Terry Richardson has a university background in ancient history and classical civilisation. He first travelled to Turkey as an undergraduate back in 1977 and has been back countless times since then, and he also lived in southwest Turkey for around 13 years.
Terry is the author of numerous renowned guide books on the country, including Rough Guide Istanbul, Pocket Rough Guide Istanbul and Rough Guide Turkey. In addition, he has worked on many other guides, which include both Eyewitness Istanbul and Eyewitness Turkey, and he has written myriad articles about Turkey and Istanbul for publications that range from The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian to Wanderlust magazine.
What first sparked your passion for history?
Although I’d been interested in history during my early years at school, it wasn’t until I made the rather idiosyncratic decision to study ancient, rather than modern, history at ‘A’ level that interest developed into passion. A very traditional but charismatic teacher of the Greek side of things helped things along, as did the thought of travelling to sun-soaked, and what seemed from 1970s North Yorkshire, remote and mysterious lands. Trips to Greece in my late teens soon turned into university summer break adventures on Turkey’s Aegean coast, and the allure of the wonderful hybrid of history and travel soon became irretrievably entrenched.
At a more subliminal level, it probably helped that a then unkempt, little-visited pre-National Trust Fountains Abbey, a couple of miles of woodland, farmers fields and parkland ramble away from my house, was the most incredible ‘playground’ for my childhood friends and I. I’ve been to some key sites in Turkey countless times, but Fountains remains by far my most visited!
What does history mean to you?
Although I concur with Hegel’s well known saying ‘we learn from history that we do not learn from history’ that doesn’t stop it being both important, and perversely enjoyable, to try to do so.
What was the most memorable thing to happen to you on a tour?
I’m not sure I should mention this as it is not exactly a selling point for tours to one of Turkey’s most fascinating regions but it has to be the 2014 South East Turkey trip. With the civil war in full spate across the border in Syria, and ISIS advancing inexorably westward, the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane, just across the frontier from Turkey, was under siege by Islamic State. Many Turkish Kurds, angered by their government not intervening, protested violently in various towns across in SE Turkey. Our tour bus, along with hordes of other vehicles, was held up by masked protestors on the outskirts of Kiziltepe. They had blocked the road with burning tyres and rocks. We made the wise decision to turn back and enlisted the aid of a local Kurd to show us a back way across the mountains to our destination, Mardin. We found out later that another tour bus just ahead of us had tried to pass again and had been stopped by the protestors. The passengers had been forced to disembark and unload and show their luggage to the protestors. Although they were eventually allowed to carry on, the shaken tourists (understandably) decided enough was enough and aborted their tour.
What is your favourite site?
There are far too many to mention, as sites appeal for so many different reasons. For sheer remote picturesqueness I’d probably go for Ani, a ‘ghost’ town on the frontier between Turkey and Armenia, or the exquisite Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on an islet in Lake Van (this is what I wrote about Lake Van for the Telegraph earlier this year https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/turkey/articles/lake-van-turkey-travel-guide/), Eastern Turkey. For sheer splendour the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul has to be in there; for its importance in turning the world of archaeology on its head it would be the 12,000 year-old temple-complex of Gobekli Tepe, between the Euphrates and Tigris in SE Turkey.
How many tours have you led for Andante?
I have never added them-up, but I guess on average 5 a year from 2006 to present. Plus I’ve tour managed quite a few in areas of the world which I felt linked into my passion for Anatolia, from Albania to Greece, Kazakhstan to Mongolia and Georgia and Armenia to Uzbekistan.