The Black Sea

We flew in to Istanbul’s new airport around midnight and took a taxi to the Black Sea resort of Kilyos. The flight had been tiring, and we fell asleep immediately. It was only in the morning when we went down for breakfast that we found what a charming village we had chosen to spend the night in.

We’d seen this huge stone tower outside the hotel when we looked out in the morning. At the reception we were told that it was part of a Byzantine “water castle”. Looking at the map, I realized that modern day Kylios lies between Istanbul and the area known today as the Belgrade Forest. This was one of the sources of water for Constantinople. So I guess this immense tower is the remnant of a Byzantine aqueduct.

We walked past it to the village. At a cross roads there was a cluster of shops. A knot of women who’d been chatting in front of the grocery store had begun to melt away by the time The Family and I reached the square. When I took a photo of the store front, only the shopkeeper was in the frame. I liked the wooden upper balcony. It looked like the owner of the shop could have lived in the upper floor.

Across the road was a store with fruits and vegetables on display. In this part of the near-west I didn’t expect to see anything really new. It was mid-spring, and I saw strawberries and apricots on display. Along with those were trays of juicy blackberries. Both The Family and I had grown up eating wild blackberries, usually before they had a chance to ripen. The shopkeeper hurried over to sell us a box of the fruits, dut in Turkish. We munched on them as we walked through the village.

The next store was a kiosk with clothes. Modern shops at the western end of the ancient silk road are not that different from those in Xi’an and Guangzhou, at the eastern end. When you examine the labels on the clothes you find that the silk road has come alive again. It was a little surprise to see the Turkish flag flying in the store. Over the next few days I was to see the Turkish flag prominently displayed in many shops.

The freshness in the air and the warm sunlight made the prospect of sitting at an outdoor cafe very welcome. If we’d not just finished breakfast I wouldn’t have minded sitting down. The Family and I looked at the menu and then disappointed the server by walking on.

We turned a corner and walked down a path which sloped into the sea. A bakery was doing brisk business. We looked at the breads on display. The style of breads here are not very different from those in other near-western countries. The baking seems to be done at a lower temperature than that commonly used in the far west of Europe, so the crust is not as crisp as in France or Germany.

It was too early for restaurants to open. Kilyos seemed like a town which is open late at nights, and, as we found elsewhere in Turkey, such places wake slowly. This restaurant seemed to have its menu properly set out in the mural beneath large picture windows. Street art can be so useful! We walked past this menued wall towards the sea and got the featured photo. Small waves lapped the shore; there seemed to be a sandy beach a little way off on one side. The water seemed clean in spite of a nearby shipping lane.

Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to sit around and enjoy the perfect weather and the crystal water. We had to catch a flight out to Cappadcia soon. We turned to go. On the way we passed through an open cafe, and I paused to look at their selection of beers. There were a lot of internationally well-known brands, but one shelf held the local beers. I would get to taste several varieties of Efes during the trip. I didn’t see Bomonti again, and if I have to believe the average reviews, it was no great loss.

As we walked back to our hotel, a Black Sea cat crossed our path. It ran across the path, climbed part of the way up a staircase and glared at me as I paused to take a photo. This was a good sign, the first of the feral cats of Turkey. When we passed it ran back across the street. It had come out only to look at us!

Night flights, night thoughts

We left Mumbai after midnight and landed in Munich just before dawn. At this time of the year the skies were clear all the way. This is a fabulous route to fly. You see towns and cities all along the flight path, glowing like little jewels in the dark side of the planet. We passed Karachi and Isfahan. The Caspian sea is a little north of the flight path, the Adriatic a little to the south. Baghdad is just below the horizon. There were little dots of lights all along the flight path. I glanced out of the port and saw a small city all lit up; the flight path indicator said I was flying over Pan.

As we flew past the Black Sea I fell asleep. Ankara, Istanbul, Sofia, Bucharest, Szeged, Zagreb passed before I woke up for a light breakfast in the dark skies over Graz. The Family woke up to the smell of my coffee. Soon we started on a long descent towards Munich. The maze of lit streets which you see in the featured photo is probably Salzburg. We passed it just a little before we landed.

Many years ago I’d wanted to drive this route. The iron curtain was rusting then, but the Iran-Iraq war intervened, then the invasion of Kuwait, and the invasion of Iraq, and finally the situation in Afghanistan. Now one can only fly over these once-wonderful cities where Asia and Europe merge into each other and wait for the day when again one can travel by land between India and Germany.