Crashing a circumcision party!

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Monday, July 28, 2008

Once again, after going to bed at a ridiculously late hour, Natasha and I tore off ourselves from our comfortable beds to board the 7:30am (!) fast ferry to Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.  The teaching assistant suggested taking the bus, but let's see, 3-4 hour bus ride versus 1.5 hour fast ferry... we chose to take the ferry.  With a student discount, it was 15 ytl (adults: 20 ytl) for a nice seat with a table by the window.  It was good that I had wearing my mosque outfit (a tanktop, khaki capris, and a scarf) because the airconditioning in the ferry quickly chilled my body.

The ferry dock was located quite far from our first destination: Ulu Camii.  We had to take a bus (3 ytl) and then take the metro down 12 stops to a station with a long, unpronouncible name containinglots of tailed letters (total travel time: 45 minutes).  Bursa was a lot more commercialized than we had pictured, definitely more so than Edirne.  We hiked a little to reach Ulu Camii and 2 other mosques.  Thrilled with our success, we took a cheap cab ride (5 ytl) to visit the green mosque.  Today must have been a big outing day because we mingled with several local visitors, including a huge group of children presumably from a summer camp.  We saw several cars decorated with wedding ribbons and flowers, as well as little boys in their elaborate white circumcision outfits.  What a beautiful, festive day!

We were done with all the major mosques and sites by noon!  Taking a break at a very scenic and economic cafe, we looked in the guide book to see what else we could do in the remaining 3.5 hours.  Bursa has a cable car that takes you up to the top of the green mountains surrounding the city.  A must see, we thought, and took another cheap cab ride to Uludag, the cable car station.  The sun beat down on the interminable line... we waited for an hour until we finally accepted that we were not going to make it.  Half the town was out for a cable car ride!  We took a trail to go for a little hike on our own when live music and laughters caught our attention.  We invited ourselves over to this "festival".

The party was going on at a cafe in the middle of the woods.  Many people of all ages filled the seats and tables on the elevated part of the yard while others were in the middle dancing to fun traditional Turkish music.  They had scarves over their shoulders and did their gypsy dance with such enthusiasm and juvilence that we wanted to join them!  But we didn't.  Yet, anyhow.  One middle-aged man in a suit came up to us and said something, which we obviously did not understand.  Then he came back with chicken and rice and ayran, a traditional Turkish drink that tastes like salty yogurt.  I asked him if it was alright that we were there (in Turkish, haha!) and if we could just have the food.  He said we were welcome!  He brought his young son and we immediately understood what this party was... a circumcision ceremony party!!!  The kid was wearing his white outfit and grinning happily at us, not knowing his fate. 

We watched the dance for a while and felt intense stares from all directions.  They invited us to come dance.  Natasha is like a professional belly dancer, so she basically started doing a solo performance.  People were speechless!  The cameraman videotaped us and our reactions.  It was great.  All the kids came up to me with their cell phones and cameras and took hundreds of pictures...  Actually, several people requested a picture of us (and with us) at the mosques, so I am guessing that not many foreigners, much less Asians, visit this area.  Bursa really is not included in the major tours because it is a low-key village.  People seemed sweet and untainted, and the guys here were definitely a lot more attractive than the ones in Istanbul!  I saw many more lighter-skinned, Eastern European-looking people, which I found surprising.  I figured the more southern you go, the darker and middle eastern the people would be. 

Anyway, after the dance, so many people were swarming us that we decided to take off.  We got more free drinks and free scarves and glittery scraps of fabric... oh my gosh, it was SO FUN to crash a village party and hang out with the locals!  We strolled downhill, enjoying the scenic view of the city below and the blessed weather.  Eventually we reached a bus in the middle, and the bus driver who was on a break offered us free Turkish tea!  He joked with us- in a non-creepy way like all other Bursa people- and when we explained to him that we study in Istanbul and that we do not have bus tickets with us, he offered us a free ride to the metro station.  It was around 4:30pm when we took the metro from the station in front of Ulu Camii, and our ferry was leaving at 5:30pm.  Worried, we kept our eyes glued to the movement of the train and my watch.  We finally got to the Organize station when we saw that the bus to the ferry dock pulling out.  Frantically we ran up, but the bus driver said we need to buy bus tickets.  Seeing that we were in tears and sweats, he just let us board.  If we had missed that bus, we would have subsequently missed the ferry and get stuck in Bursa!  (The 7:30pm ferry was sold out).  Ignorant of our circumstance, the bus moved along so slowly.  But the luck was on our side on this day.  We got to the ferry dock 2 minutes before it left Bursa.  Whew!  What an adventurous day.  Several people had told me Bursa is not that great, so I had not expected much out of the visit, but it turned out to be one of the top visits in Turkey.  The circumcision party was a definite highlight... where in Istanbul would you be able to crash a party like that?
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