TRAVEL

TURKISH DELIGHTS

Sick and tired of the building jungle at the Bulgarian seaside? Thankfully, the Black Sea's western coast still boasts some secluded coves and peaceful towns unspoiled by tourism, south of the border.

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THE TASTE OF ISTANBUL

“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.” Two hundred years later Alphonse de Lamartine's words still ring true – especially when talking about food. Istanbul is the nearest place you can take refuge from the kebabcheta experiments in Bulgar restaurants, the heartburn caused by underbaked bread and doughy pastry, the Shopskas with tomatoes that taste like apples, the yoghurt with preservatives and the depressing yet inevitable absence of sea food.

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TALLINN

Despite its recent history as part of a Soviet Republic and its languages (Estonian being related only to Finnish, while over a third of the citizens speak Russian as a first language), despite even its geographical position on the Baltic, Tallinn or Reval, as the city was known until 1918, is best appreciated as an heir to the wider Scandinavian and Teutonic cultural legacy of the Middle Ages.

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MAGNIFICENT HAGIA SOPHIA

To enter the naos of the church, referred to as the Great Church by citizens of Constantinople when it was first built, visitors have to pass through the narthex and one of its nine arched doors. Most people choose to enter through the middle door, the largest, above which is a mosaic depicting Emperor Constantine the Great and Emperor Justinian offering the Virgin Mary and young Jesus small-scale models of Constantinople and the church.

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A WEEKEND IN SALONIKA

It is very important to always have a place close by where you can go and forget about everything. In the Apennine Peninsula this may be Rome, in Iberia there is always Barcelona, and in the Balkans it is Salonika.

Less than 200 miles south of Sofia, this is the city that an increasing number of Bulgarians and foreigners living in the area are using for their customary January getaway.

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LONDON'S BEST-KEPT SECRET

In1833 architect Sir John Soane, owner of the building at 12-14 Lincoln's Inn Fields in London, decided to put an end to the drama which had been going on for years behind the white Portland stone facade decorated with antique sculpture and Gothic consoles.

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JERUSALEM SYNDROME

Jerusalem, deemed holy by three religions, abounds in historical and mythical landmarks which can overwhelm visitors with contemplation and awe. Like other sacred places, it invokes that peculiar feeling of rubbing shoulders with Eternity.

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FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

"When do you change the rope?" My question is left hanging in the air because the white-bearded monk to whom it is directed seems too busy with his primitive hoisting device. Accompanied by an incredible squeaking, he is pulling a huge rope basket out of a 300 metre deep abyss. Inside this ancestor of a lift there is another monk, humbly squatting. When the basket finally reaches the top and the man inside it has jumped skilfully onto the wooden platform, the white-bearded monk turns to us.

"The rope," I repeat my question, "When do you change it?"

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BY THE WAY

In 1784, Kurdish warlord Ishak Pasha chose a high plateau on the side of the mythical Mount Ararat in present-day eastern Turkey as the location for his palace. The site had a great strategic significance; the Silk Road passed through the valley below, and Ishak Pasha collected the tolls.

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