The Plights and Pleasures of a "Web Celebrity"
Copyright © 1998 Pierre Flener. All rights reserved.
My homepage has some travel diaries and travel guides that I wrote,
especially about Turkey. As the local web administrator will readily
certify, they are hugely popular and have inadvertently turned me into a
small "web celebrity." Indeed, I am being perceived by many as a web
oracle, know-it-all, on-line travel agent, or whatever, and receive about
ten "dear Uncle Pierre"-style information requests per week. Some of them
are outrageously funny, or bold, or impolite, and I want to share my
chuckles with you by hereby releasing the top 10 of what I have received
(while still living in Turkey). For protection of the innocents, I have
changed their names and email addresses.
Some have their geography all mixed up:
Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form without written permission.
From: The Reverend (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maybe the "cs" in my former email address stood for "Christian sciences"?!
Subject: New Testament Corinth
During a discussion in our Bible class, a question was asked about
the status of the churches which the apostle Paul established in
Corinth. Could you update us on the status of those churches as
they exist today? We would appreciate any insight and data which
you could send us. Thank you.
Others do not seem to know that the "edu" in many addresses stands for
educational institutions, and they somehow believe I am a travel-agent:
From: Sibel Aptal (email@example.com)
(Basically, she asks me to find out the rate of a roundtrip student ticket
on Turkish Airlines from Munich to Ankara.) The language she used after I
explained to her that I am an academician, and not a travel agent, would
have been ripe for a citation to the disciplinary committee at her
university, had she used it on a teacher over there and written it in
English rather than in Turkish (which is why I did not forward it to her
Subject: Ucak Bileti
Sizin adresinizi Internet'ten buldum ve sizden bir ricam var. Ben
Aralik ayinda Turkiye'yi (Ankara'yi) ziyaret etmek istiyorum. Eger
benim icin ucak biletinin Turk Hava Yollari ile ne kadar oldugunu
ogrenebilirseniz oradaki THY subelerinden cok sevinirim. Buradan
telefon etmek korkunc pahalli oldugu icin Turkiye'yi arayamiyorum
malesef. Munich'den Ankara'ya ucmak istiyorum (ya da Frankfurt'tan).
From December to January "Ogrenci" Biletlerinin ne kadar oldugunu
ogrenebilirseniz cok sevinirim. Tum zahmetleriniz ve zamaniniz icin
simdiden cok tesekkurler...
I was even asked to help find that male US tourist who disappeared in
Turkey in 1995:
From: Worried Friend (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I do not know whether he was ever found...
Subject: Intercity bus lines
I am trying to find information including fax numbers for Turkish
inter-city bus companies. I visited your web site and noted the
names of some which were listed there. Can you assist me with any
further information about the services / companies which operate
in Turkey? I am particularly interested in any service between
Antalya - Istanbul which would connect through Bilecik - Eskisehir -
Kutahya. I am trying to retrace the route which was taken by a
young US man who has disappeared in Turkey as of September 1995.
The last news we had was that he intended to travel north from
Antalya heading for Istanbul. His primary interest was historic
sites and would have visited any in these regions. I would like
to contact the various bus lines to request their assistance by
placing missing person posters in Turkish on the buses and at their
depots. Your assistance is very much appreciated by the family and
Others need some paternal help:
From: Redneck (email@example.com)
You bet he has long forgotten about your daughter!
Subject: Your Diary
My daughter, aged 18, has acquired a Turkish boyfriend when
holidaying in Turkey recently. She now wants to return to Turkey -
to Icmeler - and spend the summer with him, but this would be
difficult unless she was able to get a job out there. So my
question is - would it be possible for her to get a work visa?
Alternatively, if she merely went back out on a normal 3 month
tourist visa, and then worked, how serious would it be if she
was caught. Any guidance you can give about this - or any
reference to someone else who might be able to help - would
be much appreciated.
Some ask me to help them find the Holy Grail, or almost:
From: Erich (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Anything else with that, Sir?
Subject: research in Turkey
I have long wanted to visit Turkey, but haven't made it yet.
The primary reason that I've wanted to go, was because of the
mystery of Noah's Ark and Mt. Ararat etc. I understand that
it has been somewhat unsafe to go to the eastern provinces, so
I'm waiting for better times...assuming that will happen. In
the meantime, I'm trying to do more research about supposed
sightings of the Ark. There is one in particular which needs
further research. [...] I would like to find someone in Turkey
who would be interested in spending the time to try to trace and
run down the sources for the English news reports. That's why
I'm contacting you, (not that I'm asking you to do so) but
perhaps you know of someone or know someone who may know someone
who could and would do the research. I expect that a student
at one of the universities may find this interesting and
challenging. I'm not certain even if records still exist for
back in the 1880s. If they do, they are probably in Istanbul,
for I believe that that was the seat of government at that time.
I'm not at all certain that the English news reports are accurate.
They may even be faked. But until some research is done to try
to trace the source of the reports, no one could know for sure.
The world is small, and here is a proof:
From: Nice Guy (email@example.com)
He is the surgeon in Ankara's Bayindir Hospital who saved my infected knee,
after the messy intervention at the Ataturk University Hospital in Erzurum!
Subject: Dunya kucuk
I was searching Internet and saw your diary and read it. Your
name made me think I had met you before, and when I began reading
your being wounded at the Kackar's everything was clear. I am
Dr. XYZ, orthopedic surgeon from Bayindir Tip Merkezi. [...]
Often, I am asked to recommend travel routes, or even more:
From: Dolly (firstname.lastname@example.org)
How adventurous is adventurous for single US women? Maybe going by
"dolmuS" (collective taxi) from izmir to Efes, all by themselves?! Or
going alone to a "birahane" (beer garden) in Diyarbakir?!
Subject: your Turkey diary
I've enjoyed reading your over-the-years account of daily life in
Turkey. My interest in the country was sparked by an article I
read on traveling there on a shoestring budget, further fueled
by attending the Mevlana death-day ceremony recently, and escalated
to somewhat of a fever pitch by your tales.
This is more a test message to ensure your email address is current
(taken from 1993) and to see if you have some interest in
corresponding a bit on this topic.
I am a single American woman, 35, employed in the telecommunications/
software industry (tech writer) with plans to take a very adventurous
tour of Turkey in 1996 with two single women friends, both from the
U.S., a programmer and a business grad student.
Some ask me to do consular work:
From: See (email@example.com)
Where is the embassy?
I would like to help my friends from china enrol into school in
your country. Most of them are gratuated. they want to apply
student pass for English course, computer and management. Can
you help me to get some information about how to apply student
pass and visa for China people. Thank you very much.
Others' requests are flattering:
From: Great Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sure, why not?!
Subject: Eat Smart in Turkey
We are writing a travel guidebook devoted to Turkey's cuisine,
which will be sent to the printer in about 3 weeks, and would
like you to review it if you are interested. [...]
And, to round it off, here is an uncensored peace message from Greece:
From: Kostas Papandreos (email@example.com)
This of course went too far. Here is the answer from his dept chairman:
Subject: The jerkness of Turkeys.
Fuck off!!! Imia is greek. Constantinoupol is is the capital of
Greece. Cyprus is greek. Go fuck yourshelf. Turkey is the most
developed african country. Population 100% gypsies. Chiller is a
Getting obnoxious people off the net is thus actually quite easy!
Subject: Re: Kostas Papandreos
Dear Dr Flener,
I am sorry that a student of Mechanical Engineering is not abiding
with the rules of the scientific community and has sent to you a
totally unacceptable--in every aspect--message, able to disturb
the peaceful and tolerant climate of the International scientific
community. The e/m address of the aforementioned student has
immediately been removed and [the dean] will take the disciplinary
measures which he deems appropriate for this unbelievable story.
Please stay assured that such kind of attitude will not be tolerated
by our University. Please stay assured that such nationalistic
bubbles have nothing to do with the Greek Scientific community or
the Greek society as a whole.
Finally, note that I have made some wonderful contacts through these web
pages. For instance, every four months or so, there was a message of the
following kind on my answering machine:
Hello. You do not know us, but we know you! We have read, and
enjoyed, your stories and advice on traveling in Turkey, and
are currently in Ankara, setting base in Kale Otel in Ulus,
phone 439-8537. We would like to meet you, and invite you for
dinner. If you have time and are interested, please call us.
Wow! I also met an Uzbek, who set me up for a home-stay at his mother's
place in Tashkent; an Iranian lady, who got me in touch with the right
people in order to try and (finally) get an Iranian travel visa; a Swiss,
who brought me a pair of used cross-country skis and many other things over
numerous trips over my 5 years in Turkey; an Egyptian, whom I keep meeting
all around the world on various trips; a Swiss/Iranian couple that hosted
me in Zurich; etc. I have fan email from Dennis M. Ritchie (of "C" fame)
himself. Her Royal Majesty Noor, the Queen of Jordan, has read my
Jordanian trip report. The Egyptian Minister of Tourism has read my
Egyptian travel story. I have about a dozen more invitations for
home-stays, from all around the world! And there are many other wonderful
people who wrote to me, which definitely offsets the burden imposed by
requests such as the ones listed above.
I hope you liked reading this,