Flying to a phantom city

I boarded my first airplane with my baby daughter, Elif, and we flew to Ankara. I also flew to Bursa with my son Kutlukhan - I think he was two months old.

I don’t remember how we got back. Nor do I remember if I was afraid. But ever since I’ve been aware of my claustrophobia and fear of heights, I’ve also had a fear of flying. Nevertheless, I am one of those who loves road trips, because I like to see the places I’m passing through close up. That isn’t possible on an airplane, and, as attractive as it is, it’s usually not possible on a cruise either. I’m neutral towards the train. I loved the old trains, despite all the soot that flew into your eyes. But I don’t care for today’s trains.

So, have I no positive experiences of air travel at all? Well, I do. Indeed, there is one that I’ll never forget. I was flying to Antalya - in other words, somebody had talked me into it - when suddenly a phantom city came into view in the mountains in front of us, created by the play of light and color. I had never seen such a beautiful thing in my life. If I knew I would encounter such a sight every time, I would gladly board a plane any day. It was like a fantastic cinema film with nothing scary about it whatsoever, but rather permeated with poetry. I have no idea how to explain how the most beautiful thing I can remember emerged from the thing I feared most.

Another trip I made without being overcome by the feeling that I was stuck inside a tin can was an Antalya-Istanbul flight I made last October. I haven’t a clue what model plane it was, but when I looked towards the rear of the plane there was a seat mid-way back on the right-hand side with an empty space in front of it. You can stretch out your legs when you sit down if there is nobody in front of you.  If I knew I could always sit in that seat, I think I would fly more often. If you consider the number of times I fly (about twice a year), even that is insignificant, but still it’s some sort of progress.

There are also my fellow travelers, of course, who make me feel more relaxed. Years ago when I was trying to return from Izmir by bus, my daughter, who is a grown woman now, said, ‘Don’t be silly. Come with us. You won’t be afraid because I’ll be with you.” And so it was. In any case I don’t have any fear that the plane is going to crash. My concern is that I can’t ask the driver to pull over and let me off! But the presence of certain people can make me forget I’m on an airplane. Some of them I even trust. Mehmet Açar, for example, persuaded me to return by plane from Diyarbakır, where I had gone by bus. A good thing it was, too. Good and quick... Elif and Kutkukhan are my favorite traveling companions. And Lale Mansur, who laughs and talks and makes me forget where I am... When I glance up from down below I never neglect to wish those silver birds winging through the air a pleasant flight. They look so elegant from below...