Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Back on form

April 17th, 2010

Back on form from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Back on form, catch up with Ken at the end of a ninety mile day as he prepares to cross the border into the Republic of Georgia.

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Back on the road

April 11th, 2010

ac globe - refreshed

Spring. It was good to be back on the road, driving hard along the old Silk Road from Trabzon into Georgia and the Caucasus. No sign of the camels, but lots of Turkish lorries so I kept my eye out for large road kill. Emma and I felt refreshed, the same, we thought, that could be said of our website www.acrosscontinents.org.

Lots of fresh, new content. More videos – with the obligatory shades and mug of tea of course, radio interviews, photos, even a map of my intended route through the Caucasus and the ’Stans. And more to come – Bishkek beckons!

If you’ve not already done so, you can sign up for for automatic blog updates, delivered straight to your e-mail account – click on blog, enter your e-mail address and press ’Subscribe’ – simple. Or join me on Facebook – link on my home page – lots of fresh content there as well. And to find out more about the UK charity, The Outward Bound Trust, I’m raising funds for, either follow the links on my own site, or just click here.

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Reflections on Turkey

April 10th, 2010

I might have tired of Istanbul, but not of Turkey and its people. Waiting at the city’s airport for my flight east, my rudimentary Turkish still a bit rusty, an elderly chap, overhearing my efforts at ordering a coffee, helpfully explained that ’thank-you’ was in fact tesekkur ederim (pronounced teshekoor ederim), not merci. I thanked him, properly this time. My plane delayed into Istanbul by bad weather, it was late when I eventually reached my hotel in Trabzon. I was greeted at reception by Sena. She’d remembered me from my earlier stay with my Dad. This was much more like it.

The journey back east had given me plenty of opportunity to reflect on Turkey, and what it was to be Turkish. A strong national identity for a start. The military given equal prominence on television with the politicians. You sensed political satire was still in its infancy, and criticism of Ataturk, founding father of the modern Turkish nation, would be ill-advised. YouTube had apparently hosted a few offending clips and, despite their prompt removal, a court order blocked access to the entire site for a couple of weeks.

Authoritarian undertones? The male predilection for dark clothes certainly adds a Kafkaesque feel, but no, just different boundaries to our own, and certainly not oppressive. In fact the military would probably argue, with some justification, that they have only ever sought to protect the constitution from wayward governments attempting to undermine or erode its tenets.

But things are changing, the balance of power gently shifting towards the democratically elected administration, as tolerance by the Armed Forces of the recent arrests of senior military officers for their alleged part in an suspected coup plot would seem to demonstrate. Either way, a strong Turkey is no bad thing, providing a buffer between Europe and more turbulent nations further east. But I doubted if much of this ever had much of an impact on the lives of ordinary people. It just flickered by in the news bulletins.

Fact is I’d been made very welcome, from the moment I’d stopped to get my bearings in Edirne, my first day in Turkey. Back then, Nadir and Beckant had approached me, keen to show me their home city. They’d been Tugba in Istanbul, Zehra and her friends along the Black Sea coast, Yaren, Ali and Sena in Trabzon. And so many people in the villages who’d so often dragged me off the road, plying me with sweet, warm Turkish tea. Couldn’t ask for more. But now it was time to see what Georgia had to offer.

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