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Archive for the ‘Istanbul’ Category

Seeing Turkey

Note: I got these pictures off the Internet, but they are very much like what I saw.

I saw Turkey in October 2008 as part of a Mediterranean cruise that also went to Italy and Greece. Our ship went up the western coast of Turkey and stopped for a day each at three cities: Marmaris in the south, Izmir (Smyrna) in the middle and Istanbul (Constantinople)  in the north. From Izmir I took a bus to Ephesus.

Turkey is way richer and more orderly than I expected. From the looks of it, it was richer than Greece or Naples but not as rich as Rome. In America you get this idea of Muslim countries as being poor and disorderly.

Another thing that surprised me is that the Turkish men looked just like I imagined: thick black hair on top, thick black eyebrows, a long nose and a thick black moustache (pictured). Kind of like George Orwell. Not all of them, of course, but way more than I expected.

Marmaris looks like a Greek city: streets of white houses with red roofs down by the edge of the sea, down by the ships, mountains in the background, some of them green or blue, some of them bare and grey. Inland it reminded me of southern California with its mountains and lines of planted fruit trees. But then you would see a silver mosque or a red Turkish flag and know you were somewhere else.

Like in Greece, dogs run free and you hear the sound of scooters in the distance. But unlike Greece – or southern California – the men still hold hands with their women when they walk down the street. Nearly everyone dressed in a Western style. They had BP, Nokia, McDonald’s and iPhones.

Even down in Marmaris, Istanbul is seen as the Big City.

Izmir is about the size of Philadelphia or Melbourne, the biggest city after Istanbul  and Ankara, the capital. It is a port with ships and factories and highways and apartment buildings (pictured). It seems much richer than Naples. The infrastruture looks American.

I did not spend long there since I wanted to see Ephesus, the biggest city in these parts back in Roman times, back before the rise of Constantinople. It lies in a shallow grave an hour to the south by bus. I saw it and, on the top of a hill, the Virgin Mary’s house (pictured), but I will not go into that here since it requires a separate post.

Istanbul seems as big and modern as New York. You would think you were in Europe if it were not for the huge mosques and the loud call to prayer. I wanted to see the Hagia Sophia, the large, beautiful church from Byzantine times, but we missed the tour bus, so we went to the Grand Bazaar (pictured) instead – thousands of little shops under one roof. No set prices: the shopkeeper names a price that is five times too much and you must talk him down to something reasonable. My wife loved it.

– Abagond, 2009, 2016.

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