Couple visits Turkey during recent coup

Mont Vernon residents spent two weeks in country

MONT VERNON – After the failed coup in July – and before that, three terror at­tacks – travelers all over the world might be taking Turkey off their bucket lists.

Not Michele Thom­as. She and her husband, Ralph Sommese, were on a two-week trip to Turkey when the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put down a civil rebellion on Fri­day, July 15.

More than 300 people were killed and 2,100 injured during the coup organized by a faction of the Turk­ish armed forces.

The couple were in an Istanbul hotel that night close enough to the fighting that they could hear what they thought were firecrackers.

On Saturday, they went shopping in the city and didn’t learn about the coup until they returned to the hotel at 3 p.m. When they went out to dinner that night, they saw people rallying support for the Turkish government and waving Turkish flags.

The next day, they took a seven-hour bus ride to Ankara, the Turkish capital, where many government build­ings – including Par­liament and the presi­dential palace – were damaged.

"We never felt un­safe," Thomas said. "I guess it sounds odd, but we didn’t spend time watching the news."

Istanbul is a multina­tional city, filled with people from all over the world – Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Ne­pal and India, as well as the U.S. – and Americans aren’t generally noticed, Thomas said.

She said they love the country and the people are warm and hospita­ble, and the Turkish gov­ernment can be relied on.

Thomas recently retired from Wilton- Lyndeborough Coopera­tive High School, where she taught ancient civi­lization and American history, and her husband teaches history at Fair­grounds Middle School in Nashua.

Both had been to Tur­key before, under the Turkish Cultural Foun­dation’s teacher study tours.

"I’d go back tomor­row," she said. "Once is never enough."

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or