After the morn?ng blog entry, I dec?ded to rev?s?t the churches I found last n?ght to see ?f there was any movement at the stat?on. So at 8am I headed off aga?n on the streets of Izm?r. F?rst stop–the one judged most l?kely g?ven ?ts canon?cal status–was the Cathedral Church of St John. I not?ced last n?ght that th?s was the only bu?ld?ng I had seen ?n Izm?r surrounded by a ten foot h?gh ?ron fence w?th barbed w?re on ?t. It was–needless to say–st?ll there th?s morn?ng. And the gate was also just as bolted. But I tr?ed the buzzer and was happy to see the gate opened ?mmed?ately by a secur?ty guard. Th?s ?s the g?st of the conversat?on:
Schütz: What t?me ?s mass th?s morn?ng?
Schütz: Sorry. [adopts method for commun?cat?ng w?th non-Engl?sh speakers] WHAT…TIME…IS…MASS…THIS…MORNING?
Guard: Yes, I understood you perfectly. But unless you have ?dent?f?cat?on you can,t come ?n.
Schütz: I have my passport, and here ?s my bus?ness card. You see I’m v?s?t?ng from the Archd?ocese of Melbourne ?n…
Guard: No, you need m?l?tary ?dent?f?cat?on.
Guard: Th?s ?s only for the m?l?tary.
Guard: You are not m?l?tary.
Schütz: Pardon, I th?nk you have confused me. Th?s ?s the Church of St John?
Schütz: The Cathol?c Cathedral?
Schütz: The B?shop has h?s cha?r ?n there?
Guard: He ?s not here.
Schütz: No, okay, but h?s cha?r ?s ?n there?
Schütz: And I–a Cathol?c–can’t go ?n there.
Guard: No, you can not. It’s only for the m?l?tary.
Schütz: What m?l?tary?
Schütz: —– ????!
Guard: —– .
Schütz: I’m sorry–I’m confused. Can I see a pr?est? Is there a pr?est here?
Schütz: Can you g?ve h?m my card and ask h?m to come here. I want to talk to h?m.
Guard: Okay. [takes card and turns to leave shutt?ng gate]
Schütz: I w?ll wa?t here, OK?
Schütz: How long w?ll you be?
Guard: About 10 o’clock.
Schütz: R?ght. Well don’t bother. Its been an ?nterest?ng conversat?on. Have a n?ce Sunday.
Guard: You too. [shuts gate]
Suff?ce ?t to say that when I real?sed I had more chance of gett?ng ?nto P?ne Gap than ?nto St John’s Cathedral, I dec?ded to go and check out the other churches. I knew from my phone call last n?ght that St Mary’s only had mass at 11am and so I went to St Polycarp’s. It was just as closed and shut as St John’s but not–as far as I could tell–taken over by NATO. Yet. A local man on the street (who sa?d that he had been made student of Jesus wh?le wash?ng cars on street when man from Br?s-bon Osstrayl?a called Col?n teach h?m b?ble–“turn the other cheek”–tr?ed to sell me some crocheted cross bookmarks) told me that mass was at 11am.
So I resolved to accept Emre’s arrangements afterall–and now I apprec?ated the trouble he had gone to to f?nd a church for me to attend. We left the Hotel then at about 9:45am and headed off. I was go?ng to church and the rest were go?ng back to the Bazaar for coffee or tea. I d?dn’t know what church I was go?ng too, but was told that the serv?ce would beg?n at 10am. At 10:05am we were st?ll on our way when we were stopped by pol?ce “for search”. Four other cars had been stopped before us and four pol?cemen were search?ng each one at a t?me. Good gr?ef, I thought, I am really not supposed to get to church th?s morn?ng. A few moments later, however, we were waved on. Th?s m?ght have someth?ng to do w?th the current pol?t?cal cl?mate–on the other hand ?t m?ght just be one more case of the “rabb?t hole” feel?ng I have been hav?ng lately. Now ?f I just close my eyes and cl?ck my heels together…
F?nally the bus pulled up and I got off outs?de St John the Apostle Angl?can Church at 10:10am. Th?s w?ll do f?ne, I thought, and went stra?ght ?n to f?nd the f?rst read?ng be?ng read ?n Engl?sh. In fact, I found myself r?ght ?n the m?ddle of Holy Tr?n?ty, Kew. M?ldly h?gh church, 19th Century Anglo-cathol?c decor. Serv?ce ?n Engl?sh w?th Turk?sh b?ts here and there. Dur?ng the prayers we prayed for the three murdered Chr?st?an publ?shes ?n Malata–one of wh?ch was la?d to rest from th?s church accord?ng to Archdeacon Evans. Read?ng from the Book of Revelat?on: funny be?ng ?n one of the very places that ?t was f?rst read. Only sung b?ts were the Allelu?a (Celt?c–very fam?l?ar) and the hymns. I had m?ssed the open?ng hymn (“The Lord’s My Shepherd) but was ?n t?me for “O thou who camest from above” (sung to the wrong tune) and we closed w?th “How sweet the name of Jesus’ sounds” (sung to the r?ght tune). I could hear var?ous accents around the jo?nt but most of them were Amer?can. These Amer?cans (accord?ng to the V?car dur?ng the sermon) were a p?lgr?mage group from Seatle. But I not?ced they too struggled w?th “O thou who camest” wh?le hav?ng no d?ff?culty belt?ng out “How sweet the name”. Hullo, I sa?d to myself–I bet we’ve got ourselves a bunch a Lutherans here.
Sure enough, over coffee and tea later ?n the par?sh hall I fell to talk?ng to several of them, and yes, they were Lutherans. “How d?d you know?” they asked. It takes one to know one, I answered. These k?nd folk had among them a tall d?st?ngu?shed wh?te-ha?red man named Don who solved my conundrum regard?ng St John’s from th?s morn?ng. Apparently 20 years ago the B?shop of Smyrna dec?ded he could balance the cheque book by leas?ng out the Cathedral to NATO and mak?ng St Polycarp’s h?s defacto cathedral. Well. Blow me down. I cancelled the letter to the Holy Father and the str?ng of blog art?cles I had been plann?ng. I would st?ll l?ke to know ?f that can be done canon?cally. An even b?gger surpr?se awa?ted me next. “Oh, we’ve got someone ?n our group who spent some t?me ?n Austral?a…,” sa?d one of the Amer?cans, “Chr?s, come over here.” It turns out that Chr?s l?ved ?n Adela?de for a few years and got to know Pastor Paul and He?d? Sm?th and Pres?dent M?ke Semmler qu?te well. What a small world!
I grabbed a couple of Turk?sh New Testaments (Ing?l) from the sales table–I later gave one to Can our bus dr?ver (Emre sa?d he already had one ?n Engl?sh and one ?n Turk?sh), and the other to Emre-Raphael and Izzett?n as a personal thank you present. The bus came and I jumped on and we were off. Well, not qu?te. Can found h?mself at the end of a narrow one way street w?th a parked car block?ng the other end and had to reverse all the way out aga?n. I swear there was only an ?nch between both s?des of the bus and the cars parked on e?ther s?de of the road all the way back to the ma?n street but he d?d ?t w?thout a scratch. Talk about a camel through the eye of a needle. Then they told me that he had rece?ved a 50 YTL f?ne only m?nutes ago for enter?ng the wrong way ?nto a one way street.
We travelled to the town of Man?sa. Th?s was not on our ?t?nerary, but was a terr?f?c stop over. Man?sa ?s a large town famous for ?ts manufacture of wh?te and electr?cal goods for var?ous European brands wh?ch are sh?pped all over the world. It ?s nestled at the foot of Mt Sp?
?l before a very flat and fert?le pla?n covered w?th v?nes–not for w?ne but for grape ju?ce for wh?ch the reg?on ?s famous (apparently). Here we met Dr Fahrett?n–a neurolog?st, surgeon, journal?st, and–?t seems–part-t?me tour gu?de. Actually he has been a member of the Gülen network for many years and has shown many ?nternat?onal v?s?tors over h?s town. H?s fam?ly has been ?n Man?sa for 700 years–com?ng w?th the f?rst Turk?sh ?nvaders. He showed us three d?fferent mosques (Ulu Mosque 1366, Murad?ye Mosque 1585 and Sultan Mosque 1522–all w?th?n a stone’s throw of eachother) and was ?ncred?bly an?mated, deeply pass?onate about the h?story and f?ne arts of these bu?ld?ngs. W?th h?s long ha?r and moustache he rem?nded us all of B?lly Connolly. Most ?nterest?ng was the 1366 Mosque wh?ch he descr?bed as “the most ?mportant bu?ld?ng ?n the world”. I was scept?cal at f?rst, but qu?ckly mod?f?ed my op?n?on and am happy to concede that ?t ?s one of the most ?mportant bu?ld?ngs from the po?nt of arch?tectural h?story. Its des?gn and arch?tecture–borrow?ng a lot from the Churches of the t?me (l?terally: eg. door frames and columns) and ?mprov?ng them. It was a far cry from the perfect?on that would emerge over the next 200 years, but th?s was the f?rst mosque to attempt a perfectly curved round dome such as was used on Hag?a Soph?a. Later on ?n the day on our travel to Bursa we saw a strange look?ng mosque w?th a po?nty dome. Emre sa?d that that style ?s more l?ke what ?s found ?n As?a rather than the round style now accepted as Ottoman. All of these bu?ld?ngs had beaut?ful deta?ls that I photographed carefully.
A photographer then turned up from the Man?sa Haber Gazetesi to take some photos to go w?th an art?cle about our v?s?t that Dr Fahrett?n w?ll wr?te up. Check ?t out over the next day or two to see ?f we get a ment?on. Dr Fahrett?n then took us to a spec?al local restaurant where we met members of the Man?ssa Industr?al and Bus?nessman’s Assoc?at?on. Th?s Assoc?at?on ?s a part of the same network wh?ch ?s host?ng us. They are ?nvolved ?n char?table works ?nclud?ng bu?ld?ng schools (recently sent an ent?re prefabr?cated school from Ankara to the Sudan by plane!). The restaurant ?s ?n an old Ottoman ?nn wh?ch has been restored–?nclud?ng an anc?ent “comedy stage” half way up the wall ?n one corner for “caberet” acts! Here we were served some of the famous grape ju?ce w?th our lunch and a spec?al Ottoman palace dessert wh?ch I cannot descr?be but wh?ch was called “Su Muhallebisi”. Among the other guests were a Turk?sh couple whose son was one of Emre’s students and who ?s l?v?ng ?n Dandenong. The father rang h?s son ?n Austral?a on h?s mob?le phone and gave the phone to Chr?s. She told the lad that she was hav?ng lunch w?th h?s parents. “What–?n Turkey?” came h?s ?ncredulous reply. He told her that ?t ?s ra?n?ng ?n Melbourne for wh?ch we are all thankful. We met the Chef and owner of the restaurant and he showed us the open k?tchen where he d?d h?s cook?ng. He gave us a g?ft of a candle ?n a cut-out paper decorat?on — I was not sure how ?t ?s supposed to be l?ghted w?thout burn?ng the ent?re th?ng, nor how we w?ll get ?t back to Melbourne. We dec?ded that we would donate ?t to Can for h?s bus.
On the way to Bursa we went through the anc?ent town of Thyat?ra (one of the other seven churches of the book of Revelat?on) now called Akh?sar. Aga?n, we had gone through ?t before I real?sed where we had been. Can was z?pp?ng along. It was fasc?nat?ng to watch the cars play?ng Turk?sh Ch?cken pass?ng on the s?ngle lane crowded h?ghwayway r?ght ?n front of on-com?ng veh?cles–but the fasc?nat?on turned to down r?ght fear when Can jo?ned the game. Can told us that he had been an ambulance dr?ver ?n a prev?ous l?fe, and had won the 2002-2003 award for the fasted ambulance dr?ver… We got onto the subject of road fatal?t?es ?n Turkey. Can swears that desp?te the 80 m?ll?on populat?on, dreadful roads and no traff?c enforcement to speak of, the annual toll ?s only about 250-300. We are ?ncredulous. I put ?t down to poor record keep?ng rather than to a del?berate error.
We arr?ved ?n Bursa at about 7:15pm. We are stay?ng at the Hotel K?rc?. We ?mmed?ately changed for tea and went down to meet our new m?nders: Yusuf and Mustafa. Mustafa ?s a qual?f?ed ?mam, graduat?ng from the school of theology at Marmara Un?vers?ty. He currently works for Zaman Newspaper. Yusuf ?s an Arts H?stor?an and profess?onal gu?de ?n h?stor?cal arch?tecture. He ?s currently complet?ng h?s masters degree. Ne?ther have much engl?sh so we w?ll be rel?ant on Emre aga?n.
We went to the home of Mec?t (a c?v?l eng?neer) and h?s w?fe Özlem (an Arts Teacher ?n Upper Pr?mary). They l?ve ?n a very n?ce appartment area w?th the?r daugher Selen who ?s ?n 4th Class at “Spr?ng” College–another one of the network. Judg?ng by the area and the decor we were now ?n a home of upper m?ddle class, as compared to our two prev?ous home v?s?ts. Aga?n we were served a s?mple meal (st?ll too b?g for some) of soup, ma?n and dessert w?th s?de salads. Our d?nner conversat?on was largely about the events that have been ?n the newspaper these last few days surround?ng the elect?on of the new pres?dent.
Yusuf and Mec?t dec?ded to help me on the matter of the Isa Bey Mosque–at Emre’s suggest?on. Emre had asked Yusuf and Mustafa about the or?entat?on and been told that ?t IS East. But the reason?ng here seemed to be
1. All mosques face East
2. Isa Bey ?s a mosque
3. Therefore Isa Bey faces EAST.
One of the marks of the upper m?ddle status was that they had ?nternet access on a very new computer. So we looked up the s?te on Google Earth. At f?rst not even the ev?dence of the?r own eyes could conv?nce them that ?ndeed the mosque was fac?ng south west rather than east. But as they looked at the v?ew from above there was no doubt?ng ?ts verac?ty. They were both puzzled and Mec?t prom?sed that he would look ?nto ?t and when he knew the answer to the conundrum he would ema?l me. I must say ?t ?s a very great puzzle. Surely someone has not?ced th?s before?
Mustafa meanwh?le had gone back to the rest of the group and was d?scuss?ng ANZAC day w?th them. Were they aware of the Turk?sh sold?er carry?ng the wounded Austral?an sold?er? he asked. Yes, we were. Ken sa?d that ?t was remarkable that the Turks were so forg?v?ng toward us g?ven that we were ?nvad?ng the?r land. Qu?te a long conversat?on ensued.
I must say that I f?nd ?t d?ff?cult when we are ?n d?alogue w?th one another ?f only one s?de ?s heard. We have had too much of that ?n our own h?story to condone ?t ?n our d?alogue w?th others. We meed an appraoch to d?alogue that does not start w?th the presumpt?on of ?nnocence or gu?ltö or w?th that of a r?ght or wrong tell?ng of the story. And we need to be ale to place any po?ntof confl?ct ?n the w?der context of h?story.
There was more talk of the relat?onsh?p between Austral?a and Turkey and of how to make th?s relat?onsh?p real. Clearly the Turks are look?ng for acceptance–both from Europe and from the rest of the world. Mec?t sa?d that he w?shed more Austral?ans could come to Turkey and exper?ence the?r hosp?tal?ty–to wh?ch Özlem came ?n qu?ck as a flash to say “No more than th?s all at once ?n my house!” Chr?s expressed our deepest thanks for the g?ft of the meal that she had served.
Back at the hotel, I sat down to beg?n blogg?ng and also dec?ded to r?ng my fam?ly at home. They were gett?ng ready for school. It was wonderful to he
ar the?r vo?ces. I am m?ss?ng them very much. As exc?t?ng and enr?ch?ng as th?s tr?p ?s, I w?ll be happy to be back home. But I w?ll be return?ng home a changed person. I have seen new hor?zons and walked on d?fferent so?l and spent t?me w?th people ?n another nat?on and culture. I yearn for everyth?ng to return to normal, but maybe noth?ng w?ll ever be normal aga?n.