The Turkish Apo Çoruhlu is the founder of tour operators Pacha Tours and Terra Brasil. Lives in Portugal for 32 years.
Turkey was a very little explored destination, and I decided to create a tour operator, Pacha Tours, exclusively to organize trips to Turkey. Turkey had cultural interests, they wanted to get to know Istanbul and Cappadocia. Memories of Apo Çoruhlu, who settled in Portugal for 32 years, and who created his first company here in the area of tourism.
Çoruhlu recalls that “it was necessary to train fluent guides in Portuguese”. Thus, in the early 1990s, those who spoke French were brought to Portugal for “an intensive course of three / four months”. It was a tourist boom in Turkey that lasted until February 1999, when Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK, a Kurdish independence organization, was captured. “There were fears of reprisals” and many trips were canceled. In Portugal, to respond to this new reality, Çoruhlu founded another tour operator, Terra Brasil, with trips to the Brazilian Northeast, also an unexplored destination. “It was a success,” he says. And ended up extending the offer with new destinations: Morocco, Greece, Tunisia.
It also creates other companies in the same industry, but currently only operates a company in Turkey, which operates entirely online, Medi Travel, which sells destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt and Israel in South and Central America. In Portugal, since 2014 he runs a company that helps compatriots in gold visas and real estate. “There are buildings in Lisbon that we bought, rehabilitated and are now totally occupied by Turks,” he says. There are “Turks who come to live in Portugal unhappy with the political situation,” he says.
A proof of the affection and interest that Çoruhlu has for Portugal is the blog Portekizli (De Portugal), also present on Facebook, where she writes about different aspects of our country and highlights the history, culture and national landscape. “I like the North, Braga, Gerês. I really like being in Gerês,” he says. For the entrepreneur, who also has Portuguese nationality, the Douro River “is the most beautiful in the world”. And he feels more or more Portuguese than Turkish. “I was very happy even when Portugal was European champion. I felt really Portuguese.” After all, “I have lived more years in Portugal than in Turkey”. Football is one of the great passions of this “sportinguista de lugar cativo”.
It had a brief incursion in the sector of the restoration, having opened, in 2005, two restaurants of gastronomy Turkish and Greek. “It brought the cooks and even bakers. It was a success,” but, being an “absorbing” task, he eventually sold them.
The first time he was in Portugal, he was 19 years old, it was in February 1977. “I traveled from Bordeaux on a bus to Casal Ribeiro”, from Lisbon to Saldanha, where a bus station was located at the time. The first impression was negative: it seemed to him the “worst country in Europe, after Albania”, perhaps because it arrived at night on a winter day. A perception that quickly changed, he admits. But Çoruhlu notes that “Portugal was a very different country. It has evolved a lot.”
He came for Carnival to personally meet his future wife, then in the first year of medical school, with whom he corresponded under the Penfriends (Friends by Correspondence) program. “We wrote in French,” he recalls. The following year, it will be the turn of the medical student to visit Çoruhlu in Istanbul. “Civil marriage was in Portugal” in 1985, “after we finished our studies.” But “the party was in Turkey,” he recalls. “Initially, we stayed in Istanbul, but it was complicated at the time a foreigner to practice medicine. There were laws that prohibited it.” And they eventually moved to Portugal. “Five years later, those laws were abolished.” His wife speaks “fluently Turkish” and the Portuguese of Çoruhlu, who made this year 60 years, is practically perfect. The couple has a daughter. For the Turkish businessman “there is no people like the Portuguese.” The wealth of this country is people, “he continues, noting that, however,” the Portuguese do not know their own value. They are always devaluing “national things, perhaps with the exception of the climate, which is one of the aspects that most appreciates in Portugal, in parallel with the security environment that it feels, and the gastronomy, which it considers” very similar “to the Turkish. “You can even eat well in a simple restaurant.” Çoruhlu recalls that when he arrived in Portugal, “he could not eat cod. . It was too heavy for me, too salty. Now it’s one of my favorite dishes. “