Sounds from the Bedroom

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's been a "funky" last several days. A mixed bag of fairly inconsequential, but varied, experiences.

Firstly, the title to this entry is a tease. The black video you may look at--or more appropriately, listen to--was recorded from my bed recently at 5:00am. It is about half of the 5 to 7 minute call to sunrise prayer by the muezzin of the Green Mosque, just up the hill from my residence in Bursa. But this is pretty much it from anywhere in Turkey. You can hear other calls in the city in the background. Earlier in the summer, it came bouncing off the wall opposite, and into my bedroom at 4am. Everyday. Turn the sound up loud. It is for me. I apologize for the distracting sounds as I handled the camera in the first part. ..

And, the call to prayers have only been parts of the sounds in the last week, the holy week of Muslim Bayram. Another sound, which I finally got around to preparing my camera for, is the Drum Nazi. I call him that in regard to the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi," who gruffly insisted on his way  or the highway. The DN is a guy, or group of guys, who go through the streets in the middle of the night--in this recorded case, 3:24am--beating on a drum for a purpose I have not yet learned. I guess that is a ritual of Bayram, for I was also awakened by them passing under my window in Istanbul a few nights ago. [I have since learned that the drum guys are waking the true believers
so that they can eat before sunrise and their fasting from sunrise to sunset]. I guess calling them DNs is a bit harsh. But that was my initial thinking. I mean, at least they could jazz up the rhythm a little bit. Well, there isn't rhythm, it's a static beat. Alas, Turkish music; a lot of it doesn't have a rhythm that many of us would relate to.

I am just back from a two-day, one night visit to Istanbul to buy some books and see a few sights. In my reading I am transitioning from the Ottoman Empire period to the Byzantine Empire period, which immediately preceded it. Everybody's favorite historical period.

Most recently I have had the good fortune to have a free place to overnight in Istanbul. That saves about US$40. Way down in southeastern Turkey, months ago, I happened to go into a "juice bar" in the city of Mardin for a fruit drink at the same time a Finnish conservative, evangelical minister, and artist, was there. We had a drink and conversation, and he invited me to look in on him when I came to Istanbul.

On Monday, however, having failed to see his late email of the night before, I arrived at this place at about 9:30 am not knowing he would be gone until 12:00. So I had two and a half hours to kill waiting for him. I was not going to make an effort to go anywhere as Istanbul was, for me still at this time, oppressively hot and humid. So, after taking a picture of a view across the Golden Horn from near his place, I tried to sleep in the shade on a park bench.

After I had a short chat with my host I walked up to Istanbul's famous Istiklal Caddesii off of which is a good bookstore with abundant books in English, Pandora ( I bought one to start my reading, and set a few aside for later as I didn't want to carry them.

I then walked down to the waters of the Golden Horn to a ferry landing. The Turkish Travel Pixies were not with me, as I walked through the door as the ferry was pulling out. I had to wait an hour for the next one. (While waiting I had time to contemplate that this ferry dock was the same one that I sought a ferry several years ago. Only then it was too late, and the service had closed down. Walking in the dark from the area I had been physically assaulted in an attempted mugging, resulting in a couple of cracked ribs and three nights in a hospital. But that's another story).

I took the ferry across to the other side of the Golden Horn, then walked up along the ancient walls of Constantinople, eventually finding my way to the Kariye Muzesi (museum), also known as the Byzantine Chora Church. This building contains many of the most beautiful mosaics (and some frescoes) of the Byzantine world. But, it was closed by the time I got there.

I walked back down to the shore of the Golden Horn. I was really getting hungry. I had not eaten or drunk all day, save for a few peanuts when I first got on the ferry at 7:30 am. (This "practice" seems to be a residue from my hitchhiking days of long ago in Central and South America, where I slept out in fields and other unlikely places quite often. In the morning one just got up and started off. I guess my operating practice--not a dogmatic principle-- is "Do first; eat later.") However, in this instance, if not by conviction but by emulation, I was in keeping with the requirements of Bayram, which I understand to require fasting from sunrise to sunset.

I was looking for a nice restaurant, or a bank ATM, as I only had a very few Lira.

I came upon what appeared to be a very nice restaurant on the walk along the shore. Inside a low hedgerow was a nice lawn and garden around a restaurant with linen table cloths. I thought surely they would take my card, and, as I had not spent any money on food all day, damn the cost.

I went around to the front. From appearances it looked as if it might be a private club. Its name was Halic Sösyal Tesisleri, which I translated as Golden Horn Social Facility. But, it was also associated with the municipality of Istanbul (İstanbul Büyksehir Belediyesi). So, I couldn't make up my mind if is was private or not. I decided to make a test run.

I went in the front door and when I met the first guy asked if I could have an evening meal. There wasn't a lot of discussion, my Turkish was limited and their English even more limited. But they weren't saying no.

I was escorted in, noticing that all the tables were set the same as if a banquet were to take place. I got from the fellow that it was a "fixed menu," which rang in my mind $$$. But, damn the torpedoes.

I was given a two person table right in the middle of everything. Everybody, that  is to say, though the place was still filling. There was a plate of some munchies: olives, a sliver of cheese, a slice of cucumber, a date, things like that. After consuming a portion I noticed that nobody else was eating anything. So I stopped, thinking perhaps it had something to do with Bayram. But, the sun had gone down. Not far enough, I guess. A dish of greens was served to each table, and bread (except to me). After about a half an hour a distant boom could be heard (presumably a canon shot at the true sunset), and people began to eat.

Though the setting might be called a semi-fancy one, the patrons all seemed to be middle class couples, groups and families. I assumed, therefore, it was a restaurant dedicated to municipal employees and their families and friends. (Turkish cities have facilities dedicated to various professional groups: teachers, ljudges, military). I had perhaps been let in by the Turkish sense of hospitality. And because probably no one else would even try. I don't know.

The only thing Turkish about the meal was that Turkish people were eating it. It was your basic baked chicken banquet plate. Not somehing to be savored, but it certainly met my needs on the spot. At 22YTL (about US$18.50), not bad for an Istanbul dinner.

I got back to my host's lodging at about 10pm, and crashed, due, certainly to the walking, heat, humidity and hunger. To be awakened, remind, by the "drum nazis" at perhaps 3am parading in the street below.

On the second day I wanted to take a bus from Taksim, and to get over to the Kariye Musesi/Chora Church earlier, then do some other exploring (walking), purchasing remaining books as I got back to the minister's apartment
The Lonely Planet guide listed a bus between what has become the navel of Istanbul, Taksim Square, and the Chora Church. So I walked the short distance from the bookstore to the Square. There is the Marmara Hotel, a great tourist resource. The way people dress these days (down) the staff doesn't know if one is a guest or not. So, if I have a question, I go up to the second floor concierge desk, and always receive a courteous and fulsome answer. I also use the WC.

My first objective was to purchase one of the magnetic, multiple-trip keys for public transport. In Bursa one of these comes in the form of a plastic card with an embedded micro-chip. In Istanbul the object, which name I forget now, is like a little plastic spoon with a metal button on the bottom. You hold it in your fingers with your thumb in the spoon depression and press the metal button into a receptacle on the fare box of the bus, or the turnstile at a metro station.

When I turned around from the kiosk window, the door of the bus I wanted to take was, like, just right there! The Travel Pixies were back with me.

Furthermore,I didn't have to use my new fare key as it seemed the fare box was broken, with a tape across the electronic receptacle. (I later gathered that as a presumed municipal gift to the citizens for this day of Bayram, at least, the municipal transportation system was free).

I toured the Chora Church/Kariye Musesi. As said before, I usually resist taking pictures where other sources are abundantly more illustrative. But in this case I could hardly resist a couple of the "Been there, done that" pictures.

On the way walking to the Sultanhamet area, where there was another bookstore I wanted to check into, I wiggled around in the streets, eventually visiting another Byzantine monument, the Fethiye Camii, another, but smaller sampling of Byzantine architecture and mosaics; the Fatih Camii, entirely shrouded in restoration fencing, and the main Istanbul mosque designed by Sinan, the Sulemaniye Camii.

The Sulemaniye Camii, too, was largely swaddled in restoration curtaining. The sanctuary, if that was what they called it, was, however, open to enter. I waited out a prayer session, then went in. The interior, too was sheathed in restoration cladding. And the whole of what remained was a mass of scaffolding which held up a false restoration ceiling that was form-fitted to the contours of the walls, preventing any sense of the mass of the interior.

Thus, the only tourists likely to want to visit the place these days are restorationists and engineers.

Next, by happenstance, I came upon a statue dedicated to the man himself.

When I got back to the minister's apartment around 4:30, I walked in on a computer-aided telephone conversation. I went off to sit and be quiet.

This minister is a missionary for a conservative Christian church (sect?) based in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. And in this moment they were participating (via Skype or some such service) in a call-in radio program originating from that location. With the pastor was a young Turkish man who was seeking solace for a recent personal tragedy, I was later told.

The young man's son had been electrocuted. The son and another boy were sheep herding, I believe, when one of them touched a source of electricity, a fence, I think. The other went to  extract him, only to join him in death. The pastor said that both bodies had been burned so badly that the limbs had to be cut off. (I'm not sure of a reason for that except for an open coffin at the time of something like a wake).

I was told this grizzly story just after meeting the bereaved, handsome young man, and hearing the phone conversation end with some words to the effect of "a loving God."

Well, I just don't get it. The will to believe is so strong that it supersedes all statistical evidence that at the very least would rationally neutralize such notions (in my mind). But then, that's what the ages have battled over, rationalism vs. irrational belief. Bad things happen to good people; good things happen for bad people. Life is not fair. There is no cosmic entity that is listening that is going to change anything. Belief is in the mind of the believer. You can choose what to believe. That will change only your own behavior.

On many an evening I sit on a bench outside the Green Mosque and relax for a spell, eating a chocolate and pistachio nut covered ice cream bar. Some nights I may do this very late, and all is quiet. Sometimes I am there at times of prayer. It can be a very beautiful sound, as briefly demonstrated in the video clip here.

On a recent evening, and while the prayer session was underway, about six or seven feet to my right, lying motionless in the garden grass was a tiny black and white kitten. Infrequently it mustered just enough energy to utter a short meuwing supplication, or protest, against its enclosing expiration.
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geezergal on

Did you get my first remark?
Well good story anyway. Sis

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