Th?s w?ll be the last entry ?n the blog unt?l I land back ?n Melbourne tomorrow n?ght. It’s 6:30am ?n Istanbul and we only have a few m?nutes before need?ng to be packed and ready to leave for today’s v?s?t to the old Ottoman palace on Golden Horn and to the Zaman Newspapers before fly?ng out.
Yesterday started w?th a shower of ra?n–the f?rst s?nce arr?v?ng. It has been prec?p?tous on and off s?nce then but has ?n no way ?nterfered w?th the s?ght see?ng. I had a good long sleep (9:30pm to 6:30am). Gav?n came back ?n at 10:30pm last n?ght after d?nner at the home of a local Bursar?an c?v?l eng?neer who had spent numerous years ?n the US and spoke good engl?sh. Emre also took the n?ght off wh?ch I th?nk was very w?se.
We left for Izn?k (better known to us as N?cea–or?g?nally pronounced N?kea–the s?te of the f?rst and seventh ecumen?cal counc?ls ?n 325 and 787 respect?vely) and travelled along the south of the Sea of Izn?k w?th the mounta?ns on one s?de and the lake on the other. We stopped for tea at a roads?de/lakes?de cafe that was the closest I had seen to the equ?valent of a local pub ?n Turkey–though of course ?t was a “pub w?th no beer”–only tea. All the local farmers seemed to be us?ng ?t for smoko and for catch?ng up on the news (there has been a b?t of the latter lately here ?n Turkey). The whole area ?s covered ?n ol?ve trees for wh?ch the reg?on ?s famous.
After a short stop over at an 11th Century tomb that was be?ng restored (although not profess?onally accord?ng to our gu?de Yusuf who ?s a PhD student ?n the h?story of Art and Arch?tecture) we arr?ved ?n Izn?k–current populat?on about 20,000. Izn?k was a fort?f?ed town and ?s one of only a few such towns ?n the world where the fort?f?cat?ons rema?n all around the c?ty. Unfortunately the place where the Counc?l of N?cea prepared the famous ecumen?cal creed–the Senate–has no trace left of ?t. For th?s reason we d?dn’t go there unfortunately–I would have l?ked to have stood ?n the place where ?t happened. Nevertheless we d?d go to a s?te nearby where a crumbl?ng ru?n of an amp?theatre rema?ns. Th?s theatre was bu?lt ?n the 2nd Century AD under the orders of the Emperor Trajan–but was only used for four performances before be?ng abandoned and turned ?nto a graveyard. Poss?bly as a result of what must have been the worst rev?ew ?n h?story. These days the archways and tunnels seem to be used ma?nly by gyps?es for campf?res.
We were jo?ned by our host ?n N?cea, Vehv?, and taken to see the rema?ns of two churches. The f?rst was the most s?gn?f?cant: the Hag?a Soph?a of N?cea. Bu?lt ?n about 600AD th?s was the s?te of the seventh ecumen?cal counc?l. In 1323 when N?cea was taken by the Ottomans ?t cont?nued to be used as a Church unt?l the 1550’s when ?t was converted ?nto a mosque. Then, after the 1st World War, when the Greek’s rega?ned N?cea bre?fly, they took the v?nd?ct?ve and brutal act of blow?ng up the town’s mosque–unaware that they were also blow?ng up the?r own h?story and sacred place. The result ?s that today th?s great church ?s a ru?n–although ?t ?s on the “to do” l?st (as they say) for restorat?on (a very long l?st ?n Turkey). I made the comment to Yusuf that the Greeks were probably ?gnorant that they were blow?ng up a church to wh?ch he repl?ed “And ?s ?t normal Chr?st?an pract?ce to blow up mosques?” Touche.
But our next v?s?t, to another church that was used by the Greeks dur?ng the?r short occupat?on, showed that two can play at that game. I cannot recall the name of th?s church but ?t was blown up by the Turks as an act of revenge when they rega?ned the c?ty ?n the 1920’s. It therefore ?s also a ru?n. Even less ?s left of ?t than of the Hag?a Soph?a. Nevertheless I am told that th?s was the only act of retal?at?on on the part of the Turks who showed great restra?nt dur?ng th?s per?od.
In the end ?t was all rather sad. T?t for tat ?s a game that can be played for centur?es and has been ?n th?s terr?tory. Hopefully ?ntercultural exper?ences such as th?s one organ?sed by the AIS w?ll help pave the way for a future ?n wh?ch the fut?l?ty of such retal?at?ons may be pla?nly seen.
We had a superlat?ve lunch at a cafe across from the pr?mary school ?n Izn?k. We had the best homemade yoghurt I have ever had–w?th a n?ce “crust” on top. W?th th?s was fresh bread, ol?ve o?l, tasty fr?ed tomatoes, tender lamb chops and r?ssoles, and a beef sausage that tasted as good as a kransky (but you can be certa?n conta?ned not a scrap of porc?ne product).
We went out through the walls of N?cea up the h?ll to get a good v?ew of the whole area. From there we could pla?nly see the shape of the walls and also the locat?on of the old Senate house. The call to prayer began at the mosque beh?nd us on the h?ll, and our gu?de told us that there was just one mezz?n?n for the whole town and that the call was cabled to all the mosques ?n Izn?k. On the way back down we v?s?ted a ceram?cs shop. Izn?k was famous for ?ts ceram?cs ?n the 16th and 17th Centur?es but the sk?ll has only just been rev?ved ?n the last twenty years–to be rece?ved w?th a roar?ng trade as far as I can tell.
As we travelled on towards Istanbul (go?ng v?a the northern s?de of the Sea of Izn?k) there was much smoke ?n the a?r. It was obv?ously prun?ng season for the ol?ve trees and the prun?ngs were be?ng gathered ?n p?les and burnt. We travelled North East unt?l com?ng to the Sea of Marmara at Yalova where we caught the ferry across to the pen?nsula on the north. On the ferry we fell ?nto “conversat?on” w?th an old man name Ahmet from Istanbul and a young lad from Bursa named Sarep (?). Of course they spoke no engl?sh but that d?dn’t seem to stop us gett?ng along l?ke a house on f?re. We took photos and exchanged addresses and gave them some Austral?an co?ns for keepsakes. I even managed a theolog?cal d?scuss?on ?n w?th Sarep us?ng f?ngers (One God = one f?nger, Father Son and Holy Sp?r?t = 3 f?ngers)! Th?s rem?nds me of a joke wh?ch you can read here or sk?p and go on w?th the story:
At one point, the council of cardinals decided that they wanted to make Rome an all-Catholic city. Since the Jews were one of the smallest populations, they decided to try throwing them out as a test case. The head rabbi was summoned and told of this decision. The rabbi protested, saying that the Jews had been there longer than the Christians, and that such an arbitrary decision should not be made without some debate. Thus, it was agreed that the Pope would debate one of the rabbi’s. If the rabbi won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would have to leave.
The head rabbi went back to the rabbinical council and said that a champion must be chosen. No one was too eager, as the Pope was well known as an intellectual and religious heavyweight. Finally, a Basque rabbi was chosen. As Basque was one of the few languages that the Pope didn’t speak (this was before Hebrew was revived), the debate was to be carried out in sign language.
The Pope starts off the debate by making a sweeping gesture.
[Hands and arms in at chest; hands move up and out until arms in scarecrow position; could be mistaken as symbolism for a rising sun.]
The rabbi responds by pointing adamantly at the ground. The Pope thinks a bit, then holds up three fingers. The rabbi holds up one finger. The Pope takes out the host and the chalice of the Eucharist. The rabbi pulls out an apple and begins eating it. At this point, the Pope concedes the debate.
The Pope returns to the council of cardinals, who ask what happened. [Begin repeating gestures.] “Well, I said, ‘God is everywhere’, and he said, ‘and God is right here’. I then said ‘God is a trinity’, and he said, ‘no, God is just
one’. I showed him the body and blood of Christ by which we Catholics are redeemed. Then he pulled out an apple to show the sin in us all. He’d knocked me down point for point, so I decided to conceded the debate.”
The rabbi returns to his fellows, who ask what happened. [Repeat gestures again.] “Well, he said, ‘you all gotta leave’, and I said, ‘no, we’re staying right here’. Then he said ‘you have three days’, and I said, ‘not one of us is leaving’. Then he broke for lunch, so I started eating mine.”
On w?th the story…
We dropped Yusuf off at the end of the ferry r?de so that he could go and do some research on a nearby fort, and cont?nued our way to Istanbul. F?rst stop there was the Covered Market or Grand Bazaar. Th?s exper?ence was not qu?te as exot?c or colourful or crowded as the Bazaar ?n Izm?r. It ?s certa?nly a very b?g place. Our fr?end from PASIAD, Ers?n, jo?ned us aga?n and we spl?t ?nto two groups–I went w?th Ers?n, Gav?n and Tom. We all v?s?ted the var?ous shops where we bought the ?tems that were st?ll on our to get l?st and left the prec?nct much much poorer than we went ?n.
We then went back to the Hotel Berr where we checked ?nto our rooms and changed before head?ng out to tea. On the way I saw a man w?th no legs s?tt?ng ?n a trolly and begg?ng. Really.
We were head?ng for the suburb of Florya–one of the few “Tooraks” of Istanbul. We had been ?nv?ted to the home of Fet?n and h?s w?fe Az?me. Fet?n ?s a successful ?nternat?onal bus?nessman who (together w?th h?s brothers) owns two major cloth?ng compan?es as well as a ceram?c company and a construct?on company. He or?g?nally started off ?n Izm?r but has l?ved ?n the States and now ?s back ?n Turkey. As a result of h?s v?s?t to the US h?s son Selem–who acted as wa?ter for the n?ght–speaks very good engl?sh. S?nce Ers?n also has good Engl?sh, Emre d?dn’t have to work as hard as usual. The food was superb as was the hosp?tal?ty. The?r Appartment ?s a full four floors w?th spac?ous l?v?ng areas.
Ers?n part?cularly asked me to pass on h?s regards to the Ha?n-Sharlow’ and to Charlotte who’s b?rthday they celebrated when she was here on the prev?ous tr?p. He sa?d to “say hullo from her adopt?ve son!”
We were all pretty sleepy when we got back to the hotel ton?ght, but Emre wanted to get some v?deo footage ?nterv?ew?ng us about our react?ons to the last few days and the tr?p over all. The rest stayed up talk?ng for a b?t longer but I was st?ll feel?ng a l?ttle ?ll and very t?red so I went to bed.
Well, that’s all folks. Back home today. I w?ll f?n?sh the last leg of the journey ?n a f?nal blog when I get back. It has been qu?te a journey–?n d?stance as well well as ?n my own personal development and understand?ng.
To all my readers and all who have been a part of th?s journey ?n any way: Allah mebarek ets?n.