Turkey in Turkey

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
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Trip End Sep 06, 2013


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Even though I have created a quasi-family here, you tend to find some people who arrive at the same time you do as co-participants in the assimilation process and bond, Randy and I decided to forgo a “family” function, and spend Thanksgiving in Istanbul, Turkey.  The tour has been conducted several times over the holiday weekend, so the hotel amuses us and serves turkey in Turkey on Thanksgiving Day.  For some reason, the Europeans feel compelled to overfeed us Americans.  We started with some local mezzes.  Think tapas, but instead of each item being brought out on its own plate, one at a time, they put it all on one big plate.  So that means whether it was supposed to be cold, or not, it was.  Then we had a dinner plate size salad.  Then they brought out the turkey, something supposedly resembling mashed potatoes, and there was something else on the plate, but it’s now just a fog of food.  Follow all that up with a plate full of tapas style desserts – only one of which was baklava, and you’ve got about the gist of the meal.  I guess we needed some sustenance because Randy and I were pretty lousy at finding a decent meal on our own the rest of the trip.     Our tour guide said, as we stood inside the Blue Mosque, – Empires are remembered by the monuments they build and leave behind.  Clearly the Ottoman Empire has wedged its foot in the memory of mankind.  It was such a poignant comment because Randy and I have been reflecting while we look at 1000 year old buildings/walls/structures/artwork that can be found around almost every corner, on the differences between the European continent and the North American continent.  Really, why did the Native Americans never build lasting structures?  I looked at Randy in light of the tour guide’s comment and asked him if Native Americans would only be remembered for casinos?     The Hagia Sophia was built in the 4th century AD and rebuilt during Justinian’s rule in the 6th century.  It is amazing to stand under those broad domes and compare them to our puny buildings in Williamsburg, VA.  It takes about 5 buildings combined, or almost an entire street of Colonial Williamsburg to equal the age of this one.  And those buildings represent some of the foundational buildings of the American empire/dynasty.  At the corner of an upstairs balcony as you run your hand along the marble column you feel the ripples of pressure compressing the stone that are invisible to the eye.         The first night, we ventured into a store where the salesman told us we would always be welcomed with apple tea, or something similar.  Why?  Because its served so hot in a very small glass cup that it keeps you in the shop at least 5 minutes while you wait for it to cool off enough to drink.  By the time you empty your cup, they've got you hooked and are working on emptying your pocketbooks.  We watched a young woman make a silk on silk rug.  It takes young hands to keep all the strings in order and complete the Turkish "double knot" system rather than those other country single knot versions (obviously said with a good dose of disdain for those other guys' process).     Istanbul is full of hard selling Turks.  It became a game to compare the best lines – “just lookin” – “Yeah well we’re looking for you to spend.”  As Randy and I walked away from a group of shops – yes we bought one – with a rug in a bag packed to travel with us (was there really any doubt this IS Randy Matthiae) the next rug shop called out to us, “need any help?”  When Randy replied “no, I’ve got it.”  The shop owner called back “You need another one to be balanced.  Come in and look.”     The hard sale includes restaurants.  Men stand outside coaxing, cajoling, and requesting a review of the menu with one restaurant after another, situated side-by-side.  As we wandered along the Galata Bridge, waiting to see if one of the many fishermen who have dropped their lines into the water 30' below in the Maramar Sea had any luck, we stopped briefly.  We were “sold” into a restaurant with a great nighttime view.  The waiter brought a tray of fish out and asked us to pick one.  Though we had never seen anyone reel anything bigger than bait in, we had a WHOLE fresh-caught sea bass for dinner.    The next day we visited the spice market, a mosque famous for its variety of wall tiles and the Tapaki Palace.  At the palace, walking through the Harem, the audio guide just casually mentions that the young males selected from different parts of Ethiopia were made guards of the Sultan's.  That translates to Hollywood-may-have-gotten-it right young black males that were made into eunuchs to guard the Sultan’s women.   The 200 young girls whisked away from their families were brought under the care of the Sultan’s mother.  If not smart and attractive enough for the Sultan, she was married off to one of the many noble sons also brought into the compound for training.  I found it striking that the Sultan was creating his own middle class of talent that was indebted to him.  In one room, displaying some of the treasures of the Sultan, there was an entire bowl of emeralds.  That one bowl would probably solve the economic crisis in Italy alone.  In another room a display of clothing through the ages.  Besides outsized pantaloons – there was a lot of room in the caboose – those Turks must have had looooong arms.  It looks like most Turks of the early 1800’s would have a tough time of scratching their noses because they had yards of fabric spooling around their wrists.  Is that any better than the blue jeans of American youth pooling around their ankles?     We cruised the Bosphorous Sea admiring the wealthy Turks seaside villas.  Does the Bosphorous count as one of the 7 seas to be sailed?       It was only a glimpse of the country and Istanbul as well.  With over 11 million Turks in Istanbul alone, according to our guide 1 out of every 5 Turks lives in the city, we could only peek at what the country has to offer in a few days.  We headed back to Naples to cover our Italian tile floors.  Yep, plural.  Because now I too am a Matthiae by marriage, and just had to have that kilim to balance Randy out – one bag in each hand, one foot on each rug.
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