There are some cities whose name has a romantic ring about it - an evocative power to conjure up pictures of the past.
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Commentary by Wynford Vaughan Thomas
A television short, prepared by the Information Service of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the benefit of networks.
N.B. Free of copyright
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: There are some cities whose name has a romantic ring about it - an evocative power to conjure up pictures of the past. Such a city lies below you, if you fly to the South-Eastern limit of Europe. Istamboul it is called today - Constantinople to our fathers, Byzantium to the man who founded it two thousand years ago.
You look down, and there are the great walls, still in place. They form a defense line seven miles long, a huge triple bastion which protected the city and also the whole of Christian Europe from the fall of Rome until at last, in 1452, the Turks swarmed over them and Byzantium changed from the cross to the crescent. But the Turks have left a noble mark on the city too, and the best way to appreciate this is to take a boat on the crowded waters of the Golden Horn, which is the inlet that cuts the modern city almost in two. And all along the skyline there are the swelling domes of the great mosques built by the Sultans, airs bubbles of stone, flanked by the tapering minarets. And right on the very point is the Seraglio.
Here, where the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmora meet, the Sultan lived, guarded by his formidable warriors, the corps of Janissaries. Courtyard after courtyard lead into the secret inner halls - in the old days, few but the very privileged were allowed to venture here. There are the chimneys of the barracks of the Janissaries, and deeper within lay the secret halls of the harem.
Here, the Ambassadors came to pay their humble respects to the Sublime court. And, so at last you go through courtyards until you come to the balconies that look over the blue waters of the Bosphorus and across to the shores of Asia. Here, you are on the very limits of Europe.
A superb city, also modernised at the moment. A new road is being driven through the heart of old Istamboul and although the modern capital is now Ankara, emotionally the Turks feel that Istamboul is still the real centre of the country. Trading goes on still, as it did in the old days. The fishermen here bring their fish to market as if they were still being ruled by the Sultan. Plenty of time to bargain, but you will notice that the old dress has gone. it is modern dress which is now universal throughout Turkey.
A living present, lazy in the sun of old Istamboul. And always the pleasure of going by water. The sea winds its way deep into the heart of the city. The ferries chug away to the Asian shore, and the old palaces of the pashas line the lovely blue limpid waters of the Bosphorus.
A magic city in some aspects of light and everywhere the sea traffic. It is still one of Turkey's great ports - and we were lucky enough to take a trip up the Bosphorus in a launch of the Turkish Navy. This must be one of the most romantic sea-ways in the whole of the world. you go up past the towering walls of the castle of Roumele Sesa, built by Mahommet when he first led siege to the Christian Constantinople. All the way up I talked to the Captain, who pointed me out the land marks, the little houses charmingly built right on the edge of the water, the trees and many of them bursting into blossom in the early spring. Modern hotels, old villages, all crowding down romantically to the shore line. This is the Russian Consulate - it's got a fine view of all the shipping coming down the Bosphorus.
It runs at last out to the Black Sea and there, stretching right across the entrance to the sea, the line of black buoys that hold the anti-submarine nets. You realize you have come now to the official edge of the free world in these parts. And this tanker coming down through the gate in the boom is carrying Russian oil. Out there is that invisible barrier which separates the countries of the West from the lands of the Iron Curtain.
A Greek tanker coming down the Bosphorus with Russian oil. You certainly feel that you have come to the limits of the Western world - and you know now that Turkey is the defence bastion of the West.
Of course, in modern defense you don't see much of the demarcation line and so at Ismir, the great port of Ismir, on the Turkish coast, you have got the Headquarters of NATO. Turkey is a member of the NATO Alliance, and here in the Headquarters at Ismir is the centre of defense not only for Turkey but all the South-Eastern Mediterranean. General Brown, the Commander-in-Chief discusses the problems of the area with his staff, on a map of Turkey and the surrounding country.
And while close at hand you have got your Headquarters of NATO, away in the distance, high on a hill-top in the countryside behind Ismir, the huge antennae of the forward scatter equipment, keeping guard on any gender from the air. These discs turn slowly under the skies of Turkey and they are the southern end of a vast system of defense that now links the whole of free Europe. And then, as if to symbolise the continuity of the civilisation that they are guarding not so many miles away, you come on one of the most tranquilly lovely ruins of the Mediterranean. The abandoned streets and the broken columns and the limestone walls with their inscriptions - the old city of Ephesus. Maybe, long ago, St. Paul himself once walked through these deserted streets and over these sunlit stones.
MUSIC OF BAND
But Turkey has her own traditions and achievements too. And so back in the ancient castle of Roumilly Hazas, on the Bosphorus, we watch the band of the Janissaries, playing marches and sounding the martial music that carried the Turkish armies to world conquest in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here they come, marching down the inner courtyard of the castle. The modern Turkish Army is, of course, a modern striking force but they have revived this band of the old corps of Janissaries as an inspiration and a link with the past. They are dressed in the costume of the days of Mahommet the conqueror. Their music sounds of the blue waters of the Bosphorus - a reminder that the guardianship of these straits, vital to the Western world, is in sure hands.