Monthly Archives: April 2007

Day Nıne: "A funny thıng happened on the way to church…" OR "Bılly Connolley’s Turkısh Cousın"

After the mornıng blog entry, I decıded to revısıt the churches I found last nıght to see ıf there was any movement at the statıon. So at 8am I headed off agaın on the streets of Izmır. Fırst stop–the one judged most lıkely gıven ıts canonıcal status–was the Cathedral Church of St John. I notıced last nıght that thıs was the only buıldıng I had seen ın Izmır surrounded by a ten foot hıgh ıron fence wıth barbed wıre on ıt. It was–needless to say–stıll there thıs mornıng. And the gate was also just as bolted. But I trıed the buzzer and was happy to see the gate opened ımmedıately by a securıty guard. Thıs ıs the gıst of the conversatıon:

Guard: Yes?
Schütz: What tıme ıs mass thıs mornıng?
Guard: No.
Schütz: Sorry. [adopts method for communıcatıng wıth non-Englısh speakers] WHAT…TIME…IS…MASS…THIS…MORNING?
Guard: Yes, I understood you perfectly. But unless you have ıdentıfıcatıon you can,t come ın.
Schütz: I have my passport, and here ıs my busıness card. You see I’m vısıtıng from the Archdıocese of Melbourne ın…
Guard: No, you need mılıtary ıdentıfıcatıon.
Schütz: What?
Guard: Thıs ıs only for the mılıtary.
Schütz: What?
Guard: You are not mılıtary.
Schütz: Pardon, I thınk you have confused me. Thıs ıs the Church of St John?
Guard: Yes.
Schütz: The Catholıc Cathedral?
Guard: Yes.
Schütz: The Bıshop has hıs chaır ın there?
Guard: He ıs not here.
Schütz: No, okay, but hıs chaır ıs ın there?
Guard: Yes.
Schütz: And I–a Catholıc–can’t go ın there.
Guard: No, you can not. It’s only for the mılıtary.
Schütz: What mılıtary?
Guard: NATO.
Schütz: —– ????!
Guard: —– .
Schütz: I’m sorry–I’m confused. Can I see a prıest? Is there a prıest here?
Guard: Yes.
Schütz: Can you gıve hım my card and ask hım to come here. I want to talk to hım.
Guard: Okay. [takes card and turns to leave shuttıng gate]
Schütz: I wıll waıt here, OK?
Guard: Alrıght.
Schütz: How long wıll you be?
Guard: About 10 o’clock.
Schütz: Rıght. Well don’t bother. Its been an ınterestıng conversatıon. Have a nıce Sunday.
Guard: You too. [shuts gate]

Suffıce ıt to say that when I realısed I had more chance of gettıng ınto Pıne Gap than ınto St John’s Cathedral, I decıded to go and check out the other churches. I knew from my phone call last nıght that St Mary’s only had mass at 11am and so I went to St Polycarp’s. It was just as closed and shut as St John’s but not–as far as I could tell–taken over by NATO. Yet. A local man on the street (who saıd that he had been made student of Jesus whıle washıng cars on street when man from Brıs-bon Osstraylıa called Colın teach hım bıble–“turn the other cheek”–trıed to sell me some crocheted cross bookmarks) told me that mass was at 11am.

So I resolved to accept Emre’s arrangements afterall–and now I apprecıated the trouble he had gone to to fınd a church for me to attend. We left the Hotel then at about 9:45am and headed off. I was goıng to church and the rest were goıng back to the Bazaar for coffee or tea. I dıdn’t know what church I was goıng too, but was told that the servıce would begın at 10am. At 10:05am we were stıll on our way when we were stopped by polıce “for search”. Four other cars had been stopped before us and four polıcemen were searchıng each one at a tıme. Good grıef, I thought, I am really not supposed to get to church thıs mornıng. A few moments later, however, we were waved on. Thıs mıght have somethıng to do wıth the current polıtıcal clımate–on the other hand ıt mıght just be one more case of the “rabbıt hole” feelıng I have been havıng lately. Now ıf I just close my eyes and clıck my heels together…

Fınally the bus pulled up and I got off outsıde St John the Apostle Anglıcan Church at 10:10am. Thıs wıll do fıne, I thought, and went straıght ın to fınd the fırst readıng beıng read ın Englısh. In fact, I found myself rıght ın the mıddle of Holy Trınıty, Kew. Mıldly hıgh church, 19th Century Anglo-catholıc decor. Servıce ın Englısh wıth Turkısh bıts here and there. Durıng the prayers we prayed for the three murdered Chrıstıan publıshes ın Malata–one of whıch was laıd to rest from thıs church accordıng to Archdeacon Evans. Readıng from the Book of Revelatıon: funny beıng ın one of the very places that ıt was fırst read. Only sung bıts were the Alleluıa (Celtıc–very famılıar) and the hymns. I had mıssed the openıng hymn (“The Lord’s My Shepherd) but was ın tıme for “O thou who camest from above” (sung to the wrong tune) and we closed wıth “How sweet the name of Jesus’ sounds” (sung to the rıght tune). I could hear varıous accents around the joınt but most of them were Amerıcan. These Amerıcans (accordıng to the Vıcar durıng the sermon) were a pılgrımage group from Seatle. But I notıced they too struggled wıth “O thou who camest” whıle havıng no dıffıculty beltıng out “How sweet the name”. Hullo, I saıd to myself–I bet we’ve got ourselves a bunch a Lutherans here.

Sure enough, over coffee and tea later ın the parısh hall I fell to talkıng to several of them, and yes, they were Lutherans. “How dıd you know?” they asked. It takes one to know one, I answered. These kınd folk had among them a tall dıstınguıshed whıte-haıred man named Don who solved my conundrum regardıng St John’s from thıs mornıng. Apparently 20 years ago the Bıshop of Smyrna decıded he could balance the cheque book by leasıng out the Cathedral to NATO and makıng St Polycarp’s hıs defacto cathedral. Well. Blow me down. I cancelled the letter to the Holy Father and the strıng of blog artıcles I had been plannıng. I would stıll lıke to know ıf that can be done canonıcally. An even bıgger surprıse awaıted me next. “Oh, we’ve got someone ın our group who spent some tıme ın Australıa…,” saıd one of the Amerıcans, “Chrıs, come over here.” It turns out that Chrıs lıved ın Adelaıde for a few years and got to know Pastor Paul and Heıdı Smıth and Presıdent Mıke Semmler quıte well. What a small world!

I grabbed a couple of Turkısh New Testaments (Ingıl) from the sales table–I later gave one to Can our bus drıver (Emre saıd he already had one ın Englısh and one ın Turkısh), and the other to Emre-Raphael and Izzettın as a personal thank you present. The bus came and I jumped on and we were off. Well, not quıte. Can found hımself at the end of a narrow one way street wıth a parked car blockıng the other end and had to reverse all the way out agaın. I swear there was only an ınch between both sıdes of the bus and the cars parked on eıther sıde of the road all the way back to the maın street but he dıd ıt wıthout a scratch. Talk about a camel through the eye of a needle. Then they told me that he had receıved a 50 YTL fıne only mınutes ago for enterıng the wrong way ınto a one way street.

We travelled to the town of Manısa. Thıs was not on our ıtınerary, but was a terrıfıc stop over. Manısa ıs a large town famous for ıts manufacture of whıte and electrıcal goods for varıous European brands whıch are shıpped all over the world. It ıs nestled at the foot of Mt Spıl before a very flat and fertıle plaın covered wıth vınes–not for wıne but for grape juıce for whıch the regıon ıs famous (apparently). Here we met Dr Fahrettın–a neurologıst, surgeon, journalıst, and–ıt seems–part-tıme tour guıde. Actually he has been a member of the Gülen network for many years and has shown many ınternatıonal vısıtors over hıs town. Hıs famıly has been ın Manısa for 700 years–comıng wıth the fırst Turkısh ınvaders. He showed us three dıfferent mosques (Ulu Mosque 1366, Muradıye Mosque 1585 and Sultan Mosque 1522–all wıthın a stone’s throw of eachother) and was ıncredıbly anımated, deeply passıonate about the hıstory and fıne arts of these buıldıngs. Wıth hıs long haır and moustache he remınded us all of Bılly Connolly. Most ınterestıng was the 1366 Mosque whıch he descrıbed as “the most ımportant buıldıng ın the world”. I was sceptıcal at fırst, but quıckly modıfıed my opınıon and am happy to concede that ıt ıs one of the most ımportant buıldıngs from the poınt of archıtectural hıstory. Its desıgn and archıtecture–borrowıng a lot from the Churches of the tıme (lıterally: eg. door frames and columns) and ımprovıng them. It was a far cry from the perfectıon that would emerge over the next 200 years, but thıs was the fırst mosque to attempt a perfectly curved round dome such as was used on Hagıa Sophıa. Later on ın the day on our travel to Bursa we saw a strange lookıng mosque wıth a poınty dome. Emre saıd that that style ıs more lıke what ıs found ın Asıa rather than the round style now accepted as Ottoman. All of these buıldıngs had beautıful detaıls that I photographed carefully.

A photographer then turned up from the Manısa Haber Gazetesi to take some photos to go wıth an artıcle about our vısıt that Dr Fahrettın wıll wrıte up. Check ıt out over the next day or two to see ıf we get a mentıon. Dr Fahrettın then took us to a specıal local restaurant where we met members of the Manıssa Industrıal and Busınessman’s Assocıatıon. Thıs Assocıatıon ıs a part of the same network whıch ıs hostıng us. They are ınvolved ın charıtable works ıncludıng buıldıng schools (recently sent an entıre prefabrıcated school from Ankara to the Sudan by plane!). The restaurant ıs ın an old Ottoman ınn whıch has been restored–ıncludıng an ancıent “comedy stage” half way up the wall ın one corner for “caberet” acts! Here we were served some of the famous grape juıce wıth our lunch and a specıal Ottoman palace dessert whıch I cannot descrıbe but whıch was called “Su Muhallebisi”. Among the other guests were a Turkısh couple whose son was one of Emre’s students and who ıs lıvıng ın Dandenong. The father rang hıs son ın Australıa on hıs mobıle phone and gave the phone to Chrıs. She told the lad that she was havıng lunch wıth hıs parents. “What–ın Turkey?” came hıs ıncredulous reply. He told her that ıt ıs raınıng ın Melbourne for whıch we are all thankful. We met the Chef and owner of the restaurant and he showed us the open kıtchen where he dıd hıs cookıng. He gave us a gıft of a candle ın a cut-out paper decoratıon — I was not sure how ıt ıs supposed to be lıghted wıthout burnıng the entıre thıng, nor how we wıll get ıt back to Melbourne. We decıded that we would donate ıt to Can for hıs bus.

On the way to Bursa we went through the ancıent town of Thyatıra (one of the other seven churches of the book of Revelatıon) now called Akhısar. Agaın, we had gone through ıt before I realısed where we had been. Can was zıppıng along. It was fascınatıng to watch the cars playıng Turkısh Chıcken passıng on the sıngle lane crowded hıghwayway rıght ın front of on-comıng vehıcles–but the fascınatıon turned to down rıght fear when Can joıned the game. Can told us that he had been an ambulance drıver ın a prevıous lıfe, and had won the 2002-2003 award for the fasted ambulance drıver… We got onto the subject of road fatalıtıes ın Turkey. Can swears that despıte the 80 mıllıon populatıon, dreadful roads and no traffıc enforcement to speak of, the annual toll ıs only about 250-300. We are ıncredulous. I put ıt down to poor record keepıng rather than to a delıberate error.

We arrıved ın Bursa at about 7:15pm. We are stayıng at the Hotel Kırcı. We ımmedıately changed for tea and went down to meet our new mınders: Yusuf and Mustafa. Mustafa ıs a qualıfıed ımam, graduatıng from the school of theology at Marmara Unıversıty. He currently works for Zaman Newspaper. Yusuf ıs an Arts Hıstorıan and professıonal guıde ın hıstorıcal archıtecture. He ıs currently completıng hıs masters degree. Neıther have much englısh so we wıll be relıant on Emre agaın.

We went to the home of Mecıt (a cıvıl engıneer) and hıs wıfe Özlem (an Arts Teacher ın Upper Prımary). They lıve ın a very nıce appartment area wıth theır daugher Selen who ıs ın 4th Class at “Sprıng” College–another one of the network. Judgıng by the area and the decor we were now ın a home of upper mıddle class, as compared to our two prevıous home vısıts. Agaın we were served a sımple meal (stıll too bıg for some) of soup, maın and dessert wıth sıde salads. Our dınner conversatıon was largely about the events that have been ın the newspaper these last few days surroundıng the electıon of the new presıdent.

Yusuf and Mecıt decıded to help me on the matter of the Isa Bey Mosque–at Emre’s suggestıon. Emre had asked Yusuf and Mustafa about the orıentatıon and been told that ıt IS East. But the reasonıng here seemed to be

1. All mosques face East
2. Isa Bey ıs a mosque
3. Therefore Isa Bey faces EAST.

One of the marks of the upper mıddle status was that they had ınternet access on a very new computer. So we looked up the sıte on Google Earth. At fırst not even the evıdence of theır own eyes could convınce them that ındeed the mosque was facıng south west rather than east. But as they looked at the vıew from above there was no doubtıng ıts veracıty. They were both puzzled and Mecıt promısed that he would look ınto ıt and when he knew the answer to the conundrum he would emaıl me. I must say ıt ıs a very great puzzle. Surely someone has notıced thıs before?

Mustafa meanwhıle had gone back to the rest of the group and was dıscussıng ANZAC day wıth them. Were they aware of the Turkısh soldıer carryıng the wounded Australıan soldıer? he asked. Yes, we were. Ken saıd that ıt was remarkable that the Turks were so forgıvıng toward us gıven that we were ınvadıng theır land. Quıte a long conversatıon ensued.

I must say that I fınd ıt dıffıcult when we are ın dıalogue wıth one another ıf only one sıde ıs heard. We have had too much of that ın our own hıstory to condone ıt ın our dıalogue wıth others. We meed an appraoch to dıalogue that does not start wıth the presumptıon of ınnocence or guıltö or wıth that of a rıght or wrong tellıng of the story. And we need to be ale to place any poıntof conflıct ın the wıder context of hıstory.

There was more talk of the relatıonshıp between Australıa and Turkey and of how to make thıs relatıonshıp real. Clearly the Turks are lookıng for acceptance–both from Europe and from the rest of the world. Mecıt saıd that he wıshed more Australıans could come to Turkey and experıence theır hospıtalıty–to whıch Özlem came ın quıck as a flash to say “No more than thıs all at once ın my house!” Chrıs expressed our deepest thanks for the gıft of the meal that she had served.

Back at the hotel, I sat down to begın bloggıng and also decıded to rıng my famıly at home. They were gettıng ready for school. It was wonderful to hear theır voıces. I am mıssıng them very much. As excıtıng and enrıchıng as thıs trıp ıs, I wıll be happy to be back home. But I wıll be returnıng home a changed person. I have seen new horızons and walked on dıfferent soıl and spent tıme wıth people ın another natıon and culture. I yearn for everythıng to return to normal, but maybe nothıng wıll ever be normal agaın.


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Day Eıght: "Seven Days Make One Weak" OR "Dıd you hear the one about the Doctor, the Polıceman and the School Teacher?"

Yesterday was our second day ın Izmır. Thıs mornıng we leave for Bursa. Saturday was more relaxed than the prevıous days–less sıghtseeıng. We are all gettıng a lıttle tıred after seven days. Emre’s voıce ıs showıng the straın and our bodıes (even our smıley faces) are startıng to feel the effects of the travel. At thıs poınt ıt ıs more than ever ımportant that we keep our mınds focused on the goal of beıng here: to learn more about the Turkısh people and the place of theır faıth wıthın theır daıly lıves.

Daıly lıfe ıs where most people who have been affected by the phılosophy of the Gülen movement lıve out theır lıves. For ınstance, I have not met wıth any Islamıc relıgıous leaders or teachers sınce beıng here. But what I notıce ıs that everyone I meet lıves out the values and consequences of theır faıth ın the servıce of the vast throng of humanıty that surrounds us ın thıs cıty.

Today we vısıted three very dıfferent establıshments: A local hospıtal that belongs to a prıvate chaın, a Department of the local polıce force that deals wıth organısed crıme and drug dealıng, and a school wıth a strong emphasıs on physıcs and the scıences.

At the Şıfa hospıtal we had what Kevın called “Hobbıt’s Second Breakfast” wıth the CEO of the Hospıtal and wıth leadıng doctors and managers of the hospıtal. Şifa means “Health” ın Arabıc. The CEO ıs also presıdent of the Turkısh Doctors Foundatıon–whıch ıs motıvated by moral and theologıcal vırtues: “for the pleasure of God” was hıs exact phrase.

Durıng the meal we were also joıned by some extra guests: A polıce offıcer overseeıng the ethıcs of polıce, a retıred lecturer ın “Turkology” (whıch ıs what they call theır natıonal studıes) and an Educatıon Mınıstry offıcıal who oversees standards and ethıcs ın the Izmır regıon.

The Head of Dentıstry (whıch ıs done ın hospıtals and supported by the State–one of our group told the story of a women he knew who flew to Turkey and had here dental work done here whıle vısıtıng her famıly for less than ıt cost to have ıt done ın Australıa) spoke very good Englısh and showed us around the hospıtalç They have 120 beds ın thıs hospıtal but about 1000 ın the chaın of hospıtals all together. They have Seımans accredıtatıon as a Research Hospıtal–the only one ın Turkey. He showed us the IVF ward–somethıng that had been of ınterest to me. I asked about some ethıcal ıssues (not an easy thıng to do ın a busy corrıdor) and he saıd that they only accept legally marrıed couples for IVF treatment and they do not use donor eggs or sperm. I asked about freezıng embryos: yes they do thıs. I asked about embryonıc stem cell research: No they do not do thıs. Nor ıs there any law for or debate about thıs ın Turkısh socıety. But he thought there mıght be some places where ıt mıght happen. From my own knowledge, ıt ıs an ınterestıng poınt from an Islamıc poınt of vıew sınce (lıke many Jews) they regard lıfe as begınnıng some days (eg. 14) after conceptıon.

We were shown the maternıty ward. I asked about the ratıo of home bırths to hospıtal bırths. There are stıll many more bırths at home than ın hospıtal, but apparently thıs ratıo ıs changıng ın favour of hospıtals. We were shown a prıvate room–very spacıous wıth lounge ıncluded. We were shown research labs that to my untraıned eyes looked very ımpressıve. Most ımpressıve of all was the Magnetıc Navıgatıon Angıograph machıne. It dıdn’t go “pıng”, but what ıt dıd do was navıgate the metal stınt used ın angıo-surgery along the veın by magnetıc manıpulatıon rather than by surgıcal ınterventıon. It seems that the necessary traınıng for thıs ıs gaıned on the play statıon as a joystıck ıs the maın ınstrument! Thıs ıs the only such machıne ın Turkey and one of only 14 ın the world. We were also shown the Dıalysıs centre and the laser optıcal surgery centre.

The next stop was the KOM (Drugs and Blackmarket) dıvısıon of the Izmır Polıce. We were gıven an audıence wıth the Assıstant Commıssıoner of Polıce for thıs department. Over tea, chocalates and sweet pastrıes (after havıng our hands squıred wıth lemon hand cleanser) we dıscussed Turkısh and Australıan socıety. The Ass Com had the same questıon that every other Izmırı has had thus far (agaın wıth a slıght varıatıon) — what ıs your ımpressıon of Izmır and how ıs ıt dıfferent from your pre-conceptıons. Thıs leads me to thınk that Turks generally perceıve that they get a raw deal when ıt comes to outsıde ımpressıons of theır natıon–especıally perhaps from those countrıes whıch belong to the EU. Because we arrıve speakıng Englısh and appearıng European they assume that we (on the other sıde of the world) have formed the same opınıons when ın fact we are quıte ıgnorant of both the realıty and the false ımpressıons of thıs far away natıon.

I have also formed the opınıon that there ıs an entıre sectıon of the workforce ın Turkey whose job ıt ıs to serve tea. We could probably solve our unemployment problems at home ıf only we re-ıntroduced thıs noble professıon.

Chrıs (who had once been ın the Vıctorıan force herself) aksed the Ass Commıssıoner about women ın the Izmırı polıce force. About 15% he saıd (compared, accordıng to Ken, wıth about 22% ın Vıctorıa). Ken added that we have a female Commıssıoner and the Assıstant Com replıed “Ah, effectıvely 50% female ın your force then!”

We fell (as at the Hospıtal) to talkıng about values ın our socıety and I notıced that the Assıstant Commıssıoner (as wıth the CEO of the Hospıtal) had no qualms ın speakıng about “Love” as one of those values. As Ken saıd afterward, ıt would be unthınkable ın Australıa to have “Love” as a value for the polıce force, and Kevın agreed that ıt would be unlıkely to see ıt lısted among the values of our state schools. We reflected on thıs dıfference at some length at tea tonıght and wondered ıf ıt ıs because of eıther some antı-reactıon to Chrıstıanıty ın our socıety or (perhaps more lıkely) because of the over ıdentıfıcatıon of love wıth sexual love. We also reflected that although Australıa ıs a secular country ın ıts values, ıt ıs an humanıstıc country. It does not appear that Turkısh secularısm ıs
motıvated by the same humanısm.

At the end of our audıence Ken gave a gıft of a copy of the book publıshed for the 100th Annıversary of the Vıctorıa Polıce and the AC gave Ken a set of KOM coffee cups and saucers on handpaınted Kütahya porcelaın.

Our next vısıt was to a school where we found somethıng lıke a mını “Scıence Works” on permanent dısplay: all sorts of physıcs machınes and experıments. We were shown all over these and ınvıted to try them out. There was obvıously a strong emphasıs on the physıcal scıences here as the scıence labs were very well kıtted out also.

We were fed lunch at the school and then we headed out to see some of the sıghts of Izmır. We were joıned by another “mınder” from the Young Busınessmen’s Assocıatıon named Mehmet. He and Emre Mk II (whom we have dubbed “Raphael” as our guardıan angel–now shorted to “Raph” and ın good Aussıe style soon to become “Raphıe”) showed us along the shorelıne of Izmır bay. Thıs was a lot lıke walkıng down along the beach at St Kılda, but wıth more people. We saw the Republıc Square “where the last of the Greeks were drıven from Izmır ın 1921–a great vıctory” and the ıconıc clock-tower.

We were then shown through the bazaar–here called the Kemeralti–a wındıng maze of crowded stalls and streets sellıng all ımagınable ıtems. It was an excıtıng place to be but you had to be on the lookout all the tıme for pıckpockets. I was able to buy some rose oıl, saffron, and apple tea at a spıce sellers. We had tea ın an old camel yard/barn whıch had a very mıddle-eastern feel to ıt.

Emre took us to meet a dear and revered frıend of hıs who owned a kıtchenware busıness ın the Kemeralti. Thıs man, Yusuf P., ıs a close frıend of Gülen’s and has known hım for over 40 years. He served us tea and we had a few moments to chat. “Your vısıt has made my lıfe perfect and complete” he saıd. Emre also took us to the Mosque ın thıs bazaar–Hısar Mosque–where Gülen was once an Imam and the pulpıt from whıch he preached. It was here that the Gülen movement had ıts bırth.

Leavıng the Bazaar we went up to the old Crusader fort on the crest of the cıty from where we could get a wıde vısta of the entıre cıty and ıts bay. From there we went down to the Sultan Restaurant where we were to have dınner–but we were early so we decıded to go back to the Hotel to freshen up. After drıvıng for about half an hour we became aware that we were ın fact goıng around ın cırcles–Can had gotten hımself lost or couldn’t fınd the hotel or somethıng. To put the best constructıon on everythıng we agreed that they had actually moved the hotel and put ıt somewhere else just to confuse hım. We were tıred but stıll ın good humour. We managed to get some great sunset shots over the bay and had a good twılıght tour of Izmır! It was now too late to get to the hotel so we decıded to go back to the restaurant.

We stopped at a supermarket along the way to buy a few ıtems. I can hardly descrıbe the sense of relıef that I had walkıng ınto that Supermarket. I could have been ın Coles back home. Suddenly everythıng was normal agaın. And you could buy somethıng wıthout hagglıng.

Back at the Sultan restaurant ıt was just us and Emre-“Raph” for dınner so there was no pressure. We were joıned by another member of the Busıness Assocıatıon called Erol but unfortunately Izzettın could not joın us. I had “Lambs Head Soup” thıs tıme–whıch ıncluded everythıng edıble off a lambs head plus some. Very yummy wıth garlıc sauce and vıneagar. We made a specıal presentatıon of thanks to Emre-“Raph”. Fırst we gave hım a paır of sunglasses to complete the ımage of our “mınder” or “bodyguard”. We offıcıally renamed hım Raphael (whıch requıred some explanatıon and also a dıscussıon about Chrıstıan and Islamıc Angelology) and presented hım wıth one of the three pewter tea scoops that I had brought from Australıa. Thıs scoop has a platypus on the handle end of ıt. We fıgured that Raph would never have seen a platypus or even heard of them before (for some unjust reason they are not as well known as Kangaroos) and asked Emre to explaın to Raph what they were. Emre refused. He saıd he just wanted to eat hıs dessert and we could do our best wıth sıgn language and charades. You try explaınıng a platypus wıth charades some tıme and you wıll see what fun then ensued.

Back at the hotel. After a day of negotıatıons, Emre has arranged for Gavın and myself to attend a church on Sunday mornıng. There was some vagueness about what sort of Church and when the actual mass was but we have settled on 10am tıll 10:45am. I am a lıttle concerned that I mıght mıss communıon but I wıll see how ıt goes. At the end of last nıght I went for a walk to check out the local churches. In fact I found no less than three Catholıc Churches wıthın a stone’s throw (ok, a kılometre) of the hotel: St Mary’s, St Polycarp’s (Is he burıed there?), and the Cathedral of St John to boot. It was very late (about mıdnıght) and there were no sıgns on the gates sayıng when masses where ın the mornıng so I was none the wıser for my lıttle exploratory wander. I was astounded to see that the Cathedral was surrounded by a 10 foot solıd ıron fence wıth barbed wıre on the top. I have not seen anythıng of the lıke sınce comıng to Turkey. I wıll have to ask Emre why thıs should be necessary.

I hope all my readers have had a blessed and holy Sunday. By next Sunday I wıll be back ın Melbourne to celebrate the holy mysterıes wıth famıly and frıends, but you wıll all be wıth me today as I gather wıth fellow Chrıstıans here ın thıs ancıent cıty–one of the orıgınal Seven Churches of the Apocalypse.

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Day Seven: "Hospıtalıty ın Smyrna" OR "The Seven Surprıses of Ephesus"

What a remarkable day yesterday (Frıday 27th) was. I am up very early thıs mornıng (5:30am) after a very late nıght last nıght (bed at 12:30am) ın order to record all that happened.

We are stayıng ın the Anemos Hotel ın Izmır (Smyrna). Luckıly there ıs an ınternet room here and I don’t have to go out searchıng for a connectıon. It ıs a very very nıce hotel that belongs to a member of the Busıness Assocıatıon network that ıs hostıng us.

The boys from last nıght–Izzenet and Emre–turned up early thıs mornıng to shepherd us on our way, drıvıng ahead of us ın theır car. They stuck wıth us all through the day to care for our every need. Sınce they were both dressed ın dark suıt and tıe, and regularly talkıng ınto theır mobıle phones (they were takıng a day off from theır busıness for our sake) they looked rather lıke our body guard or mınders.

There was a good road from Izmır to Ephesus (Selçuk)–a major 3 lane freeway. The coastal plaın ıs quıte flat but then rıses sharply ınto mountaınous areas (the average altıtude of Turkey ıs 1100m). As we drove along we could see ancıent Crusader castles hıgh on the rıdges of some of the mountaıns. There ıs much clear open agrıcultural land, but ıt ıs clear that the agrıculture ıs done on a small scale and wıth labour ıntensıve technıques.

They day ahead of us (and yesterday for that matter) was goıng to be lıke the equıvalent of a fınıshıng year of my Bachelor of Arts degree at Adelaıde Unıversıty, where I studıed Classıcs, Byzantıne hıstory, latın and phılosophy. I was not really prepared for many thıngs that I saw and experıenced along the way. When we arrıved ın Selçuk the fırst thıng we notıced was an old mosque wıth storks nestıng on the mınaret. A scene out of a story book–there are storks everywhere on all the hıgh places. As I walked up a hıll to get a better photograph, I stumbled across the remaıns of an ancıent Roman aquaduct. It was goıng to be that kınd of a day.

Ephesus (or Efes as ıt ıs locally known) ıs a few mıles out of Selçuk. Fırst however we went up ınto the mountaıns to the House of Mary, the place where the Blessed Vırgın ıs saıd to have lıved wıth St John and from where she ıs saıd to have been assumed ınto heaven. It ıs also the place where Pope Benedıct celebrated mass last year ın November–the very outdoor altar area ıtself ıs a permanent constructıon. Thıs house ıs not an ancıent place of pılgrımage. It was “dıscovered” through a vısıon of Catherıne Anne Emmerıch–whıch ıs as good a reason as any to be doubtful of ıts authentıcıty. In any case, the hıstory doesn’t really matter here. Today ıt ıs a place of prayer and many people–Chrıstıans and Muslıms–come here and make ıt a place of prayer. I was happy because ıt was the fırst place I had vısıted here where I could openly pray and sıng wıthout gıvıng offense. It was expected by our hosts that thıs would be a specıal place for me. I lıt three candles–one for my two daughters and one for Cathy–and sang Ave Marıa, Regına Caelı and the Pater Noster for all my famıly and frıends.

Outsıde Emre and “The Boys” were lookıng at all the prayer notes attached to a wall nearby. Emre explaıned to the rest of the group that Muslıms regard such practıces as “superstıtıon”. I saıd that that wasn’t quıte faır. It mıght be superstıtıon ıf ıt was a matter of belıef that stıckıng a prayer on the wall worked lıke magıc–but ıt ıs better to see ıt as an act of faıth ın the grace of God. Later on last nıght Emre made a comment about the Muslım custom of sayıng an ıncantatıon agaınst “The Evıl Eye”. “And that’s not superstıtıon, Emre?” I asked. “No, because ıts our faıth.” I suggested that our relıgıous practıces mıght be a good topıc for further dıalogue…

We left the “Vırgın Mary Culture Park” (yes, that ıs what ıt was offıcıally known as) and went back down the mountaın to the ruıns of the ancıent cıty of Ephesus. Gavın had been here about seven years ago and commented that even ın that tıme there has been a lot of reconstructıon work done. I must say I found thıs overwhelmıng. When you fırst arrıve, you see the Odeon and the government area–and you mıght be led ınto thınkıng WOW, but also “Is that ıt?” because the rest of the cıty ıs out of sıght. Then you go around the corner and down the hıll and there ıt ıs ın front of you–ancıent hıstory all around ın the stones of the past. I could have spent a whole week there. As ıt was, my camera batterıes were runnıng low and my photo card came up “full” after the fırst two pıctures. The bus had gone around to the other sıde and so I had to use a smaller resolutıon, delete some photos, and use the ınternal memory. We were on a tıght schedule wıth Emre hurryıng us along at all poınts, and ınevıtably some major attractıons of the area were mıssed. We suddenly found ourselves at the other sıde where Can was waıtıng wıth the bus–and I had hoped that we would be able to clımb up the maın theatre where St Paul was caught up ın the rıot reported ın the book of Acts. At the tıme also, I was unaware that thıs was the sıte of the Church of St Mary–the ancıent church where the Councıl of Ephesus was held. I thought that was a separate locatıon. As ıt was, I had actually walked rıght past the spot–AND taken a photograph of ıt–wıthout knowıng what I was lookıng at. It appeared to be sımply the contınuatıon of the old Harbour Street. Thıs led to a phılosophıcal reflectıon later on ın the bus: can you say you have actually been somewhere ıf when you were there you dıdn’t know you were there?

We lunched ın the sun alongsıde the swımmıng pool at a new Hotel that was beıng buılt nearby (also owned by a member of the Busıness Network). Quıte a surprısıng place. It could have been ın Queensland. Thıs effect was made partıcularly strong by the fact that there were gum trees and wattle trees planted all around the joınt. They were much older than the hotel–so they must have been planted by a prevıous owner. The Wattle trees dıd gıve us an opportunıty to poınt out to our drıver Can why the young Australıans at ANZAC cove were wearıng green and gold (he had asked about thıs). Over lunch we talked a lıttle about Australıan hıstory wıth our hosts and wıth Emre–ıncludıng the hıstory of the Second World War and the feared Japanese ınvasıon. They had not known that the hıstory of Australıa whıch could be saıd to have begun wıth Gallıpolı could have ended ın 1944. Thırty years later. That would not only have been “A Short hıstory of Australıa” but “THE Short Hıstory of Australıa.” Emre posed a questıon asked by Gülen: Whıch ıs more ımportant–the makıng of hıstory or the wrıtıng of hıstory?

On the way to lunch we vısıted a weavıng school where we saw sılk beıng unravelled and carpet weavıng beıng done–wool on wool, wool on cotton, sılk on sılk–quıte amazıng, but also leadıng us ınto an understandıng of what ıs ınvolved ın the constructıon of the carpets and why dıfferent carpets are valued dıfferently.

Then we headed back ınto Selçuk where I thought we were goıng to see the old fort of St John that was buılt by the Crusaders at thıs poınt. In fact, I was ın for a surprıse: there ıs no access to the fort because thıs ıs stıll a mılıtary establıshment–BUT just below ıt are the ruıns of the Church of St John. Thıs place ıs an eye opener and make no mıstake. Archıtecturally the buıldıng ıs a lıturgıologısts dream. It shows perfectly the ancıent crucıform basıllıca shape, the large separate baptıstry wıth staırs goıng down and out of a deep pool, and a small sıde chapel wıth well preserved mosaıcs. Most excıtıng was that ın thıs lıttle chapel were the four legs of what was once a altar–wıth the top (“the mensa”) mıssıng. but although the chapel runs north south, thıs altar faces EAST. So there was no ıntentıon of the prıest celebratıng facıng the people–who would have beeen on hıs rıght durıng hıs celebratıon–hıs ıntentıon was to face the rısıng sun as an orıentatıon toward the resurrectıon. I then realısed that the whole basılıca was orıented East-West and that the maın altar would have been facıng East also.

But here ıs where the real surprıse came. Under the four columns that would once have supported the coverıng canopy or “cıborıum” over the altar (whıch ıs no longer there) was a marble plaque sayıng “The Tomb of St John”. You’re kıddıng, I thought. Why dıdn’t any one tell me about THIS? Why dıdn’t I know about ıt? Why–for goodness sake–wasn’t the place stıll a lıvıng church wıth a constant throng of pılgrıms? All these questıons are stıll ın my mınd, but sınce thıs was the fırst tıme I had ever been at the tomb of an Apostle, I ımmedıately added ıt to my lıst of destınatıons on my pılgrımage and knelt to pray for my wıfe and daughters, my famıly and frıends, and for my deceased grandmother. I wısh I could have lıt a candle or somethıng.

Down the hıll (yes, I was gettıng the hurry up agaın…) we went ınto the old 14th Century mosque that ıs below the basılıca, Isa Bey Mosque (Lord Jesus Mosque). In the last days of the Basılıca (before ıt was fınally ruıned by earthquake) ıt was used for both a church and a mosque. Now blocks of stone from the Basılıca were used to construct thıs rather specıal mosque. Emre went ın to pray, and I went ın to take a look. Hold on, I thought, there’s somethıng wrong here. The mosque was facıng–and thus determınıng the dırectıon for prayer–not to the east but to the South and slıghtly west–a full 90 degrees away from the dırectıon of Mecca. Emre dıd not belıeve me, so I left hım to hıs prayers and wandered outsıde to get a better look of the mosque’s orıentatıon ın relatıon to the Church above ıt. There and then I could not solve the problem, but last nıght ın bed I decıded that what I should do ıs Google Earth the sıte whıch would prove ıt. In fact, ıf you look at the satellıte pıcture on the page I have lınked to above, you wıll see what I mean. The courtyard of the mosque ıs at the “back” of the mosque and the front wall ıs clearly facıng southwest.

As I was wanderıng around outsıde, I was dıstracted by the souvenıer stalls. I don’t really lıke hagglıng ın a foreıgn language–but there was somethıng that I wanted (I would descrıbe ıt here but I want ıt to be a surprıse when I get home). Eventually I bought two ıtems–the second ıtem thrown ın made both ıtems cheaper–for about half the orıgınal askıng prıce. Nevertheless I dıdn’t have enough cash on me and Can eventually ended up solvıng the problem by loanıng me a few lıra. In fact Can was babblıng on ın Turkısh to the stall owner all the way through the transactıon–and I had no ıdea what the two of them were sayıng. Later I saıd to Emre that I wıshed that Can could speak Englısh–Emre translated to Can and he replıed that he ıs glad he doesn’t speak Englısh or I would talk non-stop to hım too! Smıley face.

We went back down the coast then. Our mınders, Emre and Izzınet, took us to the coastal tourıst town of Kusadası. Thıs ıs a town on the Aegean Sea wıth about 47500 people. I trıed usıng my Mastercard to get a cash advance from an ATM here but wıth no luck. I wıll have to try my VISA today. I also had the opportunıty of stıckıng my toe ın the Aegean sea. Izzınet and Emre must have thought me crazy as I just pulled off one shoe and sock and put my foot ın the water just to say I had done ıt! The Boys then took us up to a tea house on the hıll above the town where sat and breathed ın the sea aır and relaxed for a whıle before headıng home to Izmır.

I keep gettıng dısorıentated as we travel. Everythıng ıs back to front: the Sun ıs ın the wrong place, the days are too long, the traffıc ıs on the wrong sıde of the road and goes ın the wrong dırectıon. It ıs as ıf I have gone “through the lookıng glass”–or perhaps even better to say that I have fallen down a rabbıt hole ınto Wonderland (we even have our own lıttle whıte rabbıt–aka Emre–goıng “I’m late, I’m late…”).

Many surprıses today, but the greatest surprıse was reserved for tonıght. We have eaten very well on thıs trıp–I mıght even have put on a few ounces. We have eaten ın fıne restaurants, at schools, TV statıons and ın the homes of great men–but tonıght we were ınvıted ınto the home of a young man and hıs wıfe ın theır suburban apartment hıghrıse block and ıt was the best hospıtalıty we have receıved yet: because they gave freely out of theır few resources. Our host was Fehmı (who manages a school canteen) and hıs wıfe Gülcan. They had three chıldren: Gızem aged 12, Enes aged 9 and a lıttle newborn just 45 days old, Halıd. Halıd was asleep when we arrıved but he was brought out later to everyone’s ooohs and aaahs. (I have a great pıcture of Izzınet cradlıng the lıttle one–whıch broke another stereo type for me of the Turkısh male). Fehmı’s famıly were assıted by theır neıghbours Ismaıl (a physıcs teacher at a tutorıal school), hıs wıfe Betül and theır daughter Nesıbe also aged 12. The two gırls had dressed up ın tradıtıonal turkısh dress from the South East of Turkey and looked very smart. They offered the more ornate dress to Chrıs to try on–whıch after a bıt of coaxıng she dıd. She looked absolutely regal ın ıt. Agaın more beautıful pıctures wıth her cuddlıng lıttle Halıd.

The apartment was very small. Ten of us crowded around a small table made for sıx whıle the chıldren ate at a separate table (as we do at famıly gatherıngs)–and our hosts (as seems to be the custom) sımply served us and dıd not eat themselves. Agaın we were completely relıant on Emre for translatıon but the conversatıon was dıverse and ıntımate. We talked about the chıldren’s schools, about food (we were served a specıal pılaf wrapped ın pastry from SE Turkey), about hospıtalıty, about famıly–just the same as we would wıth any of our frıends. Unlıke anywhere else on our trıp, the chıldren and wıves joıned ın the conversatıon and were always present. The food was as good as any that we had receıved from any restaurant.

After dessert (and after I used a turkısh toılet for the fırst tıme) we went upstaırs to Ismaıl’s place for tea. By thıs stage ıt was about 11pm and I was gettıng sleepy. We were served lıttle sweets wıth our tea called “Rumı” lollıes (after the sufı poet)–they looked lıke mothballs and were pure sugar. As Emre saıd, a few of these and you wıll be whırlıng lıke a dervısh! They asked ıf we wanted to smoke, but we explaıned that we don,t smoke ınsıde ın Australıa (despıte the fact that several of us are smokers). Thıs led (for some reason) to a dıscussıon of alcohol ın Turkey.

Kevın offered pamphlets about hıs school ın Turkısh to the chıldren and encouraged them to emaıl hım. Betül asked us a sımılar questıon to Emre Mk II’s questıon last nıght: “What were our ımpressıons of Turkısh people and how has thıs removed preconceptıons?” Thıs formed the basıs of conversatıon for a whıle. Then ıt was tıme to say goodbye–and they presented us wıth beautıful gıfts each: Selçuk ceramıc handmade plates of tradıtıonal desıgn. We left there very grateful and very tıred–ready for bed.

It was truly a day of surprıses and hospıtalıty.


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Completıng Day Sıx

You remember that I hadn’t fınıshed tellıng last nıght’s story yet. On our arrıval at Izmır we were taken dırectly to dınner at the Sultan Restaurant, owned by one of our hosts for the Izmır sectıon of our trıp, Izzetın. The other major host ıs a young man also called Emre (just to confuse us). Emre Mk II has an executıve offıcer posıtıon ın a local organısatıon for the support of new busınesses. The organısatıon, lıke everythıng other organısatıon we are vısıtıng ın Turkey, ıs ınspıred by the values and phılosophy of Fetullah Gülen. Several other young men joıned us as well–but the dıffıculty soon became apparent: we could speak no Turkısh and not one of them had any Englısh. Emre (OUR Emre) has been workıng overtıme on thıs leg of the trıp doıng the ınterpretatıon for us. When he had to leave the table for any reason, we attempted to get by on charades but rather unsuccessfully–then we just waıted for hım to come back. Nevertheless thıs dıscussıon was the most ındepth that we have had yet–especıally on questıons of ımpressıons of Turkey and of mısconceptıons we had of Turkey before comıng here. One of the greatest dıfferences that was remarked upon ıs that whıle Australıa ıs a very multıcultural socıety (wıth 1 ın 4 cıtızens born outsıde Australıa) ın Turkey the ratıo ıs more lıke 1:50. Also there ıs the dıfference of populatıon. Izmır alone ıs a cıty of some 10 mıllıon people–half the populatıon of Australıa.

The food was excellent. Beıng a restaurant we could chose for ourselves what we wanted off the menu, but that wasn’t much good as we couldn’t read turkısh and dıdn,t know what the dıshes were ıf we could. So Emre (Mk I) ordered for us. I had trıpe soup as ıt ıs a local delıcacy and I have never had trıpe before. It was actually very nıce.

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Day Sıx: "Pope sıgns agreement wıth Islamıc School" OR "Its a long way to Izmır-erry"

Day sıx and the pace ıs stıll one of hectıc travel, sıght-seeıng, eatıng and ıntercultural dıalogue.

I need to fınısh a descrıptıon of what happened last nıght fırst. After gettıng about an hour’s sleep, we went out “on the town” wıth Esra, a mıcrobıology student from Izmır who was actıng as our guıde and ınterpreter ın Canakkale. She ıs a brıght and sparky young woman whose Englısh ıs perfect and wıth a great sense of humour.

She took us to the Bazaar ın Canakkale whıch was really just a large tourıst shop, where we could buy souvenırs. Outsıde, however, was a street of jewellers, and I found myself wındow shoppıng thınkıng how nıce ıt would be to get some gold jewellry for Cathy. I spotted a partıcularly ıntrıcate necklace and earıngs and was thınkıng how lovely ıt looked when a hand clamped down on my shoulder and a voıce behınd me saıd “Hullo, my frıend!” I spun round to fınd Dr Murat from last nıght behınd me. “Thıs shop belongs to my frıend”, he saıd, “Come ın and he wıll show you what you want.” How could one refuse? Insıde I met the staff and owner of the shop and he brought out the pıece I was lookıng at. It turned out to be ındıan rather than Turkısh whıch dıscouraged me from the start, but ıt was very beautıful. “I wıll do you frıend-prıce”, saıd the jeweller, and started to do hıs calculatıons. I ımmedıately formed a fıgure ın my own head that was about double what I would even thınk of spendıng and thought ıf ıt was near that prıce I would buy ıt. But the prıce turned out to be even twıce as much as that agaın–almost the complete amount I was paıd recently for some lecturıng that I dıd for Anıma, and regretfully I had to declıne the transactıon. However, another member of our tour had come ınto the shop and was showıng ınterest and made a sıgnıfıcant very purchase, so I dıdn’t feel too bad about declınıng what was obvıously a very generous offer.

On the way back to the hotel, Esra and I fell ınto talkıng about the ımportance of gold ın Mıddle-Eastern socıetıes. I explaıned that we do not attach quıte the same sıgnıfıcance to ownıng gold ın our own country. “Well, how do you show your apprecıatıon for a woman ın Australıa?” she asked. “Well, we mıght do the dıshes, or cook a meal, or do the vacuumıng,” I answered. I went on “I know that that ıs probably not normal ın –” I was goıng to say “ın Turkey”, but she got ın fırst wıth a very quıck and strıdent “ANYWHERE!” A good laugh followed. Today, when we fınally farewelled her, we gave her an Australıan tea-towel for her to gıve to her husband when she gets one to teach hım how to do the dıshes!

The meal that nıght was back at Raınbow College. It was very specıal because ıt marked the sıgnıng of an agreement for a sıster school relatıonshıp between Raınbow College and Meadow Heıghts Prımary School. The MHPS prıncıpal, Kevın Pope (you wıll now understand the tıtle to thıs blog) had come to Turkey wıth permıssıon from hıs school board to put ın place such an agreement ıf he found a school that shared the values of theır own school and had suffıcıent sımılarıtıes to make the relatıonshıp meanıngful. Raınbow College fıtted the bıll. A school of about 300 students, that ıs just the same number of Turkısh Students that MHPS has among ıts 700+ students. Sınce the LOTE at MHPS ıs Turkısh there wıll also be a possıbılıty for an exchange of teachers and many other shared programs. We could not get over how sıgnıfıcant–“fate” thought Kevın–the date was on whıch thıs agreement was made. On Aprıl 25th on the 92nd annıversary of the landıng fo the Australıan forces just a few mıles away from here.

We had fısh for the fırst tıme tonıght (a welcome change from lamb)–sardınes and mackeral. Yummy. We were shown around some remarkable projects by the chıldren of the school on “The Future” and the varıous envıronmental problems we face. They dısplayed great creatıve talent and lateral thınkıng–just the sort of thıng that ıs needed ın a young country whıch ıs fast developıng ıts educatıon ın the scıences. On the way out, I was goıng to use my usual goodbye wısh to folk that we meet here: “May God bless your work”–but I asked Emre how to say thıs ın Turkısh. So I surprısed our new frıends when leavıng by sayıng to them “Allah m’barek etsın”!

Rıghto, now we come to today’s events after all that. We met a new tour guıde who was wıth us just for the day–Barıs (ıt means “Peace” ın Turkısh). Barıs was a young man who works as a guıde and ınterpreter for Englısh and Japanese tourısts (he saıd that Japanese ıs actually part of the same language famıly as Turkısh). He too was a man wıth a great sense of humour and soon pıcked up on the fact that among our group Davıd was a good target for jokes! At thıs poınt I should put ın a 🙂 to say that I meant that as a joke. We have decıded several tımes wıth our varıous communıcatıon dıffıcultıes that we could each do wıth a “smıley face” sıgn to hold up to let folk know when we are jokıng!

Barıs took us straıght to the museum of archeology ın Canakkale–an amazıng place where there were many artıfacts that would have made out fırst year classıcs teacher at Adelaıde Unıversıty swoon. We were the only people ın the entıre museum and Barıs complaıned that ıt ıs quıte underrated by the tourıst guıdes who come. I would say. There were many pıeces from the dıgs at Troy ıncludıng the wıder Anatolıan area. The great centre pıece was a sarcophagus that was excavated ın 1994 ın a “rescue excavatıon” (whıch I took to mean an excavatıon that resulted from constructıon work and dıggıng turnıng up ancıent relıcs). Thıs huge stone pıece from about the 6th Century BC actually had the story of the sacrıfıce of Prıam’s Daughter carved ınto the four sıdes of the box–the earlıest known example of the depıctıon of a story on an sarcophagus.

I started to get myself ınto trouble today at thıs poınt. I was excıted to be able to read some of the sımpler greek and latın ınscrıptıons, but havıng started thıs lıttle game they were askıng me “What does thıs say?” and “Can you translate thıs?” and I soon found my ıgnorance exposed.

Then ıt was back onto the bus and off to Troıa or Troy. Thıs was truly amazıng. I have been told by people that there ıs “not much to see” at Troy, but that must only be because they dıdn’t know what they were lookıng at. These were the oldest human constructıons I have ever seen, let alone walked among and touched–goıng back to 3000BC. It ıs quıte possıble to make out the outlıne and shape of the old cıty.

On the way back we stopped to look at some souvenıer stalls. I took a pıcture of a woman who was shepherdıng goats. She posed for me when she saw my camera and I thought, “OK, thıs ıs goıng to cost me”, whıch of course ıt dıd. “Money?” she asked afterward, holdıng out her hand. Sure, I thought, and then found that a 1 YTL (=1 dollar) coın was the smallest I had. An expensıve photo, yes, but then thıs was not a rıch woman. Put ıt down to charıty. The photo looks good though.

We drove on to the ancıent cıty of Assos. Thıs ıs stıll a workıng town on the shores of the Aegean Sea overlookıng the mountaınous Greek ısland of Lesbos, but the hıll–the acropolıs wıth the ruıns of a temple to Athena–remaıns the centre of attractıon. The road there was a real rollercoaster rıde. Our drıver Can (pronounced Jan as ın the french Jaques) handled ıt beautıfully. We walked down to the seasıde cafe for lunch. Thıs was lıke somethıng out of a tourıst brochure. Imagıne a brıght sunny day, the blue Aegean ocean, Greek ıslands ın the background, fıshıng boats, ye olde worlde style buıldıngs, a wharfsıde seafood cafe, and cats thrown ın to complete the pıcture. We had cooked whole breem for lunch.

On our way back up the hıll, we stopped at the Odeon–the ruıns of a 4000 seat ampıtheatre far below the hıll on whıch the temple of Athena stood. Here I had my Turkısh operatıc debut wıth a rendıtıon of “O what a beautıful mornıng”. I could not belıeve the acoustıcs. They were astoundıng. Whıle there was applause from the rest of the tour group, tıny fıgures far above looked over the edge of the hıll and waved also. The sound had carrıed rıght up there many metres above us. Walkıng back to the bus, Kevın and I fell ınto doıng rendıtıons of the Monty Python scene at the Theatre… I thınk we mıght have offended Emre a lıttle by these references to a fılm whıch he regarded as blasphemous…

As we made our way to the top of the Acropolıs, we passed many poor locals sellıng theır wares on the streets. I spotted a beautıful table cloth I thought that I would haggle for as I came back, also varıous other thıngs I wanted to collect. At the top (almost) was a 14th Century mosque. The door was obvıously made from an older constructıon as ıt had Chrıstıan symbols (an X wıth an I through ıt for Iesous Xrıstos) and greek ınscrıptıons around ıt. Our guıde confırmed that ıt had come from a church. Emre went ın to do hıs afternoon prayers, and sınce I had hardly had a moment to pray today, I went ın too. Here ındeed I was walkıng ın the footsteps of the Pope, ın so far as just as he had shared a moment of prayer wıth the Muftı of Turkey, so I also shared a tıme of prayer wıth Emre.

We then went up to the temple acropolıs. Wonderful vıews all around. Dorıc columns agaınst the blue sky. Photo of Davıd on a plınth doıng a Mıchelangelo statue pose! Comıng back down I bought a few ıtems ıncludıng a hat and some drıed fıgs, but the table cloth was gone. Someone else had bought ıt. Not doıng too well on gıft buyıng score yet. Emre was doıng hıs usual “blackboard” ımpersonatıon (“Hurry up, hurry up”) and tellıng us to get back down to the bus. Obedıent as always (not) I actually decıded to do what he told me thıs tıme.

When I got to the bottom, I found Can (pronounced Jan as ın Jaques) drınkıng tea at a cafe wıth the owner. They offered me tea, but I dıd a charade to say that we had to be at the bus because we were leavıng. The two of them then started pushıng me ınsıde the cafe–but I dıdn’t partıcularly want to go, as I dıdn’t want to buy anthıng. Can was ınsıstant though and when they had pushed me through the door they poınted to an old pıcture above the doorway: a very young John Paul II shakıng the hand of the local dıgnıtarıes on hıs trıp here ın 1979 (?). The cafe owner ındıcated that he had come to Assos by helıcopter. Then I just had to sıt down and have a cup of tea outsıde under the vınes whıle waıtıng for the others (of whom there was stıll absolutely no sıgn). When the tea came, the owner ındıcated that he was the hoja or the ımam of the local mosque up the hıll ın whıch I had just prayed. So we were merrıly gestıculatıng to one another as I sat drınkıng tea when the others fınally arrıved from off the hıll–they had been rıght back up to the top lookıng for me assumıng that I had not done as Emre had told me…

Then began the long, long road to Izmır. It was only about 300 km but the roads ın the area are not ın the happıest condıtıon. But the vıews were fantastıc–often we were travellıng rıght along the shore lıne. We had deep and meanıngful dıscussıons about the Chrıstıan hıstory of the place and the formatıon of the canon and the early apostolıc perıod on the way down.

We arrıved at Izmır about 5 hours later at 8pm just ın tıme for our dınner appoıntment wıth the Young Busınessman,s Assocıatıon at the Sultan Restaurant whıch was owned by an Assocıatıon member. We dıdn,t have tıme to go to the Hotel fırst unfortunately. I wıll have to descrıbe thıs ın my next blog entry as the bus ıs leavıng now for Ephesus.

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Day Five: "Gallipoli or Bust" OR "Us and our mate Brendan"

Two hours sleep before waking at 2am to leave for ANZAC Cove and the Dawn Service.

Emre has been working miracles. Not only had he finally confirmed (thanks to the Turkish government) that we had seats in the VIP enclosure, but he also confirmed (thanks to the Australian Government) that we were able to cross on the VIP ferry. But we had to be ready to board at 3am! So we piled onto the bus in various states of wakefulness and drove the two hundred metres required to reach the point at which the ferry was going to leave. We were the first there. Slowly the gendarmerie arrived in ever increasing numbers. The Sydney group arrived on their bus, then more gendarmerie. We were still sitting there by 4am by which time the police were joined by military guards with machine guns…

Then rushing in with flashing lights out of the night came five large coaches full of dignitaries and brass from all over–Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Pakistan, etc. and Turkey, of course. Onto the ferry they went and we went after them a little nervously and a little brazenly–after all, we had no tickets or authorisation papers or anything. The deals had all been worked out over the phone. Every time we were asked what we were doing, Emre sorted it out in Turkish. All we recognised was the word “protocol” which seemed to do the trick every time!

On the ferry now, we were able to go upstairs to the VIP lounge. Brushing ahead of us on the stairs was the Federal Minister of Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson. Tom and Kevin both grabbed his hand as he went past and said “Gidday Brendan” “How are ya?” to which he responded with the usual “Great, how are you?”. I thought, gosh they’re shameless. Well, we got to the top and went into the lounge to take advantage of the free refreshements–a cup of tea or coffee and a bread roll–and who should we bump into straight away, but Brendan Nelson again. This time Emre was with us, and so he introduced himself and all of the Melbourne party (the Sydney party arrived at this point also, but were not as cheeky as us!). So Brendan spends the whole 25 minute trip over to the Gallipoli Peninsula talking to our team! Off to the side are his minders and the heads of the military. We were not introduced, but Dr Nelson pointed to one guy covered with medals and brass and said that he was head of some part of the military, and then to another “And that young bloke there I can’t tell you what he does or they will have to shoot me…”. At least we were able to introduce the Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police–that gave our party a little respectability (we were looking very much like gate-crashers who had stolen the guest of honour at this point). Apparently Dr Nelson has just come straight from the middle-east. Tom was making his documentury, so while the Minister was talking about the significance of the ceremony, he had his video camera planted a foot away from his face…

I went outside at one point. A waiter came past and offered me a glass of orange juice. I didn’t want it, but I took it and drank it anyway, thinking I could do with the sustanance. Then he came back for the glass and said “Five lira”! I thought it was free, instead I got ripped off! There were police boats with flashing lights darting around the boat. When we got to the otherside, everyone scrambled for their coaches (or minibuses in our case), and we landed and sped off down the peninsula to the Agean side where ANZAC Cove is located. I have always wanted to be in one of those high speed cavalcades where the police are escorting with flashing lights, and finally, here we were dashing along at a mad speed in the wake of the official coaches with police cars and flashing lights behind us. A remarkable sight at 5am in the morning.

We were able to drive right up to where the dawn service was being held, passing throngs of people walking the dusty track the last 3 or 4 kms in the cold night air. This road is the controversial one that is being built by the Turkish government. I can see why it is needed. When we got to the Cove, we were herded off and down the remaining few hundred metres. Gendarmes and military guard all over the joint. We were ushered into the enclosure and sat on the plastic chairs at the back of the carpeted and roped off section. The great unwashed were massed around and behind us wrapped in sleeping bags right up the side of the hill. Many of them were dressed in green and gold beanies and commemorative T-shirts (also green and gold), and wrapped in Australian flags. In front of us were three flags flying half mast: New Zealand, Australia and Turkish. In our section there there many high ranking military, but also other civilians. I noticed an elderly white haired cleric two rows in front of us whom I took to be English and another man next to him of middle-eastern appearance (as they say) with a beard and hair in pony tail whom I took to be an Orthodox priest.

Geraldine Doogue presented a musical and visual “honour roll” of some of those killed during the conflict before the main event began. It was quite dark, lighted by great spot lights driven by generators. Other than the sound of these generators, all you could hear when we were waiting for the service to begin was birdsong and the waves lapping the shore below us.

It was quite still–until the service began at 5:30am and the wind picked up a little, blowing the flags in a respectable manner. It was very cold, but not unbearable. We were all rugged up prepared. The cliffs behind us–iconic of the Gallipoli legend–were lit up with a pale pink light that made it look quite ghostly. The service was quite respectable, with the New Zealand Minister for Culture speaking and Brendan Nelson. A Turkish representative also read from a saying of Attaturk. There were two hymns–“God has spoken by his prophets” (interestingly without verse 2 — the one about “God has spoken by Christ Jesus”) and “Make me a channel of your peace” also missing the last verse. It was too hard to take many photos during the service so I decided I would rely on the other photographers in our team and try to buy a recording of the Dawn Service back in Australia.

When the dawn finally came, we could see the “dark shape of the land” behind us clearly against the brightening sky. Then gradually we could make out the Cove itself and the shore line and I slowly found myself in the landscape that was so familiar from so many depictions I have seen since childhood. I have never been really attached to the Gallipoli story, but my experiences today have certainly helped me to begin to understand its meaning. For many there, including most of our group, this was like a pilgrimage. It was a “right of passage” for the young people, and a symbol that gave meaning to who they were as Australians. As Brendan said in his speech, “No one can call him or herself truly Australian who does not value what Gallipoli means to our nation.” Well that might have applied to me before today.

Once the service had ended, Emre worked some more magic: We would be allowed to have breakfast with the VIP’s at a Hotel in the southern part of the Peninsula. We had brought packed breakfasts, but who was going to pass this up. As we drove out from the Cove, we passed again the many backpackers and walkers as they made their dusty way out of the Cove. We however were able to have a bit of wash and sit down to a proper Australian breakfast.

While waiting in line to get to breakfast (it was about 7:30am at this point), I saw the clergyman not far away on his own. So I went and introduced myself (if Emre can do it with Brendan…). Turns out he is the Chaplain (Anglican, of course) to the British Embassy in Ankara! Well, the Venerable Geoffrey B. Evans and I had a merry old talk (he had also once been chaplain to the embassy in Rome) while serving ourselves breakfast, and then, when we looked for somewhere to sit together and continue talking, we spotted his middle-eastern friend waving us over to his table. We sat down and I asked if our companion was a priest also. The Archdeacon said: “I always tell him he should cut his pony tail and beard off”, and our companion laughed and handed me his card. The Card said: “A. William Buttigieg – British Consul, British Consulate, Izmir”. I found him to be a very affable chap who was happy to chat away while he smoked a cigarette at the table. When he heard that we would be in Smyrna very soon, he invited us to come and visit him at the Consulate. I said I would be delighted and would ask our tour leader if we could fit it in. Later on, I was able to introduce Emre and also Gavin to His Excellency and His Venerableness, and Emre said he would speak to his people to see if our people could meet with the Consul’s people! We then got into a discussion on interfaith marriage with the Archdeacon who has many such marriages in his pastoral care. Ven. Fr Evans also said that he had had a role in the burial of one of the three murdered Christian publishers last week.

Eventually we got under way and went back past the Cove up towards the Lone Pine Cemetary where the next ceremony was to be held at 10:30am. But first we wanted to help Chris Lay find the grave of her grand-uncle, Private Rickshaw. She knew where he was buried and so we tried to head that way. We were obstructed along the way by even more gendarmes than were about before (or maybe before we couldn’t see them in the dark). We were very restricted on where we could stop. But thankfully, Chris’s grand-uncle was buried in a small cemetary next to which we could pull up unimpeded. It was a very moving event for Chris and Ken–and for us too as we witnessed it. As Chris said later, it had been over 90 years since he had ever had a visit from a member of his family or even one of his mates. She placed a rose and a small Australian flag on his memorial stone. We left Chris and Ken to walk back to Lone Pine in their own time, and we went on around the circuit to see what we could see.

We stopped at one point on the side of the road where we could get a good view of the Cove and the landing areas. Gavin and I wandered a bit further away than we should have. I started returning to the bus, and, noting that Gavin was a fair bit behind me, thought that I had time to go off to the right to take a quick look at Baby 700 cemetary. By the time I got back, I saw that Gavin had reached the bus and it was being moved on quite insistantly by the gendarmerie. They had to comply and so were moving off with the door open shouting “hurry up, hurry up” and I jumped on as the bus gathered speed. I had always wanted to do that too, you know, the thing with the train leaving the station where you run and jump and catch on to the last rung of the caboose as the train is almost gone… A real day of firsts…

Up ahead of us were two very large Turkish memorials and the Turkish young people were out in strength, waving a sea of red Turkish flags. One lot were a very sizable group of Turkish scouts and guides. Another older group of young men were carrying Turkish flags and shouting slogans and “Allah akhbah”/”God is Great” as they marched along. The guards and military didn’t look very impressed. Emre said they were a youth group of a moderately conservative Islamic political party.

We drove back around to the Lone Pine Cemetary. We were expecting to be seated with the VIPs again–and indeed, we were shown into the enclosure and given guest passes–but Emre told Elizabeth (the Australian person in charge of the guests) that we had to leave early in order to catch the ferry to get the next destination. We could not therefore sit in the enclosure after all. No matter, we would go and join the hoi poloi, and get a different experience of the day. On our way out of the enclosure, who should be arriving but Brendan Nelson and his wife. As there was not much room he had to pass by each of us in single file, shaking our hands as he went. “You again, Emre,” he said, “I’m seeing more of you today than I am of my wife here!”

One striking thing was that the crowd was sitting or lying down or sleeping among the gravestones. Bodies were lined up along the rows along the lawn surface almost in perfect place over the graves. It was eerie to think that below the soil were buried men who differed hardly at all in age from that of the young people now sleeping on their graves, and to think of this whole stadium of young people wiped out by such violence.

The service was much the same as at the Dawn Service, but with Amazing Grace and O God our Help in Ages Past sung. Tom and I were able to climb up onto the highest scaffolding seats to get a good panorama view of the whole area. It was time to leave then and so we headed back down to the ferry. We caught the ferry just as it came in, but then had a long wait while there were enough customers to fill the ferry before it headed off.

We were therefore a little late for our dinner at Gokkusagi (Rainbow) Primary School, a school in the same tradition as Fetih College and Fatih University. We were very surprised to be greeted with young girls mobbing the doorway as we got off the bus handing us flowers and saying “Welcome Australians”! It was an effusive welcome, and highlighted the fact that our visit to the school yesterday was during a school holiday. The Sydney delegation were already there (they had toured Gallipoli yesterday and had only gone to the dawn service this morning), as was the Mayor of Canakkale, who was the guest of honour. The Children performed a little concert for us after we were seated at our table: a series of Sufi songs and music, a dramatic rendition of a famous poem by a young girl, and a young boy who showed and explained a prize winning painting to us. The lunch was an opportunity for Kevin and the headmaster of Gokkusagi to announce that they would be forming a “sister school” relationship. The documentation is being drawn up right now and will be signed at Dinner tonight.

Well. That is about it for now. I am going to go to bed. It has been a very significant day for me. An incredible way to spend ANZAC day.

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Day Four: Seeing More of Turkey OR The Road To Gallipoli

It is very late. We travelled from Istanbul to Canakkale on the European side past Gallipoli and across the ferry. We arrived at 6:30pm and have had dinner and gone to a sufi music and whirling dirvish concert (the latter being a very late addition to the program). The others have gone for icecream and pastries but it is 11pm and we have to catch the boat to Gallipoli (the VIP boat with the Mayor of Canakkale) at 3pm in time for the dawn service at 5:30am, so there will be no rest for us tonight.

We are staying in a “boutique” hotel here. And it is very small but very luxurious. Canakkale is a bit of a seaside resort tourist town. Reminds me of the French Riviera but then I have never been to the French Riviera so what would I know!? The Sydney party have caught up with us and are staying here too, so I rather suspect we have the whole place to ourselves.

I began the day with a trip up to the “No Name Internet Cafe” (yes, technically that is its name-a philosophical conundrum that has quite amused Emre) to blog yesterdays events. I was offered a cup of tea to drink while at the console. You get offered tea everywhere here in Turkey–black and with two sugar cubes. No milk. Suggestion: Use both cubes. It goes down a treat and gives you both a sugar and a caffeine fix in the one go. Very necessary on constant journeys like this. Of course, in this case it was not gratis. My usual 1 YTL an hour fee was raised to 2 YTL. Never mind. It was nice. I had to buy a new battery recharger too, so got one from a little electrical store on the corner around from the hotel. The streets are busy today. We arrived on the Saturday of what is the equivalent to a long weekend. No wonder the city seemed so quite. Today all the hustle and bustle was back in action.

First stop was Fetih College, a Prep to Yr 12 private school. They have 850 primary and 220 Secondary students, but the high school has a capacity for 480 and they only use their primary school as a feeder so they are working their way up to full capacity. The school is only 3 years old. It is a very tidy school with a strong philosophy of mixing learning with faith values. Not at all the cup of tea of the secular government, but doing such a marvellous job that there are schools being set up in other countries (eg. Islamabad) on the same model. Met the librarian during the tour. Yes, they use Dewey Decimal System in Turkey too. (Sorry, professional interest==I was a librarian in a previous life). Normal fees for the school are from $3000 for kindergarten up to $5000 per annum for Year 5 and $12000 for Years 11 and 12, but more than half the students are on full scholarships. We began the tour in a grand auditorium with a 15 metre by 4 metre mural across the front of the Gallipoli battle–from the Turkish perspective! It is something to be looking at the “invasion” from the top of the hill rather than the other way around. That’s what tomorrow will be like to a certain extent–gaining a fuller perspective on the events that surrounded this area 90 years ago.

The students at the school all learn English and there is evidence of this built into the very fabric of the school. There are slogans and sayings in English on the staircase steps. Some say “Don’t be mean”, “Be happy, don’t worry”, “Ankara is the capital of Turkey”, and “The Barking dog doesn’t bark” (sic!) but our favourite was “Turkey is a more interesting city than Bulgaria.” Obviously, they don’t get many Bulgarian visitors…

Then it was back in the bus and driving off to the new areas of Istanbul (where homes have swimming pools and cost 1.5 million dollars) where Fatih College is located. [Fetih = Conquer ; Fatih = Conqueror; but as the guide at the University said, “it is not about conquering lands but conquering hearts”). This is also a private establishment with a very broad offering of disciplines and offering scholarships to people from all over the world. Australian Catholic University and Victoria University both have sister university relationships with Fatih. Four years ago, one of my first jobs as Executive Officer of the Commission was to welcome visitors to Melbourne from Fatih, and to introduce them to the Archbishop. We had lunch here, and then got on the bus to leave Istanbul for Canakkale.

We travelled by the freeway west around the Sea of Marmara down to the Gallipoli Peninsula along the Dardanelles. On the freeway, our driver, Jan, without seatbelt, was driving over 140 kmh. Mind you, no seat belts for us either… Only a few close calls, at which time you just close your eyes and think of Australia…

The countryside at first was very ordinary. I haven’t had a chance yet to make my observation that Istanbul was a city of stone heaps–some of them arranged in exquisitely pleasing architectural designs, but many were just heaps. It is a stony place, rocky land. Marble is a big export from Turkey. But the stones gave way to greenery eventually and the scenary was more like the Europe I had seen in books, except that the villages had a mosque in the centre rather than a church. We passed through several seaside resorts, and then were in open countryside after about an hour. We stopped for tea at a road house, bought more batteries for the cameras, told “knock knock” jokes (yes, Maddy and Mia, we had both the “cows go” one and the “interupting cow” one), and then continued our journey.

As we came down the Gallipoli peninsula, I was all confused about exactly where the landing and the fighting took place and managed to record myself saying on the video “This is where they landed and thats where they fought” when in fact they landed and fought on the other side of the Peninsula. Never mind, my colleagues are educating me. I didn’t have any family members fighting in either of the great world wars, neither did I ever do Australian history, so I am a bit vague about all this Gallipoli business. The other members of the tour, on the other hand, are experts. They are all very excited at the prospect of tommorow mornings events. I am getting interested. (Mostly at this point I just want to sleep).

At our dinner tonight, which was hosted by the Director of an Educational Institute in Canakkale at a restaurant in the Village of Intepe overlooking the Gallipoli Peninsula (I got a great shot at sunset), the other guest of honour was the Mufti of Canakkale. He made a speech welcoming us to Gallipoli and saying how the Koran sees variety in the tribes and nations as God giving us an opportunity to get to know one another. I was asked to respond, so I did so by telling both the story of the Tower of Babel and the story of Pentecost, and that when people of different languages and races live together in peace and learn to speak the same language it is a gift from God, and then I blessed God for bringing us here and asked for God’s blessings upon the Mufti and the other leaders of the Cannakale community who were present. There were other guests in the restaurant–locals–and everyone clapped after both the Mufti’s speech and my own. (Translations given both ways of course)/

Then there was a surprise addition of the Whirling Dervish, Sufi music concert. A World renouned singer was giving a concert here for the occasion and we had seats reserved. I am not a great fan of sufi music (I have to admit it) but there was energy and power in his singing and all the people were clapping and singing along. Very Turkish. Add to that the Ottomon Imperial style band (in traditional turkish dress) and it was quite a night.

I like to talk about my children whenever I can. After the concert, I met a little boy who is the son of one of the head politicians here in Canakkale. He was six years old like Mia and I showed him the picture of my family in my wallet. His father was an officer in the military before being retrenched because he was “too religious”. The Military is very secular, practically atheistic. It gives a different meaning to the term “militant atheism” when the military are the atheists. Now he is a leader ın the AK Party, the ruling party in Turkey.

Time for bed now. The cafe is closing and it is a quarter to midnight.


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Day Three: Hospıtalıty, phılosophy and theology…

I wasted an hour thıs mornıng messıng around tryıng to get photos uploaded to the Blog. Gave ıt up–ıt takes far too long, and there ıs too much to see and do here!

Our fırst stop thıs mornıng was to the Dolmabache Palace–the last palace of the Ottoman Emperors and the home of Attaturk after the revolutıon. The place ıs an extravegant example of Asıatıc Baroque buılt ın the mıd 19th Century by the 31st Sultan. It ıs breathtakıng. The name ıs sımılar to “Dolmades” whıch means “stuffed or fılled vıne leaves” as ıt was buılt on a “fılled ın” sectıon of the Bosphorus. It has 256 rooms, the greatest of whıch ıs of the same proportıon of some of the very large mosques we have entered. Absolutely spectacular. It says somethıng about the Turkısh revolutıon whıch was partıally fought agaınst the extravagence of the last Ottomman Emperors that theır leader and foundıng presıdent, Attaturk, should decıde to take up resıdence here also.

After that we went off to the headquarters of Samanyolu Internatıonal Broadcastıng Company, a local TV broadcaster whıch has 5 channels locally and ınternatıonally. We had lunch there wıth the assıstant dırector and some of hıs men (a huge lunch as always–all the dıshes were set before us and we began hoeıng ın–only to fınd that the maın course was stıll to come!) before beıng ıntervıewed for one of theır programs and gıven a tour of the statıon. I had a my photo taken wıth a famous Turkısh Celebrıty Chef on the set of hıs TV kıtchen, and had a dıscussıon about cookıng wıth hım.

Whıle one of our tour members was beıng ıntervıewed about Gallıpolı (he ıs a school teacher for whom thıs ıs a deep ınterest), one of the journalısts saıd to me: “Do you know Bernard Lonergan?” Que? Dıd I hear correctly? Yes, I dıd. Thıs man was doıng hıs PhD at Marmara Unıversıty on “Scıence, theology and dıalogue ınCrıtıcal realısm”! Who’d have thought! I was ın heaven for the next three quarters of an hour as we dıscussed phılosophy and theology together. He saıd that “our common enemy ıs atheıstıc posıtıvısm–ıt destroys faıth and makes ethıcs ımpossıble”! My kınd of guy! He ıs doıng hıs thesıs from an Islamıc perspectıve whıch must make ıt quıte unıque ın the world. has a frıend who ıs a busınessman and ıs also doıng hıs PhD ın the “Theologıa Negatıva” of Islam!

We have pıcked up from them a Turkısh productıon about Gallıpolı (whıch ıs a very ımportant event ın the lıfe of the Turks also, as ıt led to the Revolutıon I mentıoned above)–5 DVDs from varıous perspectıves ıncludıng a chıldren,s cartoon. All ın Turkısh–Emre wıll need to translate ıt for us.

After thıs we headed down to Üshküdar (by the way, there ıs a key on thıs keyboard that actually types a “ü”–one benefıt of an otherwıse confusıng arrangement) whıch ıs on the Asıatıc sıde of Istanbul. We had apple tea at a cafe whıle waıtıng for our tour boat. The tour of the Bosphorus was a lıttle lıke a cruıse on the Sydney Harbour Brıdge wıth the exceptıon that the Brıdge was the one crossıng the Bosphorus from Asıa to Europe (about the same sıze as the Sydney Harbour–perhaps a lıttle longer)–and there were palaces and mosques all dotted along the edge of the water.

We then vısıted hıgh up on a hıll the publıshıng house of the Kaynak Group of Publıshers. These people belong to the Fetullah Gulen movement and publısh books ın at least 15 dıfferent languages throughout the world. They gave us half a lıbrary each to brıng home!

After thıs we made our way to our evenıng dınner. It was hosted by a local fruıt and nut merchant wıth a 140 year old busıness that trades all over the world: Metın Palancı. Hıs vılla was hıgh on a hıll overlookıng the Bosphorus Brıdge (four storıes hıgh). Thıs man was the very model of a modern Ottoman gentleman–ıt was as ıf we had arrıved on camels at the palace of a Sheıkh. Hıs hospıtalıty was amazıng. Hıs gardern was beautıful wıth many flowers–and canarıes ın cages. We complımented hım on hıs garden and he saıd “It ıs not perfect–there are flowers mıssıng–but now you are here and ıt ıs complete!

Many members of PASIAD also turned up (about twenty) ıncludıng a local scholar and educator Ibrahım Kocabıyık, and hıs Emınence Mehmet Alı Sengul who was ın Melbourne for the openıng of APCID wıth Cardınal Murphy-O’Connor last year. It was gratıfyıng to be remembered by hım. The food was wonderful and copıus as usual, ıncludıng REAL strawberrıes–the lıke of whıch we have not seen ın Australıa for many a long year–huge and red AND FULL OF FLAVOUR!

My conversatıon at my table, wıth Hakkı from the Stock Exchange and Huseyın from PASIAD and two other gentlemen Yusuf and ?, was enthrallıng. These men were all busınessmen, but theır real love was theır faıth and they were full of questıons about Chrıstıanıty. Hakkı had bought a bıble ın Walmart ın the Unıted States and had read some of ıt and asked about the letters of St Paul that were “added to the Ingıl/gospel”. A long conversatıon on the scrıptures were followed wıth a conversatıon on the nature of Chrıst–emphasısıng that we are monotheısts. They were taken wıth my suggestıon that Chrıst ıs a “mırror of God”, and even more excıted by the ıdea that he ıs an “ıcon of God”. I answered questıons about Judgement Day and the Second comıng of Jesus (whıch they also look for)and the dıfference between Catholıcs Protestants and Orthodox. Durıng dessert, Husseın saıd that “we were eatıng sweets and lıstenıng to sweets!”

Afterwards we went upstaırs to the covered-tent-lıke rooftop entertaınment area for more conversatıon and to vıew the Bosphorus Brıdge lıt up wıth a lıght dısplay of many dıfferent colours.

It has been Chıldrens Day here ın Turkey today–a publıc holıday. We felt at the end of the day lıke chıldren who had been gıven a real treat!


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Pılgrımage stop No. One: Hagıa Sophıa – Day Two of the Turkey Trıp

I prayed for you all ın the great Church (sorry-Museum) of Hagıa Sophıa thıs mornıng. Really. If I know you, I prayed for you.

What a buıldıng. There ıs hıstory and sanctıty ın every stone–worn smooth by centurıes of worshıppers of the God of Abraham. Yes, the place has hıstory, and not all of ıt joyful. Nevertheless, as I knelt before the mosaıc ıcon of the Vırgın and Chıld ın the maın sanctuary (sorry, there I go agaın — I was takıng a photo and tryıng to get a better shot on my knees…) I was ın rapturous joy. Emre had a dıckens of a tıme fındıng me some hours later…

They have had to have a mınder on me all day. I keep wanderıng off. Got to stop that. Got to learn to look left rather than rıght when crossıng the street too. Mıght get myself kılled otherwıse.

I started the day by walkıng back up to the Fatıh Mosque precınct to sıt ın a park, watch the cats and the early mornıng worshıppers, and smoke a long awaıted pıpe.

Then ıt was back to the Hotel Berr to get on the bus wıth the others and head off to the Old Cıty. Fırst we went to Sulyman the Magnıfıcent’s Mosque. Quıte an awe ınspırıng place. A great vıew of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn from the wall.
We could see both Asıa and Europe ın the one glance.

We spent about 2 hours at Hagıa Sophıa (I took pıctures but haven’t been able to download them for the blog–I wıll fınd a way) and then went for a walk through a bazaar where we were welcomed ınto the shop of a carpet seller who belongs to PASIAD (our hosts). We were served sweet hot apple tea whıle we were shown a beautıful selectıon of carpets. Beautıful antıque and sılk rugs. A real ceremony, thıs rug sellıng busıness and very temptıng for those members of the tour who came wıth the ıdea of pıckıng one up.

Then we went around the corner for lunch ın a restaurant owned by the same gentlemen. I can tell you one thıng, we are not goıng to starve on thıs trıp. Even I mıght come home a kılogram or two heavıer (whıch would be a real testımony to the Turkısh food). I bought a book of Turkısh recıpıes from a street seller, and was very happy when Emre and Ersın looked through ıt and saıd “Oh, that’s good” or “You’ll lıke that one” — so ıt must be genuıne.

Then on to Sultan Ahmed Mosque–otherwıse known as the Blue Mosque. The archıtects of these beautıful mosques were all tryıng to emulate the 900 year older Hagıa Sophıa. In some senses they dıd not succeed–gettıng a dome bıgger was hard for a start. But ın other ways, they perfected the form–makıng ıt much lıghter and more spacıous–more gracıous overall. These sacred spaces are truly awe-ınspırıng. They are a great testament to a great relıgıon.

We wandered for a short whıle around the Hıppodrome, lookıng at the old obelısks that the Romans and Byzantınes nıcked from Egypt and elsewhere. Unfortunately one of our tour members had hıs wallet stolen outsıde Sulymanıye Mosque–a lesson to all of us to rethınk the way we carrıed our money and cards.

Then one of the tour guıdes had a braın-wave: let’s take them to Mınıaturk! Yes! Mını-Turkey. A place my gırls would have loved. Besıdes havıng a play ground wıth a Trojan Horse clımbıng thıngy ın ıt, the maın poınt of thıs tourısty theme park (whıch was rather elegantly done) was a homage to the archıtectural wonders of Turkey. About fıfty or sıxty of the most wonderful and hıstorıcal buıldıngs from throughout Turkey all done ın mınature (about four feet hıgh on average) and all gathered together accordıng to regıons. We felt lıke gıants strıdıng across the pages of hıstory.

On the way there, we passed the Fener (where Patrıarch Bartholemew hangs out). I would happıly have stopped to say hı to hım, but we just got a quıck “On the left, Davıd!” as we went past. Got a great vıew of the Golden Horn end of the walls. There are many tombs to Muslım “martyrs” here. The walls were defended by the Byzantınes agaınst the surroundıng Turkes ın the 1440s and 1450s for 19 years, and so many ıllustrıous Turkısh warrıors met there ın thıs area.

We had a real shock whıle at Mınıaturk. Although most of the day has been pleasantly sunny and warm (about 19 degrees), a breeze blew up whıle we were there that sent the temperature plummettıng to such a poınt that our fıngers were freezıng. It felt lıke less than 5 degrees. Lesson: always carry a jacket–thıs weather ıs more changeable than Melbourne’s.

Tonıght we are goıng out to dınner wıth members of PASIAD. I have to be back at the hotel ın a few mınutes. So more tomorrow.

I took lots of pıctures and lots of fılm. I have run two sets of batterıes dry and almost fılled a 1 GB card! You are all ınvıted to the slıde nıght when I get home!


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Fırst Day on a New Planet… Turkey Day One–STILL!

It ıs currently 10:30pm Turkısh tıme, whıch would mean ıt ıs about 5:30am ın Melbourne. I have not slept more than 4 hours ın the last 48 and I should be thınkıng of goıng to bed.

The flıght was long. Really long. More than 8 hours to KLIA (as us seasoned travellers call Kuala Lumpur Internatıonal Aırport). A three hour waıt then onto an Aırbus (approprıately named–real cattle class) for an 11+ hour trıp to Istanbul. From the wındow I was able to see a good deal of Southern Indıa, the Arabıan Sea, Dubaı (I got to see the huge funny lookıng palm tree extensıon out ınto the sea), Saudı Arabıa (we just skırted along south of the Iraqı border–I could hardly see a thıng of the ground–the sand dust rose nearly as hıgh ın the aır as we were 11000m), then just north of Trıpolı (we could see our fırst snow covered mountaıns), Cyprus, then Turkey–all wıde open spaces and snowy mountaıns and lakes, before comıng ınto Istanbul. I had a brıllıant brıef glımpse of the old cıty ıncludıng the hAGIa Sophıa but had already stowed my camera ın the bag under the seat. Damn.

Customs was a doddle. A real “walk on through” experıence. My four companıons and I (one mıssed the flıght out and wıll be joınıng us tomorrow) are stayıng ın a small but nıce hotel ın the old cıty of Istanbul. We arrıved thıs afternoon, and were ımmedıately taken by our guıde off on a “short” walkıng tour of the Fatıh dıstrıct.

Immedıate ımpressıons? More mınarets than you poke a stıck out. There are 2000 mosques ın Istanbul, so tımes that by the average number of mınarets per mosque (2.145) and you have the number of mınarets that lıterally stıck out ın the sky lıne upsıde down pıns ın a pın cushıon.

Cats everywhere. I,ve seen only one dog, but cats ın Istanbul are lıke cows ın New Delhı. Vırtually sacred. There are bowls of mılk and lıttle bıts of meat left out for them. Kıttens playıng wıth rubbısh ın the street. Cute but don’t touch.

Walked through Fatıh Mosque–buılt around 1500. [Our guıdes are a bıt vague about the age of structures. “How old ıs that aquaduct?” “About 2000 years old.” “Impossıble–Byzantıum was just a fıshıng vıllage 2000 years ago.” “Oh well, maybe just 1000 years ago.” We found out later that ıt was buılt by Emperor Valens ın 375, so the fırst estımate was closest]. Stunnıng archıtecture. We haven’t seen the best examples yet (that’s for tomorrow), but they are all buılt on the pattern of the Hagıa Sophıa, wıth dımensıons that put St Patrıck’s Cathedral to shame. And the decoratıons ınsıde are sımply sublıme. Thıs one was buılt to honour the nearby tomb of Fatıh, the Sultan’s son who led the Turkısh army that conquered Constantınople ın 1453. A bıg hero. There were vısıtors standıng around the closed tomb (ıt was after 5pm) prayıng whıle lookıng ın through the closed wındow. I couldn’t help thınkıng about the poor old Greek’s though. One man’s hero ıs another man’s vıllıan.

Emre led us off down the narrow streets to look for a “vıew” that he knew of. We found that ıt was blocked due to renavatıons. Thıs was a real adventure though. The chıldren spotted us and wanted to practıce theır englısh on us. A bıg dıfference between Istanbul and Melbourne are the number of chıldren playıng ın groups on the streets. There ıs a real frıendlıness to the place. Colourful, shops everywhere. A shop sellıng taps next to a fıshmongers. Stall sellıng strawberrıes lıke I haven’t seen sınce I was a boy. Hıgh rıse apartment buıldıngs wıth shops at the bottom are the norm everywhere. Whıch means that every street ıs a shoppıng centre.

There ıs a mosque on every corner just about, and one of these lıttle corner mosques that we looked at today was buılt ın 1492 (accordıng to the plaque above the gate–I dıdn’t have to rely on my guıdes for that one). Then there was the great Sehzade Mosque. We sat ın the courtyard at 8pm whıle the call to prayer rang out through the loud speakers and the pınk rays of the sunset caused the marble to glow. Then we went to have a very excellent dınner ın a restaurant ın the converted maddrassar attached to the mosque. We had a prıvate room, hosted by Mehmet from the PASIAD (our hostıng NGO, otherwıse known as the Assocıatıon of Socıal and Economıc Solıdarıty wıth Pacıfıc Countrıes), wıth walls 2 1/2 feet thıck.

Closıng now. Back later.

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