MINUTES OF U3A GENERAL MEETING HELD AT FISH HOEK CIVIC CENTRE ON WEDNESDAY 21 AUGUST 2013 

WELCOME:  Peter opened the meeting welcoming all and after two short notices he handed over to Liz to introduce the speaker – LEWIS WALTER speaking on TURKEY: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK 1965-69.  Lewis Walter was born in Zimbabwe, is a committed environmentalist and enthusiastic traveller, and a lecturer familiar to U3A members.  Lewis commenced by thanking Terry Rothwell and his team for their technical expertise in facilitating the screening of the illustrations integral to the lecture.  Nowadays Turkey is a popular and fascinating tourist destination but the lecture today would be an account of his travels during 1965-69, four months of which were alone and then accompanied by his wife.

 

The journey began in Istanbul which, in antiquity, was called Byzantium and renamed Constantinople in Christian times.  The Church of St Sophia is a landmark higher than St Peter’s and virtually unchanged in one and a half thousand years.  It was built in 537 AD, using columns from pagan temples and when Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 it was converted to a mosque.  The religious frescoes and mosaics being anathema to Islam were plastered and whitewashed over, fortunately this preserved them.  In the 1930s St Sophia became a museum.  Another famous mosque is the Blue Mosque, known for its peaceful ambience created from blue stained glass windows and blue tiling and floor covered with soft carpets.  Slides were shown of street scenes of people in traditional garb fifty years ago, engaged in typical activities, and houses built of wood on the Byzantine fortifications of red brick and limestone walls and water brought in on aqueducts.

 

The Turks in 1452 built the nearby Castle of Europe in three months, and after a siege of six weeks, in spite of its fortifications, Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 and was renamed Istanbul – literally “to the City” in Greek.  The Byzantine Emperor was killed and the royal family fled to Trebizond, now known as Trabzon.  Trebizond was the centre of a mini empire at the crossroads of the caravan routes from Russia,  India and China.  The church here, also called St Sophia, is a gem of Byzantine architecture.  Then it was on the 2000 metre high Zigana Pass, the site of the retreat of Xenophon and his 10,000 in 400 BC from attempting to lend assistance to oust the King of Persia by his brother Cyrus.

 

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Photo Viv , Scenic South

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Photo Viv , Scenic South

For more about touring Turkey see Viv’s blog http://turkeymoroccosojourns.blogspot.com

This area was the site of another famous battle in 47 BC when Julius Caesar  defeated King Mythridites of Pontus and uttered the famous words “I came, I saw, I conquered”, and also the site of the biggest castle in Asia Minor – Bayburt.  Bayburt Castle was also the base of the kings of Armenia.

 

Following the camel caravans through to Erzurum, once the granary of the region, Lewis found a virtual desert with water buffalo frolicking in the remaining streams.  In Erzurum the Ottoman Turks finally deposing the Byzantine Emperor, built tombs and shrines with wonderful stone workmanship.

 

Now the journey went East to the fabled Mount Ararat, towering 16,900 feet above sea level in the village of Dogubayazit.  Mount Ararat was revered by the Turks but as the region was a military area bordering Russia there was constant conflict due to hostility between the Turks and Russians.  The main trade was from passing caravans.

 

The journey now went South to Lake Van and Akhtamar Island, the lake like an inland sea, and on the island the King of Armenia built a magnificent church decorated with wonderful biblical sculptures with amazing expressions.  >From Lake Van Lewis went to Kurdish country where there was great hostility between Turks and Kurds and the walled city of Diyarbakir, the remotest town in the South East close to the Syrian and Russian borders in the vicinity of the very inaccessible Hakkari Mountains of volcanic origin in beautiful colours.

 

Then past little villages – most notable being Antioch, the site of the first Christian Church, the area from which St Paul of Tarsus hailed and also famous for the meeting place of Anthony and Cleopatra.  Onwards, passing originally Greek then Roman and now Turkish relics of sculptures, theatres, fortifications at Alanya, etc., and onwards past Antalya on the Mediterranean coast to Kemer, the home of St Nicholas of Father Christmas fame.

 

The route taken now was going westwards to Bodrum, known as Halicarnassus in antiquity – the site of the Mausoleum of King Mausolus of Caria – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

 

The journey continued with its indelible associations and connections to ancient history, namely:  the Temple of Hadrian at Ephesus, now a shrine to St Paul, then Pergamum housing a typical Greek theatre and healing centre with a fountain of youth and beauty and wonderful views of the sea; then Pamukkale with its hot spring and scenic calcium deposits.

 

Now to the centre of Turkey to Konya, a very religious area where the interior of the mosque has columns from the ancient Rome temple and is the home of the famous Whirling Dervishes.

 

Next to Cappadocia in the centre of Turkey dominated by a volcano, with houses and churches carved into basalt rocks and famous for Pre-iconoclast art followed by Iconoclast, then Post iconoclast eras based on rejection of the human figure, so the churches flourished underground.

 

Finally via Ankara and the Green Mosque and Mausoleum and eventually back to Istanbul.

 

After a few questions, Liz thanked Lewis for a very interesting lecture and Peter closed the meeting.

Present:    190 members and visitors.

For more about touring Turkey see http://turkeymoroccosojourns.blogspot.com