant boutiques lined the streets of the swish Nisantasi neighbourhood and bars were packed with bright young things drinking and dancing as they always did.
I was so happy to see that the Turkey I remembered was not gone. I’m not saying things are perfect. The UK foreign office has a high terror alert across the country and advises against all travel near the border of Syria. As someone who frequently visits the Middle East, I rely on their advice, they provide the facts and then I make up my own mind about where I want to go. I felt more than safe in Istanbul. Security was high, as it should be, but nothing that made me feel uncomfortable.
According to the UK Foreign Office website, in 2017 1.6 Million Brits travelled to Turkey ‘trouble free.’ So if you feel comfortable heading out there, obviously take care, what I can guarantee you is a warm welcome from the Turkish people, who are great fun, incredible food everywhere and a vast landscape that is utterly enchanting, and hopefully, like me, you will love every minute of it.