Archive for May, 2008

Mehmet Moves In

Zonaro's Gate of Constantinople.

I guess 555 years has a way of diluting the history of conquest and defeat. Today, May 29th, marks the anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople, the defeat of the Byzantium Empire and the death of Constantine XI. Yesterday I took a walk along Theo’s famous wall and tried to imagine the difference 5 centuries can make.

In May of 1453 while the death throes were already shuddering through the fading Byzantine Empire and Constantinople’s fate had probably already been sealed…it wasn’t so much the heat of battle that caused the breaching of Theodosius’s famous land wall. It was the simple fact that a gate, possibly obscured by rubble, had been left unlocked. The Kerkoporta Gate on the northern portion of the land wall and not too far from the Golden Horn was soon discovered by the Ottomans to be unsecured. They flooded through the gate and into the streets, Constantinople was overrun and the Ottoman Empire began its amazing rise.

If you want a taste of the history you can take the train from Sirkeci to YediKule station and visit the YediKule Zindanlari Museum…yesterday we had it all to ourselves and from my post on top of the walls I can report to you that for today–all is well.

Summer Comes a-knockin’!

I’ve been back in Istanbul for one week now and god knows how I’ve missed it so.

My first weekend back was spent shopping and since the weather was so gorgeous, we decided to indulge ourselves with a boat tour. If you don’t already know, there are boat tours of the Bosphorus that leave every day from Ortakoy (where we boarded) and Eminonu. The sights are truly magnificent, especially during the warm weathers so it is highly recommended that you drop whatever it is you are currently doing and hop on to a boat to enjoy the Bosphorus like it should be enjoyed.

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The Value of Men

Hanging with the Crew

There’s an old Moorish proverb that says “He who does not travel does not know the value of men”…I can relate to that sentiment. I love this city of Istanbul, its history, its food and beauty…but most of all I love its people. As you have heard me say over the past few years—we have never felt more welcome than living among Turks. While I still butcher the language and stretch the seemingly endless patience of our Çevre, we have fallen into a corner of Asia where I feel content to just sit and live…with some exceptions.
We have crisscrossed Turkey more than a dozen times the last few years and no matter what town, village or nomadic encampment we have visited and imposed upon, we find a thread of Turkish complexion that runs clear through from border to border…Turks are simply people of quality. They love to talk, laugh, eat and visit; they just like hanging out and getting into the details of each other’s lives.

The Master and her protege
Our doorbell rings all day long with neighbors and friends dropping in to chat and the food never seems to stop. Whenever one of the older women in our neighborhood cook special Turkish dishes they call Ann to come and learn…every week plates of food flow back and forth from their kitchens to ours and vice versa…tough life, I know.
While I am pretty well set with my balcony view of Minibus Yolu and the comings and goings of our friends, neighbors and food, I simply long to wander…which leads me, finally, to the point of today’s thoughts.
The expedition season is upon us and my gypsy juices started flowing this week as we began our plans for our summer wanderings across Asia Minor. In a few weeks we will head to Taurus Range to weave our way into the mountain villages and see if we can catch up with the locals. Next, Konya will be our base as we explore the ancient seat of the Great Seljuk Turkish Empire. The area is home to scores of ancient caravansaries, Mosques and Churches and some of the world’s oldest settlements.
All of which brings me back to the words of a forgotten Moor—whether in Istanbul or the rugged outback of Turkey, we have learned the value of the people of Turkey…they are simply Priceless.

For a great insight into nomadic hospitality check this from Today’s Zaman http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=142870

Snuffing Out a Bit of Culture

May 19th is a big deal in Turkey commemorating the start of the War for Independence. I find that ironic, because today is another “May 19th” that is going to be remembered for a long time…this one for restricting a freedom that many Turks have enjoyed without restraint.  That of lighting up a smoke whenever and wherever the mood hit.

Starting today public smoking is being frowned upon in this great nation of nicotine loving Turks.  Already banned in airports and large offices today the ban sweeps into its purview the small shops, parks, entertainment venues and extends even to the ferries and taxis that troll throughout the metropolis. An estimated 15 million packs of cigarettes (300 million smokes) are  inhaled each day in Turkey.

Being a non-smoker it took some time to get used to the second hand smoke I was inhaling when we first landed here a few years ago.  Now when returning to Istanbul from abroad there is nothing that makes me feel more  “at home”  than the smell of cigarettes as soon as we step out of the airport.

I know…its bad for me, bad for you,  bad for all of us. I get it. I am not advocating smoking. However, when I see things that have been culturally endeared to me pass away there is an element of grief I experience. I cannot count the times that a Fiat-wielding taxi driver has held out a pack of smokes to me as he weaved and dodged through Istanbul”s infamous traffic, before lighting up himself. The scent of tobacco has become synonymous with the Turkish hospitality that has courted and overwhelmed us during our time in Asia Minor.

No doubt we will all be much healthier and able to worry about whatever great health risk becomes popular in the future. For now though I am not too worried, once I see the ashtrays on the treadmills at the local sports salon go…I will know that the restrictions are here to stay.

It is time for "Çizgili Günler"

Grrr, I missed the first day, but still there is much to see! Event’s website is here

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