I’m back in Istanbul, after 7430 Km, or 4,644 miles.

The point-to-point straight-line distance between all the cities in the projected loop was about 2,350 miles, but as I got ahead of my projected calendar, toward the end of the trip, I added some more cities, and not necessarily in the most efficient way, either.

Roman Glass

I walked a couple of kilometers (partly through the biggest local park) to see the Archaeological Museum, and for me, one of the highlights was (as usual) Roman glass.

When I was near Fethiya at the site of the abandoned Greek Village, I got some old glass demi-john stoppers from the local women (read: tomb robbers) and I got some replica Roman glass items at Bodrum in the castle/ museum.

But it was a real treat to see glass that old—not only the age but also the elegance and beauty of the items separate from the age. (These are no-flash, mostly in-the-dark images— sorry about that.)

For me, it’s right up there with old stone tools, poppies, and that’s probably all I should list on a family show. . . .

The Ekmek Kid

On the way through the park, I saw a gaggle of high-school kids (mostly girls, one guy) walking toward me, and as I got close, I said, “Good Morning” in English, and then I said, “Merhaba den America, (Hi from America)” and they all stopped and we started talking and I got the normal questions: What is your name? How old are you? What is your job?

Then the kid, who has some bread in a bag (I’m guessing as a mid-morning snack— a big skinny foot-ball shaped loaf of bread over here is maybe $ .30) and he’s talking about/explaining the bread and I said, just about all in Turkish, without notes— I don’t know the Turkish word for thinking about, so I had to resort to Tourist Pantomime—

 

“There are yeh deh choke guzel bayan burada (7 very beautiful women here), and you are talking about ekmek (bread)?”

And the girls all exploded in laughter, and it was a great moment.

And he may be known as “Ekmek” from now on.

 

Koza Han (Silk Warehouses)

Then I went through the old warehouses for the silk merchants, which were built originally to support the local mosque, but which became the driver of the whole town, as this became, as I’ve said, the end of the Silk Road.

I spent a couple of hours or more in there, just wandering around, talking to people, and checking out the place.

One of the shops was full of snip-suits, and this may be the best picture I got of them— the one with the kid in it from Konya wasn’t this clear in terms of the actual costume.

Here’s a shot of the passageways through the place— it’s maybe 3 or 4 acres in here—actually, there are now 4 or five of these big hans (warehouses) and the office space the accountants needed, and the caravansaries for travelers and animals to sleep in and the whole required infrastructure.

And, of course, over one of the main passageways, the all-but inevitable image of Ataturk and a couple of flags.

I may have mentioned that his image is probably in about 80-90 percent of business places—calendars, posters, etc.

Ninety-five Percent

I’ve talked before about the culture here and about how they get most, but not all, of whatever, and Dawn, the goddess of the pensiyon in Goreme, Cappadocia, also spoke about that a great deal.

If you were to apply just one word to this place, it would be, I think, “unfinished,” but here’s an example of not quite getting it vs. not quite finishing.

Cumalikizik (Huh? How’s that again?)

On the way out of Bursa, I went back east a little ways to check out a place called Cumalikizik, described in Lonely Planet as a unique, historic, traditional village, but which was a bust. They don’t get much wrong, but this was one of them.

The pastel colors were only on a couple of houses, the place was full of tourists, there was no real plan to the place, nor was there any effort (other than the tourist-stuff gauntlet) to work with the situation.

And it was raining and the right was pretty grim, or maybe I was ready to rest for a day or so.

 

Please Stand for the Recitation of the Nicean Creed

“I Believe in . . . . .

I hit Iznik, where I thought I’d spend a half-day, but which proved to be a disappointment, as the old Roman walls, city gates, theater, and very early Byzantine church were trash- and graffiti—strewn and it was hard to get pictures that showed the place without also showing what I didn’t want to see (or share).

They have some real treasures there, and more than many other cities do, but they aren’t handling them well at all. They are missing a solid bet here, and in a big way.

This is also the home (or the site, anyway) of some pretty basic Christian (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) dogma. This city was originally called Nicea, and in the 4th century was the site of the first ecumenical conference which came up with the wording of the dogma.

I can remember at the big Lutheran church, just west of what’s now James Village (Trader Joe’s Albertson’s and Half Price Books) at the main Lynnwood intersection, when we all stood and kind of mumbled through it every Sunday.

One thing that used to get me, as I shared the experience at the time (I was 12 and maybe a year from self de-frocking myself right out of the congregation), was thinking that this was pretty important stuff these people were all saying together, and it had less shared excitement that reading the free-appliance want-ads. No excitement, no emphasis, no inflection, even. As a-tonal and mono-tonous as you can imagine. (Garrison Keillor would say “. . . as Lutheran as you can get,” right about here).

And I thought— is this as excited as people get with what they believe at the core? And then I thought— maybe they don’t believe any of this any more than I do. I mean, it’s really not very believable. And pretty soon after that, I was out of there. I just couldn’t believe that people really believed all that. Because I realized I didn’t believe any of it.

 

Generations of Women

I did catch a grab shot of this peasant woman, worn out (and bent over) from a life of toil in the fields, and her sixty-something daughter helping her walk to the market. I don’t think her head’s much more than about 40 inches from the ground here.

And much of what I could think of was the men all sitting in the card-rooms and domino and backgammon parlors and her not even able to walk on her own.

And about a minute later, in the same place, a different generation entirely.

But Iznik was a disappointment— and so instead of staying there, I headed north, figuring on staying somewhere east of Istanbul, checking out the place, e-mailing Chetin (the car guy) and his wife that I was close, and then getting back to Istanbul tomorrow.

But I flipped the map over to the next fold, learned that I was only about 100 Km from Istanbul, and headed west, ending this part of the great journey.

I’ll have two full days now in Istanbul, the whole weekend, then I’ll fly to Crete on Monday.

 

Housekeeping

I spent much of today writing this, downloading and selecting images, unpacking the car, checking that I had all my gear, then packing everything up to see how much I might have to leave behind when I fly to Crete.

I got almost everything packed in there except for a couple of Value Village golf shirts and the novels I’ve already read on the trip.

I have room for a few more toothpicks, but that’s about it.

But it’s a comfort to know I’m still somewhat portable, after two months on the road spread out in the space of an entire (albeit somewhat small) car.

I probably won’t write any more reports about Turkey unless I have some good adventures the next couple of days in the city— but if I stumble into anything worthy of note, you can certainly expect that I’ll be throwing some words and pictures at it.

If not, the next report will be from Crete in a few days—maybe Tuesday, maybe Wednesday.

Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey