The Evliya Çelebi Way, by Caroline Finkel and Kate Clow with Donna Landry. Upcountry (Turkey) Ltd., 2011, distributed by Cordee Ltd. Pb, 160pp, with detachable map. ISBN: 0-9539218-9-1. £17.99.
Evliya Çelebi (1611–c.1685) was a Turkish writer who produced a huge travel book describing his journeys both within and beyond the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. In 2010 a group of six riders explored, as far as possible, his route from Hersek on the Gulf of Izmit (an arm of the Sea of Marmara) to Kalkan near Simav, north-west of Afyonkarahisar and Uşak in north-western Turkey. The route was walked the following year. These two expeditions led to the development of the Evliya Çelebi Way, Turkey’s first long-distance walking and riding route and an official ‘Turkish Cultural Route’. The Evliya Çelebi Way is about 600 km long and approximates the route taken by the traveller in 1671.
The book under review is the necessary guidebook for those intrepid enough to follow Evliya Çelebi, whether on foot, on horseback or even on a mountain bike. The first three chapters are full of good, sound practical advice about equipment and clothing, with special attention given to the practicalities of riding the route. They are essential reading, especially for those not familiar with travelling in Turkey. Chapter Four outlines Evliya Çelebi’s life, while Chapter Five provides a brief history of the area traversed an discusses the forms of such public buildings as kales (castles) and hamams (bath houses), as well as mosques. Chapter Six is headed Environment but covers not only flora, fauna and special wild-life areas, but also the ways of life of the people and local horse culture, including the dangerous sport in which riders throw javelins (cirits) at eac other while at the gallop. The rest of the book sets out the different stages of the route, giving distances and approximate travel times. A standard format is used throughout.
Alternatives are given where, for example, walkers might find particular sections very difficult or dreary. Boxes give information about the towns and villages on or close to the route and about what Evliya Çelebi himself reported seeing. A useful appendix summarises his descriptions of Bursa, Kütahya (the ancestral home where he inherited a house and responsibility for a mosque) and Afyonkarahisar. A second appendix describes places visited by Evliya Çelebi but lying off the Evliya Çelebi Way.
Although the guide gives directions to follow the route and provides a map (rather lurid and schematic), route-finding depends upon GPS (Global Positioning System references. Waypoints must be downloaded from a file in Google Earth, details of which are provided. This is commendable and probably very necessary in the field, but it does mean that would-be travellers must be familiar with the use of a GPS before they set out. With that caveat, I commend this book as an interesting, informative and practical guide.