Day 53, May 27
There are a couple of miscellaneous items I’ve forgotten to include in recent reports, so I’ll be adding them to this report.
Today, I walked up to the top of the oldest part of Ankara, where there are a couple of hill-top castles and some nice parks
and some great old souks--- the coppersmiths’ souk, the metal-workers’ souk, some real antique shops, spice stalls,
old and seemingly authentic rug shops,
and also some modern household stuff (plastic tubs, clothes pins, linens, blankets, fabrics, scarves,
and all that) along the sidewalk.
It was about a three-hour four-chai stroll
up there and back down, and I had some nice conversations and attempts at conversations with the offerers of chai.
It was a steep uphill, steep streets and then stairs,
and lots of very old houses
some of whom were drying wool in the sunshine like drying clothes or on a tarp on the street
and I rested in the room when I got back down the hill.
Then I took off to the Lokomotiv Muzesi, as my good friend in Portland, John Hendricks, is a train guy right down to his socks, and I wanted to shoot some of the old rolling stock for him.
Which I did.
And I’m in there shooting at the outdoor museum next to the actual working railroad tracks, and this guy comes in and he’s shooting the engines and cars with a shirt-pocket camera, and I’ve got my big camera out, and we start talking with the standard “Where are you from?” series, and often the next one, especially from school kids, is “How old are you?” but his next question was “What is your job?”
I said, “Polis America” and he pulled out his federal Turkish cop badge, and I showed him my badge and there was a lot of close visiting after that.
Earlier in the day I’d been in an underground arcade where I was printing some pictures of a family I’d shot up on the hill in the AM.
All around the little photo shop were kids’ costume shops with lots of Army and police stuff, as well as the circumcision robes— hat, cape, jacket, band aids. . .
The family didn't have e-mail so I got the pictures printed (I've done this in the past as well) and will mail them.
So while the pictures were being printed I started asking around about Turkish police caps --- but all the ones in all the stores here were for kids, so I figured I was out of luck.
But I asked this guy about getting a cap, and he told me about a police uniform shop right in the shops between my hotel and the Metro stop I’ve been using to bomb around town.
He wrote the name and street down in my little Jack Webb notebook, and I blundered my way back via dolmus and big city bus, with everyone taking good care of me, and I only had to ask two people where the street was and then where the shop was, and I went in and had more chai and got a cap and some patches.
There were two partners in there— and I had a wonderful visit, mostly with one as the other guy mostly handled the other customers who came in and out— and my guy had my Turkish-English dictionary more than I did. . . . and of course it was great.
So I bought some stuff, and the guy I was dealing with reached behind him, grabbed a Turkish flag patch and snuck it into my bag when his partner wasn’t looking, and on my way out the partner did the same thing, after making sure the first partner was waiting on someone else and wasn’t watching him.
So perfectly Turkish.
Robert Answers the Call to Prayer (Accidentally, of Course)
Yesterday, after I went to the Ethnographic Museum I went to Kocatepe Mosque,
the big mosque in town, and got there right at 1:00 PM just after the call to prayer, so I took my shoes off and went in and sat in the back.
It’s only 20 years old, and is based on the Blue Mosque, one of the premier historic mosques in Istanbul.
It was a big square space, with four main pillars holding up the dome--- it’s almost 100 feet between the pillars, and they are almost 50 feet from the outside wall, so it’s bigger than an acre in there.
There were about 5-600 men on the main floor carpet, which could have held up to almost 40 times as many: 20,000 total.
And the dome is about 150 feet above the floor, half again higher than the Gothic cathedrals, but a much different space, as they are all very tall and very narrow (a machine well designed to make you look up) and the mosques are much squarer (floor plan) and rounder (one huge central dome) at the same time.
The pillars have a diameter of about 28 feet--- nine feet across—and are maybe 80 feet high, which gets you only to the bottom of the central dome, which goes up another 75 feet.
A guy in front of me (I was in an alcove waaaaay in the back, on purpose) was sitting on a stool, and I was sitting on the ledge of a niche in the back wall so I stood when he stood, and sat when he sat.
At first, there was a lot of individual, rather than all-at-the-same-time prepping and bowing— the most common was this.
You stand, quietly, almost at attention. Then you raise both hands to your ears, with your thumbs partially extended, and you kind of brush your earlobes with your thumbs.
Then you sit on the rug with your feet under you, and you elect to bow (or not) numbers of times until the imam starts speaking and then it’s all pretty regimented behavior—stand, sit, kneel, all pretty much at once.
But there are men coming in late right up until most of them start to leave all at once at the end, and even after it’s pretty clearly over, there’s lots of them still bowing or sitting with their hands held out as they did for the death announcement in the market town Kim and I hit, so I’d guess they were remembering specific losses.
But this is all a guess, as I ‘m sure you can tell.
I Thought That Was After the Wedding!
At the pretty good, but too few, exhibits (and too many school children) at the Ethnographic Museum there were lots of manikins in lots of settings—in costumes, of course--- and one exhibit was describing the week-long ceremonies before the wedding in most villages--- just like now, it’s almost all involving the bride’s side of the event. Different dresses, and visits to the about-to-be in-laws, and then the night before, she gets all hennaed up, especially her hands and feet, and then someone ties her hands with a scarf.
The groom’s ceremony is that the night before his pals all go to the barber with him and he gets a shave.
Same pretty good police presence out on the streets every day, but I didn't know enough Turkish to ask about it, and even if I had, it might not have been politic.
I mean if you looked at the numbers of officers and gear,
you'd expect the SWAT team would be right around the corner, but it wasn't.
This was not the only such vehicle on the street--- there was one other one just like this one, and other, less assaultive vehicles as well. And I couldn’t see there was anything for them to be responding to.
The officers were standing around in little clumps, like we always did, and people were just walking by normally.
There is a huge police and Army presence in the country: even in cities, right on the main streets, there are Army posts, with tall fences and guard boxes and guys (kids, but that’s another issue—they are about 19 or so) with automatic rifles and camo fatigues and some pretty impressive gear in the back.
And it’s forbidden to even stop or park in front of these places, although you can park in front of most of the police stations.
In the constitution here, the Army is charged with maintaining the secular orderly accession of power through the government, as opposed to what it’s done in lots of other places all over the world--- stage a coup and put some young hot-shot colonel in as the head of government.
So the institution that in most places is one of the most conservative, like the church, is specifically charged with helping maintain a centrist approach.
I saw this sign from the car recently, and wanted to share it.
Enjoy Barbequed Tea
I’m still trying to figure it out. . . .
But their English is miles better than my Turkish. . . .