National Geographic : 1959 Jan
Station Wagon Odyssey: Baghdad to Istanbul The situation was dangerous. The Gover nor could not negotiate the steep pitch of the front seat to escape from the right-hand door. So he jumped from the left. As he jumped, the car started to hurtle after him. Miracu lously, the door swung open just far enough to catch on the slope and hold the car up. After a consultation we left the Governor and went on to inform a near-by gendarme station of his plight. Then we drove to Zidi kan to await him. In half an hour his car bounced merrily down the street toward us. "How did you get out?" I asked. "Did they send a truck?" "A truck? Two oxen got me into the ditch; two other oxen got me out," he said jovially. From Erzurum it is a long, hard day's drive to Trabzon, the Black Sea port. To save time, I bought our lunch in Erzurum's bazaar while Mercedes, Mary, and Uras went for gasoline. I bought a loaf of round, black Turkish bread, some tender unroasted pea nuts, sweet white grapes, and juicy peaches. Then I selected a watermelon from a pile outside a shop. The young proprietor smelled it, then put it to his ear and squeezed it. He shook his head. He went through the pile himself, using his nose and ear. Finally he beamed and handed me a melon. When we stopped for lunch, I cut the melon; it proved to be wonderfully sweet. A mer chant who had a chance to do a foreigner in had done a fine favor instead. I was to find this trait in all the Turkish tradesmen we met. Return to a Green World It was dusk when we crossed Zigana Pass at 6,675 feet and felt the motor relax on the downgrade. Soon we were amid conifers, the first thick stands we had seen all summer. A jeep was waiting for us at Trabzon's gendarme station. We followed it to our destination for that night-"Atatiirk K6skii" -the massive stone mansion which his nation gave to Mustafa Kemal, or Atatiirk. It was big and spacious, ablaze with lights, with high ceilings, magnificent furniture, and modern plumbing. We fell into bed exhausted. In the morning I stepped onto a balcony off our bedroom to look at the city and the Black Sea beyond. A slight mist seemed to heighten the green of vegetation between us and the water. In a few minutes I felt sud denly relaxed and sensed why. The bright, burning skies of the East pro duce intensities of heat, of color, and of other sensations. The blue sky of Persia has an infinity that other skies do not know. The mountains of West Pakistan and Afghanistan are barren, brown, and seared. Desert waste lands produce a tension in man from which he ultimately needs to flee. But here the thick vegetation, the green countryside, did something soothing to the eyes and through them to the nerve ends. This was my first sensation on seeing Trabzon by daylight. Giresun: City of Hazelnuts The coast road from Trabzon to Giresun is reminiscent of the Pacific highway along the Washington and Oregon coasts. The moun tains come right down to the sea, heavy with vegetation on the seaward side (page 71). On the cliffs behind Giresun I found deli; cate saxifrage and the brazen dandelion. The Giresun gardens have chrysanthemums, asters, hydrangeas, and snapdragons; there are figs and oranges, tangerines and olives. But Gire sun is most famous for its hazelnuts. We saw the bushlike trees everywhere around the city. Nuts were drying in every sunny spot available-in open fields, on lawns and sidewalks, even on the beaches. Gov. Ali Cahit Betil is given to overweight, and his wife Iclal was teasing him about it at breakfast. He laughed and, patting his stomach, turned to me and said: "There is a saying that the fattest men in Turkey come from Giresun." "Why Giresun?" I asked. "It's the hazelnuts," he replied. All the way west to Ordu we saw hazelnuts drying by the roadside. Whenever we stopped to take a picture, some man or woman filled our pockets. At one picture stop a tall, thin, red-haired farmer, Ali Karaarslan, wanted me to meet his seven sons. When he called, they came running. One must have been thirty; one was a babe in arms carried by a daughter. Each had his father's red hair. Eroding Sphinxes Guard the Gateway to Hittite Ruins at Alaca Hiiyik An Indo-European people of unknown origin, the Hittites ruled most of Asia Minor from about 1800 to 1200 B.c. Author Douglas inspects monoliths carved with bulls' chests and human faces. They look out on the Anatolian plateau.