Monday, September 26, 2011

A Short Turkish Trot

The most vivid memory I have of crossing the border into Turkey is of a soldier on patrol on a short rampart. He strode back and forth carrying a rifle with bayonet attached, a knife in a sheath on his hip. I had never seen anyone so heavily armed. I found it somewhat unsettling. We went through the border crossing procedures and started up a hill. Upon reaching the crest the silhouette of the low lying city appeared. It was dominated by the great domes of the mosques, their minarets piercing the afternoon sky.

Most of the city seemed no taller than two floors. The ground floor was generally given over to shops, cafes and coffeehouses. The upper floor appeared to be used for residences. Wooden latticework screens shielded the windows of the upper stories from the hot sun. Vendors sold food cooked on low grills along the sidewalks.

The region was experiencing the beginning of one of the most severe heat waves in years. I recall seeing a young Turkish man crossing the street in a skin tight black satin short sleeve shirt, unbuttoned to a point low on his chest, his legs encased in equally tight black pants. I remember thinking, "At least it's short sleeve and unbuttoned." My mother mused "I guess they're used to the heat here."

We made our way to a mosque. Within it's thick walls the air felt comfortable in comparison to the torrid conditions outside. We removed our shoes and entered. Prayer rugs covered much of the floors. On them men knelt and bowed towards the east. The days heat rose from the floor and worshipers to be gathered and trapped in the dome high above our heads.

We returned outside, put our shoes back on, and after refreshing ourselves at a small cafe with cold cokes and pastries, continued to the bazaar. We were not aware, but were soon to find out, that bargaining in the bazaar is not only commonplace but expected. We were schooled in this by a shopkeeper. I had decided to buy some scarfs as gifts for friends at home. The shopkeeper wrote down prices, which seemed reasonable, but as I attempted to pay he crossed out those figures and changed them to slightly higher ones. This clued us in. After a bit of the apparently customary haggling, a price was agreed upon. We paid and left, purchase in hand.

We returned to the van, gratified by our short Turkish adventure and headed for the sand, blue sea, occasionally stunning Greek God men, olive groves and antiquity of Greece. 

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