Tuesday, December 1, 2009


By Chuck
Here we are on day 3 in Turkey. We finished visiting Troy this morning, our first historical site in Asia.
We really enjoyed our visit; it helped greatly that our expectations had been lowered; we had received mixed recommendations on whether to visit; we finally decided that we were here for two months and this was Troy, for goodness sake; how could we not go?

Troy is not one city, but at least IX layers of civilization. The one correctly associated with the Troy of Helen's time is probably VI. When I was in Greece in 1973, I read Irving Stone's The Greek Treasure, about Heinrich Schliemann and the excavation of Troy. I just love historical novels about ancient stuff and stories about how myth and reality meet. Schliemann read and believed in Homer's The Illiad and The Odyssey and set out to prove that Troy actually existed.

Claire in the Trojan Horse

Scale of Trojan Horse

Sophia Schliemann wearing the Priam's Treasure jewels

Herring bone walls

The many levels of Troy

The people here are quite friendly, in our experience to date. Thirty-five years ago I was nervous about coming, I was running out of time before having to return and my wife was pregnant – I chickened out. We are finding that a simple “Merhaba” opens the door to at least limited communication. Isn't it wonderful what “Hello” can do. We get lots of smiles in return and generous attempts to help, even though the desire often exceeds the ability. We are finding that laughing on both sides helps our mood and keeps things in perspective. We are hearing lots of “No problem”s.

Tractor along the road

Leaving Troy we looked for the first place that had wireless advertised; we wanted to catch up with our blog postings and email. WILUSA restaurant and cafe seemed to offer what we wanted; we asked if they had Internet; they asked “Laptop?” We responded “Yes” and ordered two ҫays. The moment we sat down they began playing American and European music on the sound system – The Beatles and Joan Baez, for example. Two hours later, we decided that we were hungry and were being greedy in the bargain – we had two hours of Internet for two cups of tea. The entire bill was 18 TL (Turkish Lira), €7.74. We were the only patrons, save for one local – who may have been Mehmet's father--Mehmet was our host.


We prepared to leave in our camper; during our discussion, we decided that there was no need to rush on and that the restaurant sign said 'Camping'; so, why not ask and stay overnight, especially since it looks like rain is coming and we only have a few more hours of daylight?

“Do you have camping? Do you have electricity? Do you have water? Hot water for shower?” “No problem.” “How much?” “20.” “Where's the shower?” [And are we, in fact, communicating?] “Hot water no problem,” says Kadife, our hostess. But later, Mehmet Bey [aka “Mr.”] comes back to explain, “No hot water.” “Then how much money without the hot water?” “15.” “OK.” [Please realize that this is a condensed version of a dialog that required iterations and permutations of phrasing at each step, in order to attempt to prevent misunderstanding.]

About an hour after we parked Homer close to the outdoor dining tables and strung our extension cord through their door into their power supply, I was hankering for a pastry. “Pastry?” “Sweet?” Blank stares; then, Bey produced a Spanish-English dictionary and I pointed out the words. Shoulder shrug, apologetic expression and “No.” “OK." [With disappointment.]

A few minutes later, there is a knock on Homer's rear door. Kadife has figured out that she has macaroon cookies and that would probably satisfy. She is right; they are by far the best macaroons either of us has ever had! Shortly after, another knock. She has brought two cups of tea, with sugar. I offer to pay; she refuses. “Free.”

Macaroons--what once was three

Ten minutes later, Kadife rolls away on her motorcycle; a while later yet another knock on the door. She has a plate, two forks and three “baklava;” [Please understand that this is my generic use of the term that includes the honey-laden shredded wheat Middle Eastern dessert we enjoyed so much, today.] We followed her outside to offer to pay. No dice. We think that she was trying to say this was something they wanted to do for us. This is one of the reasons this trip has been so wonderful for us – the kind and generous people who go beyond what is necessary or even expected.

More treats

Later, Mehmet spent some time clearing away “junk” that would have blocked our access to the back yard of the restaurant and the WC; he saw me watching and gave me his routine thumbs-up to indicate that there was “no problem.” He and Kadife are such a sweet young couple. I am really loving this country.

Kadife and Mehmet

Shortly after this, we got a thank you email from Elio, grateful for his photo that we sent earlier, today; he is the service manager in Sicily that orchestrated the repair of our radiator hose. He suggested that we stay in touch and that we come by to join him for a cup of coffee, should we return to Caltanisetta. These are the little connections that move me.

Then, we got a Skype call from TJ – known to the rest of the world as Todd. He is in Germany, planning to go on to Spain, pursuing his passion for swing dancing. Then he returns to England for the return flight to New York City and on to San Francisco for the Holidays. It is such a pleasure to hear from my children, especially when I won't see them for a year or more.

We just finished dinner: This is our 9th straight day of Greek Salads; we find that – instead of wearying of them – we look forward to them. It goes well with the fresh bread at €.30 cents! How sweet it is!

In closing, I'd like to recommend a novel Claire and I finished just last night: Orhan Pamuk's Snow. It won the Nobel Prize and covers just about everything you could discuss about modern Turkey – or life. It has some challenging aspects; it is bleak; it has well-hidden humor. I feel I have a much better chance of understanding Turkey, now.

UPDATE: We woke to the haunting sounds of the call to prayer and a gorgeous sunrise after a wonderful night of sleep.

The sign that stopped us

Our camping spot for the night--early morning

A cup of tea commits one to forty years of friendship. ~ Turkish Proverb

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