24 JANUARY 1964, Page 28



rr HE frontiers of tourism are flung farther I every year. The year before last, when you had just made it to Mykonos, only to discover that it is a kind of Greek Blackpool, you 'opened up' the Algarve at the other end of the Mediterranean, on the heels of 'dozens of others who had popped out to buy a villa there before the prices quintupled (as, of course, they just have).

Iceland would make a good talking point; North Africa, when they aren't scrapping, has many attractive qualities (and some not so attrac- tive); Finland has terrible food (one must be realistic about this holiday thing); Israel is be- coming a travel cliché, like Egypt. But what, Istanbul apart, about Turkey? Near enough to be not too demanding in terms of time and money, the only two limiting factors, and sufficiently disorganised to be an adventure.

On closer scrutiny it seems to have the lot; oriental mystery, 'western' comforts, here and there; good food in parts and curiously bad food in others; art, archxology and antiquities; camels; and scenery. Lots and lots of scenery from snow- capped peaks to vast untamed deserts. It would be a brochure-writer's gold mine. It is.

Symbols of progress (apart from Turkish DC3s) are the plastic Turkish slippers provided by the smaller hotels and left under the bed, their violent reds and yellows striking a harsh note among the off-whites and faded browns of the room. Turkey is full of incongruities like this. The land where time smiles (to quote the travel posters) is still enjoying the joke of being neither ancient nor modern, Eastern nor Western.

The peasants wielding flails or mattocks wear tattered occidental suits with cloth caps or greasy trilbies. Spare parts for isolated road-huilding machinery arrive on camel-back. The racks in the mosques are piled high with mass-produced, down-at-heel Oxfords, without laces, while their sock-less owners go through their prayers.

The West has won over the East most ob- viously in Istanbul, the latest monument to the victory of the, mainly, American way of life being the ubiquitous Hilton. Across its threshold the casual friendliness of Turkey gives way to metropolitan formality. In the hottest weather, ties and jackets must be worn. They'll let you into the smart Diwan Hotel in shirtsleeves, but the rules of Islam require that alcohol cannot be consumed out on the terrace, only in the stuffy and semi-secret bar. Here the East gets a little of its own back.

Istanbul is an exciting mess. Even the shabby, scaling insides of St. Sophia can't damp enthu- siasm kindled by the .mosque and minaret sky- line, the Golden Horn seen from Pierre Loti's little coffee house, and the busy, breezy Bos- phorus. Here even you and I can afford twenty grammes of Black Sea caviar, and the kebab is the real thing, not just chunks of meat on skewers. The bazaar is a bit of a sham since it was burnt and rebuilt, but those experienced with European barrowboys and not too worried about the ethics of arguing over marginal sums can enjoy some unspectacular shopping.

Time smiles more broadly still on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmora, for the deeper the traveller penetrates into Anatolia, the less mean- ing it has. The obstacles to rapid movement are as many as the means are few. There are some railways, but the experienced smile when they are discussed. There are some good roads, but many more bad ones. For the lucky few there are the Turkish Airlines inter-city services. So the choice is simple: .see Turkey and fly, or give time the go-by.

It is a huge and sprawling land, not to be explored in a hurry, though one day the coach parties may cross the steppe from Kayseri, city of mausoleums, to Urgiip. Somebody is expected now, for little, sunburnt Urgiip has a smart new hotel with all mod. con. and a nice line in folk- weave souvenirs. It needs only endurance and a reliable vehicle to explore from this pleasant headquarters the rock churches and cave dwell- ings of the Goreme valley. Weeks could be spent this way, by those with a taste for battered By- zantine frescoes, an electric torch and a high tolerance of dust and heat. Somewhere in that lunar wilderness there are said to be 600 chapels. hewn out of mountainsides and hollowed into the wind-bitten conical hills.

Fly on to the rose gardens of Bursa and the slopes of Uludag, the Asiatic Mount Olympus. The Yayla Palas, with its echoing hamam, re- tains an Eric Amblerish cosmopolitan lushness that goes well with the pink-domed tombs of princes and the splendour of the great mosques built by Murat 1. It is as good a place as any to eat meat-balls and aubergines with yoghourt, anyway. Bursa must be one of Turkey's most charming cities, perhaps because it was her first capital. By contrast, Antalya is humid, hot and smelly; Izmir, home of the figs and currants, too preoccupied with commerce.

Yet Antalya is full of flowers, as well as horses; shut in between sea and mountain range, dominated by the Yivli minaret's tapering, rosy tower, it has a diverting sub-tropical seediness that is all of the East, and the Near East at that. The winds of Bosphorus and Black Sea are far away. From these steaming streets, the traveller sets off for the great theatre of Aspendos, perhaps the most perfect relic of its kind, and -for the dead city of Perge.

More celebrated Pergamum is farther north, and must be visited from Izmir, which has few attrac- tions of its own, apart from a dramatic setting. From here, too, the site-seer must make his way to Ephesus, to view the Marble Way and the Gate of Hadrian, in the amber glow of a setting sun. Izmir looks acros the Aegean to Greece, standing on the edge of a world linked to the West mainly by its past. It is easier to slip away from Turkey in imagination through this gateway than from the seductive embrace of the antique wiles and modern entertainments of Stamboul and Beyoglu• The islands off Smyrna are stepping stones from East to West.