Vicar: We love Turkey, but our next holiday will be in western Europe

Rev Wille Nixon, Anglican vicar at Drumbeg, with, from left, daughters Alice and Anna, wife Caroline and son Sam at their villa pool in Turunc, Turkey, following the failed military coup at the weekend
Rev Wille Nixon, Anglican vicar at Drumbeg, with, from left, daughters Alice and Anna, wife Caroline and son Sam at their villa pool in Turunc, Turkey, following the failed military coup at the weekend

Rev Willie Nixon, Anglican vicar at Drumbeg south of Belfast, writes from a “quiet and calm Turunc” on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, north of the Greek island of Rhodes:

It was more than a little tense early on Saturday – two bombs went off around 5am in the city of Marmaris, north of here, and mad gunfire/shots etc.

We are in the next bay. My daughter Alice was traumatised but other children Sam and Anna were intrigued. Parents were, well, ‘uneasy’.

It was not a nice feeling. President Erdogan was holidaying in Marmaris and flew out at 2am – a helicopter flanked by two jets apparently, but we neither saw nor heard that, but locals told us this.

The mosque brought our village alive at 2am on Saturday for prayer call ... last one at midnight usually and next one not till dawn.

The clerics were fearful of rioting etc on streets, which is what happened in Marmaris.

The mosque then made a public announcement at about 4am that the coup was undermined and Erdogan back in power.

Let’s say when we heard our mountain road between Marmaris and Icmeler was closed we realised we weren’t going anywhere fast.

We are stuck it would seem unless Boris comes to the rescue! Perhaps he could use his Turkish blood in our favour.

The ferry to Rhodes is our easy route to Europe but leaves from the very centre of Marmaris where things are tense and military were patrolling the streets.

We were thankful this happened on Friday night and not Wednesday night when we were in a hotel in Istanbul after missing our connecting flight to Dalaman.

The hotel was just three miles from Ataturk airport – we missed the action by 48 hours. Time to thank God!

As the weekend wore on we felt relieved all round. I suspect it is a little selfish as there are many in Turkey who are probably secretly disappointed.

Here in this rural village of south west Turkey the locals seem to be a mix of emotions towards their president – traditional people seem to be warm towards him, with a sense that he upholds their traditional views, especially in relation to their faith.

The progressive, educated class and those with business interests are angry with their president and government.

Business people in the tourist trade would support a coup as they know that Erdogan is pro making Turkey more Islamic and thus less welcoming to westerners.

They say a 68 per cent tax on alcohol is making it too expensive. A pint of beer here is now about £3.50 and the cheapest bottle of local wine is about £12. Just 10 years ago this was £1 for a pint and £3.50 a bottle of wine.

Turkey is no longer the secular place it was. We first came as a family in 1994 and the changes are now obvious.

Post coup we have been back by the pool and on Saturday night we ventured into the village for dinner, a village which had emptied to an eerie silence on the night the news broke of the coup.

It was strange – wife nudging you in bed at 4am and saying ‘did you here that?’, gunshots and then the familiar boom of a bomb going off reminded me of days I had almost forgotten in Belfast. Days we are glad are part of our past.

My hunch is that for Turkey, and this is what the locals are saying, “peace is momentary and it is fragile”.

It seems to me that when we arrive back in Belfast we will be thinking western Europe for a holiday next year. We always book our holiday for next year in August, as soon as we come home. Turkey, and particularly our much loved Bozborum peninsula, will have to wait for a revisit until Turkey finds the stability that we in Belfast are beginning to take for granted.

The waiter in a local restaurant, who grew up in Greece, said ‘peace comes and goes and people pay the price of their leader’s whims’.

We are staying in Turkey for now, waiting for sister-in-law and mother and father-in-law to arrive next Thursday. Had they not been coming we may well have already been home.

Psalm 46 keeps us strong.