Monday, December 29, 2008

Istanbul Snow

Snow was a metaphor Turkey's best-known author, Orhan Pamuk, used to convey a deep disconnection in his novel of the same name. It snowed here today and it's apropos for me in Istanbul, in good and bad ways. First the bad: my friends in Israel are plowing ahead with plans for New Year's eve and parties for a wedding, as they must. But I feel like mourning for more than 300 dead in Gaza. And I feel cautious about getting closer to it all. Yet life is as usual today on the Bosphorus, and Turkey is a peaceful VERY Muslim country, as the constant call to prayer and VERY present headscarves remind. In some kind of oblivion to all this, the ships continued to glide past on the Bosphorus this morning as I sipped breakfast tea on the rooftop, accompanied by spicy feta, a boiled egg and some trahana soup with lemon. The sun was shining, but tiny snowflakes looking more like ashes fell too. Energized -- no get lag at all today -- I walked through the Blue Mosque it is full of beautiful Iznik ceramic tiles with turquoise designs, soaring ceilings with round domes, and intricate stained glass. Had to take our shoes off and it is bitter cold here, but thankfully the prayer space is carpeted. Then off to the grand bazaar, a covered maze of glass-enclosed shops dripping with jewelry, fabric, blue ceramic tiles and bulbous glass votives that truly look best in groups of 20, from afar. There are mosques surrounding the bazaar, and the prayers to Allah seem to creep out of crevaces deep inside the maze of narrow lanes and odd wooden courtyards that date back to the early 1900s. I only talked with men all day; all were VERY friendly without being pushy, and I bargained fairly well. But there are no bargains here, as far as I can tell. The damned euro is worse than the Turkish lira, which I got and spent at the I bought some pretty "Roman" glass beads from Afghanistan at a shop run by a Turkmenistani father and his young sons (photo below). They gave me a pretty good deal, so I promised to promote their Website: Hanaka Collection.

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