Things I Want to Remember: Turkey

Community Highlights Europe Things I Want to Remember: Turkey

- my first cab driver at the airport, casual in his mannerisms, realizing that I may have been too bold when I sat in the front passengers' seat, him pointing and saying "Sarah, Europa, Asia", offering me a cigarette, so tempted to say yes for the experience of a slowly burning cigarette in my hand but instead opt for my hands riding the wind as he drove to the hostel

- hearing the call to prayer (Adhan) for the first time among the gardens of the Blue Mosque, as I examined the signs I realized I was not dressed appropriately, left to return another day, hearing the call continue as I retreated to the street in my shorts of inappropriate length

- the vibrant bits of food and beverages found on the streets: freshly cut wedges of watermelon served with plastic forks, tart pomegranate juice full and uncut (my favorite! 5TL in the thinnest and smallest plastic cup I have ever held, on the grounds past the back wall of the Blue Mosque), orange juice to be enjoyed with every meal, bagels and breads baked with sesame, roasted nuts and corn on the cob, kernels of hot corn with dollops of mayo and ketchup, unexplained colorful trays of sauces, mussels with thick bits of lemon, and frosty water bottles available everywhere from the busy street corner to along the fishermen on the bridge

- sitting cross-legged at the Ottoman restaurant across from the Indian family who shared their meal with me, taking off my shoes so I could properly enjoy the padding of the cushions, the waiter who was proud to have experience at the extremely famous American restaurant of El Torito before it closed, the gözleme filled with beef, onion, potato, and tomato

- night with Alistair on the street, buzzed and happy, shots of juice and unknown, appreciating being social after my days of solitude, laughing as he referred to the "tourist trap" of the dondurma men, watching the young Turkish man work the crowd by calling out and hitting the bell above the ice cream cart, later wondering if Alistair ever gave in to the trap in his travel across the country

- the moment I realized I had stopped playing music, choosing a Ugandan playlist, then an Ecuador one, instantly feeling lifted

- entering the Hagia Sophia doorway with marble steps worn smooth, reminiscing about my junior high history teacher, recalling her expressive mouth and how enthusiastically she proclaimed her love of flying buttresses, wondering if I would have been surprised at that age had someone told me one day I would visit the city I was learning about . . . I don't think I would have been surprised . . .

- the homeless children of Istanbul, some happy and running, some sleeping, some posed with a cup, all with dust and dirt on their toes and fingers and faces, Ahmet telling me they were from Syria, a new problem that is growing and nowhere for them to go

- the girl who approached our dinner table at the restaurant beneath the bridge, motioning for food, begging for food, I gave her pizza but still felt useless

- walking and joking with Noel and Kevin, feeling relaxed and normal again, the girls' face at the table next to us as our conversation became more detailed, referring to the guys as my "natural man deflectors"

- people watching at the Mevlana Museum, women with vibrant hijabs and flawless make-up smiling and laughing around the grounds, others crying and praying within the shrine, foreigners with hats and simple scarfs respectfully reading each plaque and posing with the old fountain multiple times 'till the lighting is just right', touching the walls of the rooms where the Mevlevi stayed, standing near Rumi's resting place and the emblematic sarcophagus, moment of silence with my eyes closed, feeling how special the place is for so many, bits of his clothes thin and tattered, trying to visualize the height of him, wishing I could take a picture of his clothes for Romeo to see

- the stray dog who followed me around Aladdin's Hill, so happy with an animated tail, we received disproving looks from the locals, couldn't help but smile as he boldly licked my toes and continued to follow me around the flower gardens

- exploring the Fairy Chimney homes of Göreme alone and in warm afternoon sun, touching the walls, crawling through small doorways, trying to make out which room was used for cooking and which for sleeping, calling my brother in an attempt to share the experience, leaving a voicemail and continuing on to the next home

- while lying on my bed in the cave hotel, realizing that it's literally another dream come true, feeling pampered and relaxed after a hot bath where I used the complimentary shower gel to create a short-lasting bubble bath, enjoying the roughness of the walls and the richness of the tapestries

- the geologist couple who was more excited about the volcanic activity in Banos, Ecuador than I was, the husband passing my camera around the table in Ihlara Valley to show others

- long stretches of pumpkin and potato fields with hills in the distance, a river with long reeds that looked like crocodiles in the flowing water, and our animated guide Kasim giving honest advice on the best place for a "Turkish bath"

- my favorite dervish, enthralled by his flawless spins and precise hand placement, entranced by the light music, wanting to be closer

- after the whirling dervishes, feeling grateful for cover and enjoying the sense of unity as we the crowd sipped our complimentary hot tea and watched the detailed animation on the building wall of Saruhan tell the story of Turkey and its people

- crouched and entering the drafty tunnel leading to the morgue of Derinkuyu (the buried city), tripping and reaching for the wall where there was none, feeling a touch of fear as I realize the blackness to my side is in fact another tunnel within the morgue leading to complete darkness

- Lara Beach of Antalya, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea farther out than I have been before, bright sun making me squint and the sand burning my feet, munching on pistachio ice cream as I walked around the beach that had no shade

- feet in the Marmara Sea at Erdek, loving how easy it is to walk right into the water, seeing few local tourists and appreciating that at that moment I may be the only international tourist in site

- Lunch in Erdek: blue tablecloths and white chairs, listening to soft waves and a French singer croon "Istanbul, Istanbul . . . ", wicker umbrellas with only stray dogs beneath them, an occasional squeaky bicycle going by, drinking my Tuborg malt beer from a chipped glass as I waited for my fish to be cooked, and giving in when the waiter suggests a Turkish coffee to follow the meal

- Inga, the solo traveler from Holland, telling me her tales of Christmases and birthday parties with strangers who become friends; later lying on my hotel bed with the balcony door open, hearing her continue conversations with her German friends, the faint smell of their cigarettes floating into the room, hearing the clink of their wine glasses on the patio table and the sound of live music in the distance

- Ahmet with his gangsta swagger and free ripe pomegranates, "It's nothing, darling", exchanging your bills and playing on-line poker, the type to bring you tea even if you decline it, proudly showing photos of his impressive weight loss, always up early and to bed late at Chambers of the Boheme, giving tips on what to see and how to see it, walking me to the best place for laundry and later the best place for baklava, escorting me to the bus stop when I went past midnight, feeling so secure with him there

- awaking at 4:45 AM in Erdek, a touch of insomnia, hearing the call to prayer from local mosques, seeing the moon and stars out the balcony window, remembering again that this is Erdek, this is Turkey, this is a sleepy little beach town and I'll be leaving soon

- Radiohead and Modest Mouse playing on Pandora, listening to Noel a room away struggling to check into their flights with budget airline Pegasus, cursing the site but trying over and over again ("Damn these guys!"), and I couldn't help but laugh a little

- last night in Istanbul and inadvertently ordering the anise drink I had hoped not to try, Kevin's German friend giving tips on Thailand while her Aussie boyfriend rolled a cigarette, the three Americans looking dead tired when the energetic boy from Luxembourg boldly announced he was joining our group if that's all right, and it was all right with the exception that we were all going to sleep soon

- last doner on the street before leaving, realizing that I was going to miss the familiarity of Taksim, Chambers of the Boheme, and Ahmet

This featured blog entry was written by WanderingWorld from the blog Enjoying the Banquet.
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By WanderingWorld

Posted Mon, Oct 13, 2014 | Turkey | Comments