It was still “winter” by the time I got back to Cyprus from my 2 weeks in Africa . One day I was listening to Radio Canada International on my short wave radio . Apparently record breaking snow had fallen in Montreal. Roads were closed and my brother called the day after my birthday, March 26, to wish me a surprise happy birthday. He told me that he had abandoned his car on the way home, as the snow was impassible. This is something I had never experienced. I told him my main worry was not getting a sun burn J . I had built a small “solarium’ near my clinic. I found some wall board and I lined it with aluminum foil I had obtained from the kitchen…remember the denture my lab made…worked wonders for little extras J This was before skin cancer was as well understood as it is today. Instead of sun screen we used a sun tan ointment to enhance the tan. One fellow went in, lay down on the small cot and tool his clothes off for an over all tan. Well he fell asleep and where the sun usually don’t shine he got quite burned. Much to hilarity of the masses, as it were. A new meaning to “A crisp hot dog” . J
     The rugby season was still in full swing and I rejoined the RAF Nicosia team. As I have stated, I was not a well trained player; but, Canadian football had trained me to tackle run and generally do things that seemed to fit in. I came into rugby later in life, at 26 most players are hanging up their cleats. But , I was footloose and fancy free and the social and athletic interaction fit my life style to a tee. The British players seemed to prefer weather where it was around 15 C and raining. One game was well into the 33 C range. I loved it and for some reason I always played better in heat, my team mates were less inclined.
       One game I had never played was seven asides. These were , not surprisingly, 7 man teams as opposed to 15. And we played shorter games. I had to be instructed as to what to do in the 3 man scrum . But I was up to it and we entered a 12 team tournament. The organizers had it arranged so that the two “top teams” would be involved in elimination matches leading to a final between these two teams. We played one of the favourites in the first game and won handily. In all modesty I have to add that I introduced a few football tricks that gave us an edge. One was in the “line out” where the ball is thrown into the “scrum” from the sidelines. What the rugby guys usually did was throw the ball in and the players from both sides would jump, I told the guys to make a mental count. At two in a three count I would jump and at three they would throw to where I had jumped. So I was off the ground before the ball started to come it. We won most line outs. As well on kick offs I would take the ball, they always kicked to the scrum in rugby. I could dodge the first tackle attempt, then throw the ball across the field, overhand, Canadian football style to the backs who were running up. In rugby the backs often stood till. We got to the finals; but , we sadly lost a player with a shoulder injury. But we were proud of the results.
      The lads played tough games during my stay. We had a few broken ankles, one fellow had a severe thigh bone break. That was a bit scary as I was near this injury and I thought it was his neck that had snapped. In one game my hand was stepped on; but, in the adrenalin rush I didn’t notice a small fact…my ring finger had a small break. Later that evening at the Officers’ mess a British teacher , whom I had not seen in a while came up and grabbed my hand. Ahhhhh it was blue.. The next day I got a working cast. Ah the sins of youth….lots of fun J
      St Paddy' Day In Cyprus  
For starters St Pat's day was my late mother's birthday. Easy to  remember and she told us that as a child living in Montreal she first  thought the ST Patrick's Day parade was for her . As I got to University it of course became a time for Green beer and some green feeling the next day. I was in a St Patrick's Day parade with the Montreal Irish, then of course a tad pub fare after. My most memorable St Pat's was in Cyprus. The MD for the Irish Contingent
had trained in Switzerland, I became friends and introduced him to the Canadian Officers' Mess ( Officers' Club in US Parlance) . He was a big hit. Usually at any national event about 10 invitations went out to various contingents. I was not on the official list but the MD invited me specifically, and I could bring a date :)

        The other Canadians had their noses a bit out of joint as the  guests were usually chosen by our Commanding Officer. But regardless. The  British Regiment was the Royal Hussars, they were descended from the 8th and
11th Royal Hussars who saw action in Balaclava at the famous" Charge of the  light Brigade" incident. It was interesting as an objective observer I felt  a decided cool rapprochement between the Brits and the Irish. I had to
wonder if I would have to don a UN to UN Blue beret :)  We were served a traditional Irish dinner with Guinness, Bailey's as  a follow up etc. A wonderful time. Apparently it was catered by Aer Lingus ,  the Irish National Airlines. Great time etc. At 11 PM the British bid their  adieus then the real party started. A highlight was the MD driving a car  down the main street of LImassol with two Irish Catholic Padres, our  Catholic and Protestant padres on the hood blessing us as they drove by.  Lots of singing as I feel French Canadians and the Irish are from the same
DNA...I was with the Royale Vingt Deuxieme regiment ( Royal 22nd Regiment)  nick named the Van Doos. A great regiment and great party types.  It was a St Paddy's day to end all Paddy's days :)
         Towards the end of March the Van Doos were rotating back to Canada. They were being replaced by an armored Corps Regiment. The Lord Strathcona Horse. First the officers of the new Regiment came over for familiarization visit. The handover to the new Regiment was very thorough and almost seamless. Saying goodbye to the Van Doo officers, how had become friends, was a bit difficult. They were very professional group and I must say I really enjoyed serving with them on the peacekeeping team. Their unofficial motto was ‘work hard and play hard.’ Some may read this and not quite see the connection; but, when you are engaged in a very serious matter such as a military peace action, the need to let down your hair when not on duty, is very real in my estimation. I was very impressed how the Cypriots people respected the Regiment. I was very proud of my association with them. The new Regiment began to arrive and they slowly replaced the departing troops. I slowly began to integrate into the new Regiment. One feature of the officers mass was the fact that they had brought along their silverware from Canada. There were replicas of some of the armored vehicles that they had driven in the second world war. One day a dental officer Col. “Tiny” Chatwin came to Cyprus to discuss the preventive dental program. This was a program he advised and one which became standard among dental corps around the world. In all honesty, we of course discussed the aspects of the program in a couple of hours. So the Col. Had a week to familiarize himself with the island. Every afternoon around one o’clock I would meet him and show him various parts of Cyprus. One day walking around Nicosia he told me how during his visit to Germany they had taken the dental commandant in Lahr Germany to view adult entertainment shows. So this kind of opened up my options. As a young captain I didn’t want overstepped my bounds and I spent most of my time showing him the walled city, some of the interesting side streets and a number of shops. This day I took him down Regina Street which was famous for bars and what we called “Whisky Dollies”. These were gals who come up and talk to you then asked you to buy them a drink. “Buy me a whiskey dolly” was their patented request. Some of them may have been prostitutes; but, I never really indulged in that. No seriously J . In one bar, the popular ’Ellen’s bar” we dropped in for a drink. The Col. was sitting having a beer when a British soldier walked in. He mistook him for a Canadian Sgt. Who worked at their supply section. He rubbed the Colonel’s head saying, “How is the old head, baldy?” The Col. Gave a serious look right and I had to all but bite my tongue to keep from laughing and I said.” Corporal I think you’ve mistaken the Col. for someone else“ . The corporal did the fastest 180 degree turn I’ve ever seen and he quickly marched out of the bar. I pretended not to notice the whole event J
          I also arranged for Colonel Chatwin to visit with the tourism people at headquarters , to arrange a trip to Beirut. He spent two or three days there and when he came back he told me it had a wonderful time. It was very pleasant for me to host Col. Chatwin as I always felt that this is what the dental Corps was about, camaraderie. It is an interesting point that in WWII Col Chatwin had been the adjutant for the Lord Strathcona Horse regiement. He went into dentistry after the War. So a visit to their officers’ mess was well received by all. I also hosted Lt/Col. Donnelly and his wife who flew in from Lahr Germany.
          My replacement, Gregory Ames came to Cyprus on the last week of April. I stayed an extra week on the pretext of giving him a hand over. In all honesty it was just to allow me to wind down a bit. I must admit leaving Cyprus was a very difficult task for me. Memories flooded back of eight months of duty that covered all aspects of military life as well as some wonderful travel, great education, friendships, and a really nice social life.
          I am still in contact with a couple of my Australian police friends and a couple of the Canadians with whom I served. Of course with the Internet these continued contacts are easier than ever. One of my final days I was in the Turkish section of Nicosia speaking to a merchant with whom I dealt for souvenirs on several occasions. I also used to buy him duty free Canadian cigarettes. He apparently enjoyed them or maybe it was just the cost J . I told him I was going to fly from Nicosia to Ankara Turkey. He gave me the name of a friend in Ankara when I got there I looked him up.
       I send my uniform and all my belongings directly back to Canada. I had sent this civilian suit to Germany for the flight home. In retrospect I should have sent a uniform to Germany as I was of course military. While I was in Germany before coming to Cyprus I bought a duty-free stereo set. I sent it back to Canada, without declaring it, sinner that I am J
         As I boarded the the Turkish airliner to Ankara I did so with a heavy heart. As the plane took off I looked down on the wonderful country where I had spent eight months and I knew deep down that although the memories were wonderful I would likely never be back. Visiting Cyprus again would certainly revive wonderful memories. But, the reality of the eight-month tour was so strong that I don’t I would enjoy such a trip.
     he flight to Ankara was about two hours as I recall. I had been told before I left that Ankara was not a very exciting city. It was a bit gray as I recall; but ,I looked up the fellow that my friend in the Turkish section of Nicosia had spoken about. He set me up in a nice hotel and that evening we went to dinner and afterwards for a few drinks. After all these years I guess I was still a bit naïve. We went to one bar and again I guess the young ladies there were more of the professional variety. One came up to me and asked if I wanted to dance. I naïvely assumed she was just interested in me as a person. But on the dance floor she took my hand and slipped it under her sweater and she wasn’t wearing a bra. Again in all honesty this was not my style but I did get a bit of a surprise. Welcome to Turkey.
         The next day I was walking around Ankara and two young man were kind of looking at me and giggling to each other. It reminded me of the lads in Addis Ababa , I obviously look like a visitor and probably a strange one at that. But I went over to them and asked if they could show me around and they said they could. Just some side streets a few little restaurants and I asked about taking a bus to Istanbul. Unlike in Canada where there is only one major bus line between cities in Turkey there were dozens. They took me to a stand, which they said had the best buses. I made a reservation for the following day and it turned out to be a great idea. The bus was comfortable and every now and then the hostess would prepare nice teas and they would come by periodically with little face cloths to wash her face and hands. I was the only foreigner on the bus; but, the people all gave me a nice smile and acknowledged my presence. The fellow sitting beside me was a smoker he took out a cigarette offered me one. I don’t smoke so I said no; but, I had a couple of cartons of Canadian cigarettes with me. I offered him a cigarette and he insisted that I take one of his. Again as I mentioned I am not a smoker. I must say it was a very strong cigarette. One lives and learns. I learned to always bring duty-free cigarettes with me and as I will relate these came in very handy. The nest day I was off to Istanbul.
        The Turkish countryside is quite vast and rather pretty a few villages here and there between Ankara and Istanbul. We stopped once for gas and I was able to get a soft drink. I was also able to pick up some juicy oranges. On the remainder of the trip the radio was tuned to a Turkish station, In Cyprus I had developed a like for music from this part of the world , so I just kind of tuned in…THEN….Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold “ came on. I still tell people “Hey guess where I heard that one ?” Kind of a neat memory, I have a few musical recollections through the years and as we wander through the years I will mention them. Kind of focal points if you will J
       The bus passed a rise in the road over a hill and I was totally unprepared for what lay in front of me, ISTANBUL. I was mentally transported back to the 10th century . I have read that there are close to 3000 mosques of various sizes in Istanbul. Several are magnificent , the most obvious was the Imperial Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles. This wonderful mosque was built in the early 1600’s and features six minarets . When it was built it apparently caused quite a scandal as the Haram Mosque in Mecca also had six minarets. The Sultan Ahmet averted a problem by sending his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret. I had the pleasure of visiting this Mosque several times during my week in Istanbul. Today we hear so much about religious conflict but when I visited this holy place I felt a universal sense of peace and awe, which is what religion should be.
         The Blue Mosque is an imposing site on the city, in a powerful non-threatening way. It is a focal point in a city filled with wonder.
From Wikipedia
Hagia Sophia (from the Greek   Ayia Sophia   "Holy Wiadom ;Latin : Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish  Aya Sofya) is a formerOrthodox Patriarchal Cathedral , later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul   Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal Cathedral of Constantinople , except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the  Latin Patriarch of  Constgantinople the Western Crusader established Latin Empire The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931, when it was Secularized . It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. 
           As we approached the Bosporus to take the ferry across ( There was a bridge in the early building stages) I was aware of the irony that during my stay I would crossing from Asia to Europe for the equivalent of ten cents. After a long day on the road it was an interesting transposition to be in such a picturesque city. At the bus station I asked where some good but inexpensive hotels could be found. I was pointed toward the Aksaray area which had a number of shops and small hotels. I stayed at the Aksaray hotel which was clean , comfortable and at the time , inexpensive. I do recall being asked to leave my passport at the front desk. Something I might not do today. I turned in and got to sleep early after an exciting ride from Ankara. At dawn I was awoken by the call to prayer from a nearby Mosque. It is something I had heard on occasion in Nicosia and Famagusta Cyprus, so it was not an unfamiliar event; but, in my travels to Moslem countries I was always moved by the piety of the call to prayer. As per usual I was able to get back to sleep and when I awoke I was rested and ready for my first day of exploration of Istanbul. There was a restaurant across from the hotel and the aroma of the food caught my attention. I figured I would be wandering about so I may as well fuel up. I went in and they had a nice buffet set up. The foods looked similar to what I had enjoyed in Cyprus and Lebanon but I was not really familiar with the details. I asked if the man behind the counter spoke English, then French and finally German. .‘Ja ich spreche Deutch.’ He explained what the various dishes were. I made a selection, a variety in fact and with several pita breads I sat down to an enjoyable early lunch. Later in the day I dropped by for a supper and as I had found in various locations I was now a “regular”. This meant a big smile, extra food and special attention. People in these small family owned restaurants were always proud of their offerings J
         I walked around much of Istanbul and I was told about a taxi system they use called a dolmush. Taxis run along regular routes and stop and take on passengers as they appear. So a taxi might have two passengers and if another one hails the cap , he will stop. We pay according to the distance. It is faster than a bus and relatively inexpensive. I made my way to some remote areas but iw as mainly able to wander about on foot. It was similar to the Publicos in Puerto Rico.
          The Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia were of particular interest. There was a solemn air ,as one would expect at a house of worship. But, it was not oppressive and I felt welcome. The architecture and tile art was all encompassing. There was a large area around the mosques that was like gardens. It was an informal gathering place for travelers such as myself. It had a hippy atmosphere in that people were open and eager to share experiences. I don’t know if that openness exists among young people today. Hitch hiking is a thing of the past, so perhaps this easy trust has gone. People say it is too dangerous to hitch these days. I feel that fear may be a fear promulgated by high speed information availability. Someone may be kidnapped hitching in Australia and we see it on the news the following morning. Too bad really , as hitch hiking was a very docile and exciting part of my travels.
         What I particularly liked about informal meetings with fellow travelers was the exchange of experiences and suggestions. Sometimes it was about a destination, on several occasions it was information about good and inexpensive places to eat. All important detail to someone on the road. And still very warm memories as sharing was always satisfying.
From wikipedia
The Topkapı Palace (Trukish  Topkapı Sarayı)  or in Ottoman Turkish  طوپقپو سرايى, usually spelled "Topkapi" in English) is a palace in Istanbul  Turkey which was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624-year reign
          The palace is a large series of buildings and apparently housed up to 4000 people at one time. It also has a religious nature in that it houses the cloak and sword of the Prophet Mohammed. It is a prime example of the splendour of Ottoman art and architecture. Not all the palace is accessible to tourists but what is open is very over whelming. It is a large complex and covers between 600,000 and 700,000 sq meters depending on how the structures are included in the overall dimensions. The Palace had its’ own water supply and residents rarely needed to venture out as it was a self contained entity within the city.
       I spent some time in the market which has been the Sultan’s stables. There were hundreds of vendors. They sold almost anything one could think of from food to clothes and souvenirs. One time a fellow was wandering about with some “evil eye” glass objects on chains. They were in the shape of an eye and the idea was that if someone had evil thought the thought would be redirected safely to the evil eye. He wanted the equivalent of about 50 cents. I started to barter and he said this. I kind of grinned and gave him 75 cents. I still have the “evil eye in my dental clinic. One area of interest in the Topkapi museum was the display of Chinese porcelain that dates back to 1000 AD. It was transported along the silk road and it rivals the finest collections in China. I spent the better part of a day enjoying my visit to the palace. Each room had treasures I felt obligated to take in. I was not on an “I have to see it all today” venture. I am sure I missed some treasures but around every corner the “
        The next day I went to the grand Bazaar. I was told it once housed the sultans horses and was once a stable. It was not something I was really prepared for. And I say that with a positive approach . In Beirut I visited the market area of Independence Square and was in awe of the variety of good available. But this was a step beyond. Some reports tell of 4000 vendors. Most were small stalls about 100 Sq feet large, with tables and storage areas underneath the tables. A souvenir hunter will figure they had gone to paradise. I am not a big souvenir collector but I was over whelmed . Everything one could think of was here. Clothes, shoes, belts paintings, jewelry. And the ubiquitous haggling for price. I had been trained in Cyprus and Lebanon
          Later I came across some nice vests of suede with some embroidering. I could see them as a great thing to wear in spring skiing. The man wanted $40 equivalent, I went to $20 and the back and forth and it got quite heated, “don’t you recognize the value of workmanship?” etc. Then I noticed an Israeli flag in the stall. I asked if they had visited Israel. They explained they were in fact descendants of Sephardim Jews who had been exiled from Spain in the late 1400’s. Their families had made their way to Turkey over the centuries. I had several flags of places I had visited on my Cyprus tour and one was an Israeli flag. I brought it out of my back pack and was greeted by smiles, I got the vest for $20 and I use it to this day for spring skiing. A nice work of sewing and a lovely time getting it.
       I spent the better part of that day wandering around the immense market. It was a cacophony of sound and sights. A truly worth while place to have visited for both the immensity and beauty of the market. A unique experience.
         The following day I asked at the hotel about a city tour. I was told about one that was nearby. The tour guide reminded me of “Mac” in Damascus, he was friendly , spoke English well and was very proud of Istanbul and Turkey. The tour was animated as he expressed profound respect for various parts of the city. One thing he spoke of was an event that I had nevrer heard of, but Wikipedia expands on it

The 17th century writings of  Evliya Celebi    relate this story of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, circa 1630-1632:
"First he practiced by flying over the pulpit of Okmeydani eight or nine times with Eagle wings, using the force of the wind. Then, as Sultan Murad Khan Murad V ) was watching from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu, he flew from the very top of theGalata Tower  and landed in the Doğancılar square in   Uskudar , with the help of the south-west wind. Then Murad Khan granted him a sack of golden coins, and said: 'This is a scary man. He is capable of doing anything he wishes. It is not right to keep such people,' and thus sent him to Algeria on exile. He died there".

        So if this account is accurate then our guide was in fact right on . Man flight may have started from the towers of Istanbul He was very proud of this event and mentioned it several times. We also saw many less known sites such as the walls at the city outskirts. These date back to early Greek times . As part of the tour we had a fish dinner on a small anchored boat. Again the pride of the guide and the people who prepared the meal was moving. I have always been taken by such respect shown to visitors and I try to pass this on when I meet visitors to Ottawa. It may sound a bit simple but this is called paying forward by some. It was a meal prepared with skill and pride and eating it on a small anchored boat added to the atmosphere. As I have often done, the day after such a trip I sometimes go back to places to spend some time to absorb more. In this case I wandered along the harbour front reveling in the history .

      After supper at my favourite little café where German was the lingua Franca for us, I wandered about a little. Two young men were kind of eyeing me . Not in a suspicious way but in a curious way. I spoke to them and although we did not communicate well I asked about buses to the Greek border. They took me to a large central bus station where I was aware that there are many bus lines. I got one and made reservations for the following day. It was much like my experience in Ankara where local assistance came to play. The next day I went to the bus station and caught the bus to the border area. It was a non descript trip but I was absorbing so much of what I had seen in Istanbul that the miles flew by. I arrived at the small border town at about noon. It was really a non-descript place which seemed to offer nothing of interest so I did a quick 180 turn and headed to the bridge that linked Greece and Turkey. At the bridge a British traveler was going through Turkish customs. He was dressed like a Brit hippie. Unshaven, disheveled clothes which were a bit raggedy. Later I found out he had hitched to India. Some neat experiences I will go over later. We were waved through and started a conversation. Half way across a sudden thought overtook me. “Ah, you aren’t carrying drugs are you ?” I felt a sigh of relief as he told me ,”I never carry drugs across a border” Whew….I had visions of a few years in a Turkish prison J
              We parted ways but not before we set a destination of Thessalonica, where he had been on the way east. Again another example of the sharing and experiences of travel. I bad farewell to Turkey and said “hello” to Greece.