Luton-bound in seven hours


in Daily updates, Oxford, Travel

Garden behind The Perch, near the Port Meadow

The Turkey plan has become a phased one: I will be leaving early this morning, from Luton Airport, and arriving tomorrow afternoon in Istanbul. I am to establish a position in the hotel and conduct some initial reconnaissance. My father will join me in Turkey the next day, and the day after that my cousin Ivanka will be arriving. I think of myself as the beachhead force: probably not up for sustained deployment, without the development of a logistical trail, but capable of flexibility and willing to take opportunities that arise.

This will be my first ever visit to the Middle East, and likewise to Asia. Everybody stresses how Istanbul is a contrasting place: between old and new, between faiths and regions. It should be fascinating to explore. Those who have never seen an aerial view of Istanbul’s unique geography should do so, so as to better understand.

Loading up my 60L hiking pack for this kind of an expedition reminds me of the wonderful time I spent in Italy with Meghan Mathieson in 2004. While the social dynamics will obviously be different here, it should be enjoyable to engage in that sort of peripatetic tourism. My digital photos should be online by the 17th, at the latest, with photos shot on film (T-Max 400) to follow in a couple of weeks.

PS. Pre-trip preparation has also included the ceremonial “removing of the Amnesty International ‘Protect the Human’ pin from my backpack.” It’s probably not the wisest emblem to display in a country that still charges people criminally for reading poetry in public. That’s doubly true, as I need to get a visa at the airport on my way in.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee December 3, 2006 at 7:18 pm

Milan, I hope you have a good time on vacation, but I hope more that your somewhat nutty misconceptions about Turkey are rectified. There is really no need to remove your Amnesty badge – they’re not going to arrest you for believing in human rights. People are rarely if ever prosecuted for such crimes as “reading poetry in public”; the charges related to free speech generally relate to artists who defame the government. It’s not that I want to defend this practice, but we don’t really defend free speech in the West either. Furthermore it is a massive stretch to call Istanbul the Middle East; even geographically speaking, it is in Europe, and culturally, it is at best a cross-roads between East and West – the dual influences of Christian Orthodoxy and Islam are very striking and even the impact of the Roman Empire can still be felt. Many Turks are very progressive and politically engaged. You will be travelling to a modern, secular state – not launching an “expedition” to some backwards emirate. I hope you can find the time to chat to some of the citizens of Istanbul and revise your views a bit. Bon voyage!

Milan December 3, 2006 at 7:25 pm


Having never been outside West Europe or North America (aside from one trip to Costa Rica), this is definitely something of an expedition for me.

A state bordering on Iraq and Iran is pretty defensibly located in the Middle East, though I acknowledge that Turkey is at a confluence of regions.

I realize that limitations on free speech in Turkey are not generally sweeping. Still, when one wants to get a visa in a strange airport, it is best to seem as apolitical as possible.

Much of the reason for which Turkey is interesting is because of the interplay between the “modern secular state” that you properly identify it as being and other cultural and political phenomenon that apply there.

Anon December 3, 2006 at 8:13 pm

Given the trouble you have had at airports before (NYC!), it is best to cause as little of a stir as possible.

Kerrie December 3, 2006 at 10:25 pm

“take this plane to Luton”

Milan December 3, 2006 at 10:30 pm


Our shared love of Monty Python will forever be a bond between us:

“It’s not really much of a cheese shop, is it?”

“Best in the district, sir.”

“And what makes you think that?”

“Well, it’s so clean.”

“It’s certainly uncontaminated by cheese.”

R.K. December 3, 2006 at 8:41 pm

Enjoy the trip.

I look forward to your photos.

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