The Plights and Pleasures of a "Web Celebrity"

Copyright © 1998 Pierre Flener. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form without written permission.

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: Maybe the "cs" in my former email address stood for "Christian sciences"?!

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:

(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 department's chair).

I was even asked to help find that male US tourist who disappeared in Turkey in 1995:

I do not know whether he was ever found...

Others need some paternal help:

You bet he has long forgotten about your daughter!

Some ask me to help them find the Holy Grail, or almost:

Anything else with that, Sir?

The world is small, and here is a proof:

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!

Often, I am asked to recommend travel routes, or even more:

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?!

Some ask me to do consular work:

Where is the embassy?

Others' requests are flattering:

Sure, why not?!

And, to round it off, here is an uncensored peace message from Greece:

This of course went too far. Here is the answer from his dept chairman: Getting obnoxious people off the net is thus actually quite easy!

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:

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,

Pierre Flener