Thursday, May 07, 2009
This is a street scene, sort of. It's a view from the breakfast room of the Hotel Spectra, looking across the old Roman hippodrome to the Mosque of Sultanahmet, better known over here as the Blue Mosque. Beyond is the Sea of Marmara.
I highly recommend the Spectra. It's a small hotel with nice rooms, reasonable rates, an excellent, considerate staff, and you can't beat the location with a stick. Or rather, you could, but why would you want to?
Diverse memories and street encounters:
The Procession. We were in Bodrum, having a fantastic meal of mezzes followed by freshly-grilled seafood, when we looked up to see a procession. Three musicians in native garb went by, playing at full volume, leading a horse on which rode a boy of nine or ten, dressed more or less like the Sultan.
"Is it a wedding?" Melinda asked.
"The groom seems a little young," I said. "I bet the boy's going off to his circumcision."
For some reason the ladies were skeptical of this and asked the waiter. He was embarrassed to offer an explanation to people of the female persuasion.
"I cannot say the word," he said, but he made a snipping gesture with his fingers.
If I lived in this culture, I'd run for it every time I saw a marching band.
Q: Why do the Turks make such excellent warriors?
A: Because someone clipped their willies when they were ten, and they're still pissed off !
Old Men. Were were in Selcuk, walking toward the hotel after having dinner. The last call for prayer had just gone out from the mosque, which we walked past in order to get to Jimmy's Place. (Another hotel I strongly recommend, BTW)
As we crossed the street toward the mosque, a wild-haired local rushed up to us.
"It's only old men who go to mosque!" he shouted. "Only old men! Ramadan, everyone comes, but the rest of the time it's old men only!"
We nodded, a little stunned, and he charged on his way.
We had to admit that he was accurate. The only people hanging around the mosque were elderly men, waiting for the call so they could put on their skullcaps and go inside. I don't recall any women hanging out at the mosques at all, though I suppose if you're devout and female, "hanging out" is one of those things you just don't do.
In Turkey, you see a lot of old men hanging out. There are cafes, for example, that serve only old men. The men drink coffee or tea, fiddle with their worry beads, play backgammon and wait for the call to prayer. If women or young men sat down, I don't know whether they'd ever get served.
The Cow-Watchers. Driving through the countryside, we'd often encounter a cow or two grazing by the roadside, usually while being watched by one or more persons. Sometimes the whole family would be sitting there, watching their cow. More rarely, the cow was staked out next to the highway, with no one watching.
Sometimes they would also watch goats.
There always seemed to be pasture nearby, so there was no obvious reason why the cow had to grace on the roadside.
I suppose we could have asked someone what was going on, but it seemed more fun to invent reasons why the Cow-Watchers were doing what they do. Some of our guesses:
(1) This is what people do who can't afford TV.
(2) The government can't afford to keep the right of way clear of growth, so they pay the locals a few pence to do it for them.
The most plausible thing we could come up with is (3), These are peasants who don't actually own land. They can't graze their cow on the pasture because it's owned by the landlord, so the only place to graze their animal is on the public right-of-way. But they have to make sure the cow doesn't stray onto the roadway and get killed, so they have to stand by and watch.
If any of you have any more speculations, feel free to state them here.
Cats. There are feral cats everywhere in Turkey. In cities it's only good sense, because in old cities you also get lots of rats.
Some of the cats make a practice of begging from tourists, particularly those enjoying a meal at a restaurant. Melinda and Patricia were complete suckers, and sometimes they were surrounded by a little half-circle of furry friends, each pouncing on little bits of kofte flying their way.
Some of the cats have advanced from begging from tourists to mugging them. Some jump on the diner to remind them they haven't yet paid their tariff. Some will jump on the table in hopes of finding something to run off with.
I found the cats endearing but was a little more cautious, being someone lacking a love for fleas and lice.
On the previous trip I'd noticed that all the feral cats were young. They don't live long in the wild.
There are beggar dogs as well, but they're a lot less attractive.