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Loco for Lokum: on assignment inTurkey The lowdown on winning the 2011 World Nomads/Rough Guides Scholarship...

Assignment Day 1: Writing for the Rough Guides

TURKEY | Saturday, 25 June 2011 | Views [1855]

The Land Walls, Istanbul

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After meeting with my mentor Terry at the decidedly non-Turkish (but conveniently easy to find) Starbucks and discussing my upcoming assignments over chai latte, we headed out to a lesser-trodden area of town for my first foray into ‘the life of a travel writer’.

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There couldn’t have been a more fitting place to start exploring the city than the city’s boundaries, some six and a half kilometers of crumbling yet once-impenetrable double-layer stonewalls. The Byzantine remains left today still trace the outline of the city and offer not only a fascinating insight into what was once an innovative and successful defensive structure but also a tranquil walking route through territories less explored by the masses.

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Almost as fascinating as the towering stones are the outer city neighborhoods they lead you through – a mass of slum dwellings and gypsy quarters fast being buried by government-commissioned flat blocks but retaining all the life and charm of the inner city areas. These are the streets where baskets are swung down from balconies to collect goods. Where smokey clusters of men clog the doorways to dimly lit taverns and young kids on rusty bicycles still ponder quizzically the presence of the white travelers wandering through their streets. It’s a world away from the tout-littered streets of Sultanahmet or the glittery blur of the Grand Bazaar.

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Of course, there was also work to be done – a reworking of the walking route and area maps, taking into account the changes and reconstruction efforts that now rendered parts of the old guide inaccurate. There was a tower to scale and new pathways to discover and beer to be drunk in local haunts that few tourists would enter without prior guidebook assurance. We walked for the best part of the day until my heels were sore and sweat pooled in the crook of my neck, so that by the end of my first day on assignment I was exhausted and collapsed into bed, my head swimming with information. 

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Walking the final flight of steps to the top of the tower

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The view from the tower

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Terry marks the main gateways on the map

Inside the locked part of the walls

Tags: istanbul, land of walls, rough guides, travel writing, travel writing scholarship, trekking, turkey

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