Istanbul and beyond - 2012
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We gathered at Bas and Jan Blackbourn’s where the bus was waiting for us. As usual when the Brewers are involved we were plied with drinks during the journey. Our very own Oz Clark, aka Paul Brewer, gave us a wine tasting with three different wines. You may gather from this that it was a very enjoyable journey to Heathrow where the Londoners and the Irish joined us.
Arriving in Istanbul we were met by Mehmet who was to be our guide. What a charming young man – I think the ladies quite fell in love with him! Touring the city to see the Blue Mosque and St Sophia we soon discovered that Istanbul is one big traffic jam! In the evening we went to a fish restaurant where local musicians entertained us.
Wednesday morning saw us join the first of many queues to register – 2 desks open for hundreds wanting to register – utter chaos! Voting delegates then had to join a second queue to get their papers – not as chaotic because there were fewer of us. Then we had to join another queue to get tickets for the Gala Dinner on the last night. This was our first meeting with the Nigerians who ploughed, en masse, into the front of the queue! After about 1½ hours we got to the front or, rather, Sue got there armed with our vouchers to be told that they would no longer do group bookings. Our thoughts on this are unprintable!
We met the menfolk for lunch then went off to the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar. In the evening we went to the Banner Exchange – 3000 crowded into a hall just big enough for about 500. Ugh!!
The opening session on the Thursday was led by The Children’s Chorus with their dancing and Song of Peace – wonderful. IIW President, Catherine Rafabert lit the Candle of Friendship and welcomed everyone followed by various dignitaries. By splitting up we finally got our tickets for the Gala Dinner at lunchtime. Jackie and I crept out early for this and practically fell over a wheelchair occupied by Lynda who had managed to fall and break a bone in her foot – oh dear!
The hospitality evening took place in the 1001 Columns Cistern. Loads of coaches transported us there. There were about 100 seats and a few plates of nibbles. Needless to say we didn’t stay long. The Gala Dinner on the Friday was very good – excellent food, wine and company. We were split up between several tables; Lynda, Rex and Anne were sitting with some of the Nigerians. Jackie and I sat with Icelanders and Mexicans and had a great time. Since we couldn’t see the band etc we talked non-stop with our new friends.
The three business sessions were quite interesting though the Turkish organisation for collecting voting papers was absolutely dire and the wait for results took ages – none more so than waiting for the result of Proposal 17. The sight and sound when the result was announced had to be seen/heard to be believed. We were all jumping up and down, cheering and clapping. Catherine Rafabert was practically dancing a jig on the stage – not easy with a walking stick! 2690 votes for and 257 against means we have open membership starting in July.
The closing ceremony was excellent, colourful and varied folk dancers. Catherine then extinguished the Candle of Friendship.
The next day we left Istanbul starting with a cruise up the Bosphorus then journeyed to Ankara where we visited Ataturk’s Mausoleum. This was on Children’s Day, a national holiday. It was lovely to see all the children dressed in red and white, carrying red and white carnations to place by Ataturk’s tomb. I chatted to one school group who gave me some flowers, which I placed by the tomb with theirs.
We went to Cappadocia to see the troglodyte dwellings (amazing), to Ephesus, Izmir, Troy and Gallipoli. We saw the Whirling Dervishes in action and went to a folk show where we volunteered Jenny to take part – no she didn’t do any belly dancing
On our last night in Istanbul we went out for a farewell dinner, which doubled as a birthday party for Margaret Millar, complete with cake and candles. A wonderful end to a great experience!
The lowlights – very poor Turkish organisation, queuing, lack of room/food on two evenings.
The highlights – the opening/closing ceremonies; the enthusiasm of the delegates despite the long business sessions; proposal 17; meeting so many members from so many countries and the friendship that ensued; the children at the Mausoleum; the troglodyte dwellings; the company on the tour; the tour; Mehmet our guide and Gaffur the driver.
Will I go to another Convention? I met so many people from all corners of the world who said how good and well organised were all the ones they had been to before and that I shouldn’t think they were all like Istanbul.
The answer to my question then is “Yes, I will go again. Copenhagen 2015, here I come!”