Through a glass darkly – 96

Dave very kindly gave us lift to the airport in Edinburgh, and it was mid-afternoon when we took off. But it was 22.30h local time when we landed in Istanbul. The flight with Turkish Airlines was excellent: comfortable seats, good food, and we arrived ten minutes early. The new Istanbul airport is about the size of East Lothian. The onward flight is little more than an hour. We are back in Ankara, doing locum work with the congregation of St Nicolas in Myra.

We arrived at Ankara airport at 3.25am, a pretty uncivilised time. The driver who was to meet us at the airport [or so I understood] did not materialise. Thankfully we were bailed out by a very helpful taxi driver, who took us to the front gate of the British Embassy to collect the keys, and then brought us on here to the apartment. And was very happy to be paid in £ sterling. For which I was very grateful. [The alternative would have been euros.]. We are in a very comfortable apartment in Çankaya, with a technical college and a mosque across the road.


Ankara is an enormous city of some 5 to 6 million people, all built since 1926. When Atatürk chose to make this remote, primitive railway junction, high up on the Anatolian plateau, the capital of the new secular Republic of Turkey. In place of historic Constantinople which was too closely associated with the [bad old days of] the Ottoman Empire. Our apartment is high up on the south side of the city, and looks out across rolling hills of modern, pale-coloured apartment blocks. There is a huge amount of building going on.

Where the ground is too steep to build on, vacant plots of grass and stones are inhabited by packs of big, but friendly,  wild dogs. They are handsome Anatolian sheepdogs. And they are not available for export.

Saint Nicolas of Myra

Saint Nicolas of Myra is an attractive, stone-built, modern, single storey chapel. It is in the grounds of the British Embassy, which means that access is through a double security gate where a guard checks your passport against the list. Those who wish to attend church have to  register, with their passports, by the previous Thursday. Which rather militates against casual church going ! The church is about half an hour’s walk from the apartment, mainly downhill, down the busy Rabindranath Tagore Caddesi. Which is full of eateries and small supermarkets.

There has been an Anglican presence in Turkey for centuries. But the Ankara chapel dates from about sixty years ago. It was built within the Embassy compound with most of the money donated by Americans. We had lunch with Ron, one of the founding fathers, yesterday. The congregation has gone up and down over the years. Susie and I were last here for Advent and Christmas 2019. When the church was recovering from a schism caused, in part,  by the influx of a large number of Iranian refugees. But there were tensions among the Iranian diaspora, and eventually all Iranians were banned from the compound. Which dramatically reduced the size of the congregation.

Yesterday morning there were 18 of us, variously from the UK, from South Africa, the United States, the Netherlands, Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The service was Common Worship Holy Communion. Singing is from Anglican Hymns Old and New. The organist is Zeynip Balkanli, Turkish, a Muslim, and delightful. She has been playing at church for about 15 years. The diversity of the Diocese in Europe is always a delight.

Everyday life

Some nights we are wakened in the dark by the call of the muezzin. But not this morning. Instead the day began with a power cut, happily not too long. And some communication issues centred on the church mobile phone, an Android. I know my limitations and don’t go near it. But Susie is wrestling with it to communicate with the local congregation What’s App group. 

This afternoon we took the bus down into town, about 25 minutes, all downhill, in order to buy an Ankara travel pass. The flat rate for all bus journeys is 9.5Tl, a bit less than 50p. The alternative is to take a dolmuss, a communal mini-bus. For which the standard rate is 10 Tl. On the way home we were caught in a sudden and violent thunderstorm, with hail and heavy rain. Not foreseen by the BBC weather forecast. But generally the last few days have been warm and sunny.

While we are here we plan to visit Atatùrk’s enormous mausoleum, And the Roman Baths. And to return to the old quarter around Ulus and the Citadel. And possibly to go down to Istanbul on the train. I was first there as a hitch-hiker some 60 years ago.

April 2023

Published by europhilevicar

I am a retired vicar living on the south side of Edinburgh. I am a historian manqué, I worked in educational publishing for 20 years, and after ordination worked in churches in the Scottish Borders and then in Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes. I have a lovely and long-suffering wife, two children, and four delightful grand-children

One thought on “Through a glass darkly – 96

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