Turkish Delight

Fourteen people—including Hamilton’s long-beloved Professor of Chemistry Leland “Bud” Cratty, his wife Peggy, and half-a-dozen Hamilton alumni plus spouses, joined Hamilton Economics Professors Erol and Nesecan Balkan for what was truly an “insider’s tour” of Turkey. The 15-day odyssey was organized and accompanied by Sally Peabody K’71 and her husband Rand Peabody ’68, whose current enterprise, Turkish Journeys, specializes in intimately scaled travel to what is fast becoming one of the world’s favorite destinations.

The trip was “A Turkish Delight” indeed, offering a cultural and culinary immersion that included a four-day sail on a wooden gulet along miles of the Mediterranean’s unspoiled Turquoise Coast. Prior to our gulet cruise we enjoyed an overnight stay in a unique ‘stone village’ accommodation in Ortakent, a complex of some seventeen buildings patterned on classic Turkish countryside architecture. Ortakent has won awards for its authentic yet imaginative design and its use of artisanal crafts and materials. Our dinner that evening, held on the beach, was hosted by a friend of Erol and Nesecan’s, and included the freshest grilled fish possible, with a dessert of homemade baklava.

Also featured on the two-week tour were visits to the most significant religious edifices, markets and neighborhoods in the bustling city of Istanbul, a number of sumptuous meals in cutting-edge restaurants hosted by their chefs, a sojourn in the rugged volcanic landscape of Cappadocia in central Turkey, and an expertly guided tour of the great ruins of Ephesus.

A sunrise hot-air balloon trip provided splendid views of Cappadocian canyons and fairy chimneys and was roundly judged the "best ever." Later that day, the Balkans arranged a visit to an almond and walnut farm high up on a mountainside, where a specially imported chef whose coat read simply, “Boss,” prepared a sampler of regional delicacies. The next day while in the Ephesus area several guests even experienced a traditional “Turkish bath” in Selcuk’s hamam. Others visited the remains of the Basilica of St. John, where the apostle himself is said to be buried. Afterward, the group attended a pre-dinner talk on traditional Turkish tribal carpets and kilims, before enjoying myriad mezes in a rooftop restaurant eye-to-eye with nesting storks.

One of the best things about the tour was the new friendships it created.  Dr. Jeffrey Kremen ’65 noted that “the folks you travel with have a way of enhancing the experience when the chemistry is right. And the chemistry was spot on with this one. I have added to my circle of friends at a time in life when unfortunately the circle is getting smaller. Our common Hamilton background is really something special. And the seamless arrangements provided the platform for our enjoyment.”

Phil Hoffman ’68 likewise affirmed that “Helen and I both feel that as wonderful as the travel experience was, the real value is the many new friends we met.” What a way to strengthen ties between Hamilton alumni!

The journey was a return to Turkey for Peg Cratty, who had worked there in an educational capacity decades earlier, and who enjoyed a luncheon reunion with one of her colleagues from that time. The Crattys summed it  up this way:  “It was marvelous to return to Turkey after 24 years and see such a vital country, determined to succeed.  We enjoyed the trip immensely.”

On our final afternoon together, the Hamilton network expanded. That morning, we had cruised some 17-miles up the fabled Bosphorus, touching areas of outlying Istanbul on both its Asian and European sides.  Following this one-way excursion, we were joined by two Hamilton alumni, Orhan Taner ’81 and Erinch Ozada ’82, at Hayyam, a delectable Persian restaurant owned by Aydin Harezi, the father of Zeynep Harezi ’11. After a perfect Persian meal, our Turkish sojourn was concluded in high style as the assembled Hamiltonians, led by Dr. Chuck Rinker ’67, singing a spirited rendition of “Carissima.”

“Carissima” on the Bosphorus!   A Turkish Delight indeed.

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