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Exploring Turkey part 6: From Cavdarhisar to Istanbul

by Trudy (2/26/2010)

Cavdarhisar - Bursa

 

Çavdarhisar
I am only just in time to catch the bus to Çavdarhisar, there are not that many buses going to this village so I am lucky. A little south of Kütahya, I see the Günen Çini Camii, on the outside completely covered with shining blue tiles. I can see there are different motifs on the tiles but I cannot see what they are, the bus is driving too fast. In a little cafe in Çavdarhisar, I have a cup of coffee and I ask for the toilet. They send me to the mosque, two hundred metres away; the cafe has no women’s toilet....
Whilst walking, Süleyman approaches me; he is the owner of a small cafe opposite the entrance of Aýzanoý, the place with many Roman ruins. He offers me a ride in his bus to his cafe, his wife – the cook – is sitting next to him. I am the only guest now and Süleyman sits across the table. He tells me the story of his life. ‘I lived for five years in Germany, ten years ago, that is why I speak German. I married a German woman then, not out of love but just to get health insurance. I needed that insurance because of my son.’ He sighs and points at a young man leaning against a tree not far from us. ‘Tayfun, my son, is now 24 years old and he is mentally retarded because of a shortage of oxygen during his birth. They said he could be cured in Germany but unfortunately that was not true.’ He calls: ‘Tayfun, please get us two glasses of tea.’ Tayfun looks at his father, his face set and he walks away to return shortly after that with the requested tea. ‘He listens very well to what one says,’ Süleyman explains, <[script <[script] src="../../tools/tiny_mce/themes/advanced/langs/en.js?1257724505" type="text/javascript"> ] src="../../tools/tiny_mce/themes/advanced/langs/en.js?1257724505" type="text/javascript"> ‘if you ask him to do anything, he will. I am going to find him a wife; it is about time he gets married.’ I think my face shows my surprise because Süleyman hastily continues: ‘That is quite normal here. Many parents look for spouses for their children. There are plenty of women willing to marry him because he is so obedient. I already heard from six cousins that they are interested.’
Aýzanoý, the old name of the village of Çavdarhisar, now only exists as an archaeological site. At this place, several Roman ruins can be found amongst, as they claim, the best-preserved Zeus temple in the world. This temple from the second century AC is not only dedicated to Zeus himself but also to Cybele, the Anatolian goddess of fertility. Ionic pillars are almost completely intact, the building is a little isolated from the other ones, I can walk around it and admire it from all angles. There is a lot more to see at this extended piece of land: a Roman bath, a theatre, a stadium, dozens of tombstones. Some parts of Aýzanoý are not very well maintained; stones have fallen down or have subsided. Every August two German archaeologists come to this excavation to do more research. All information signs here are tri-lingual: Turkish, English and German as the organisation these archaeologists belong to pays for the information signs.
At Süleyman’s place, I drink ayran. ‘Where are you heading for today?’, he asks. ‘I’d like to go to Emet to visit the thermal baths,’ I answer. ‘Do you already have a hotel reservation? No? Then I will make a call for you’, Süleyman replies. He makes three calls and says: ‘I have called the city hall to ask which hotels have reasonable prices. After that, I inquired at two hotels. The first one is fully booked but at the last one I made a reservation for you. It is a motel and it costs twenty-seven lira, is that ok with you?’ Yes’, I say, ‘that sounds great. I only need to pick up my backpack at the bus station before the bus to Emet arrives.’ Süleyman waves aside my words: ‘No need to do that, my son will pick up your backpack in my van.’ ‘Tayfun?’, I ask surprised, ‘does he have a driver’s licence?’ ‘No,’ Süleyman laughs, ‘my other son. He is now with his grandfather, who is the caretaker of the bus station where your luggage is. He does not have a driver’s licence yet but he is very well able to drive. Sometimes we say he is driving like a little devil.’ Fifteen minutes later a little van arrives, a seventeen year old boy gets out, hands me my backpack and even before I can thank him he is off again. 
Emet
Emet is one of the many villages in Kütahya area where you can find natural hot springs. They used these hot springs for making hammams and baths and that is where I am heading. Yeþil Kaplýca is such a bath with water with a temperature of approximately forty-five degrees. After washing myself, I go into the bath, for a moment gasping for breath. Hot! It reminds me of the Japanese baths I know. The entrance fee here is the feeble amount of only two lira, including a rental towel and a private dressing cabin. How on earth can a company be profitable with prices like this? In this hammam there are no scrub or massage treatments, women give each other a scrub, one neighbour after another. All women wear at least their underwear, no strings or gorgeous lace lingerie. I only see waist-high white big underpants. The latest underwear fashion has not arrived in Emet yet. Except for the common bath where around twenty women are present, there is the possibility of renting a private bath by the hour. These you can use mixed, together with your partner. It is not the type I like, I prefer this large one, people watching. Emet has four types of baths, every day another for women. Still, women are not treated as well as men are, men have three baths daily to choose from, women only one. Alternatively, does it mean men are dirtier than women that they need so many baths? 
My motel does not offer breakfast and the only cafe at the otogar has nothing more than coffee, tea and cola. A supermarket across the street is the solution. The two sales clerks give me tea and want to know every detail about my holiday. ‘Where are you going now? Where have you been already? Do you like your trip? What do you think of Turkey? What do you think of Emet?’ question after question, they do not stop. Then I get a question I do not understand, it is about Dutch people. In my dictionary, the sales representative puts his finger on the word he means to ask: ‘Are Dutch people hot-blooded?’ I am lost for words; some Turkish people ask very strange questions. The otogar of Emet is an oasis of peace. There is only one office of a bus company, so no touts around. You can count the number of buses that leave here each day on the fingers of one hand, hence the number of waiting passengers is minimal.
Eskiþehir
I expect to travel to Eskiþehir via Tavþanlý. It is the shortest route and I can enjoy looking at another part of the area but no, the bus goes via Çavdarhisar like yesterday. Green. Green in all shades, that is what I see while on my way to Eskiþehir. Stacks of corn and wheat are waving in the wind but do not ask me which type of wheat, I am a city child. I see farmers harvesting their pieces of land, grass is covering the little uncultivated pieces and the trees are full of leaves. Thirty kilometres before Kütahya I notice a little mosque, a tiny blue painted one. I guess at most only ten people could go in at the same time and the minaret is two and a half metres high at most. Very cute. Suddenly I see two cyclists, packed for a long holiday, tent and sleeping bags with them. Their luggage is from Ortlieb, so I reckon they are Dutch or German. Would it be possible these are the same cyclists I saw three weeks earlier near Kemaliye? I would love to cycle here as well, just as I did to Budapest or in Sri Lanka and then be able to visit little villages or take the road to ‘Frig Maðaralar’, the ice caves I just saw. The quality of the road surfaces but even more the manners of Turkish drivers restrain me from doing so.
In a tiny store, cramped with meerschaum products, I buy a tespih for Abdullah; he has never been to Eskiþehir. The owner of the shop cannot speak, he is mute, but he does understand me. The prices for his artisanship are extremely low, still I get a discount without asking and he gives me a little cigarette pipe as a gift. The famous meerschaum pipes I leave for what they are, I do not know anyone who smokes a pipe and as just a souvenir, I do not want one. 
The name ‘Eskiþehir’ means ‘old city’ but there is hardly anything old to see, when I look around me. It is more a city for shopping. The Hamamyolu Caddesi is one and a half kilometres long and for a couple years now only for pedestrians, no cars are allowed. Along this street are many small restaurants with crowded terraces. The lacking visible history makes it a fairly boring city. One of the few nice things are groups of statues covered in gold paint. In the park opposite Reþadiye Camii, I see three groups: each group has five or six statues and a different theme. There is one representing professions: a carpenter, a football player, a masseur, a tailor and a ceramist. The group ‘victory’ shows four soldiers in different positions and a wounded man. The third group has ‘art and sports’ as theme. I notice, amongst others, a motorcyclist, a singer and a cello player. 
In the Reþadiye Camii an old man stops me when I want to enter. ‘Bayanlara, women’, he barks at me and points with his walking stick towards stairs I did not see. Being a tourist I am sure I will make mistakes now and then, though never on purpose. I have met more friendly people in mosques than this old man. Happily I can take pictures from the women’s department too, not all curtains are closed. Very nice to see in this mosque are the colourful wall paintings and the blue tiles with Arabic texts. 
They have an extended choice of dishes in Þomin Et Lokantasý, if I can believe the paper menu. The restaurant however seems to have a former communist management as over eighty percent of the dishes is not available. What is left, are only the usual kinds of kebabs, pides and salads. After having paid my check, two waiters ask me how many days I will stay in this town. ‘I will leave tomorrow,’ I answer. That is not a good answer, according to the look on their faces. I have to come in again and they promise to tell me why I should stay. I get a cup of Turkish coffee and with some expectation; I look up to the waiter to hear his ideas. ‘Well, err, we have a good archaeological museum here’, he says. Silence after that. ‘What else is there for me to see?’, I ask. ‘Err..... and a beautiful park’, he adds. More than these two things, he does not seem to know. All staff members come to me and tell me where they were born. Konya, Sinop, Ankara, Doðubayazýt, all waiters seem to be very satisfied when they hear I have visited these places and that I am able to tell what I have seen in their birth places. 
THE MARMARA-REGION
Bursa
In Bursa, I find, without difficulties, a good hotel in the centre of town, near the Ulu Camii: Cesmeli Otel. In the closet, I see a prayer carpet and a tespih. This is the first hotel where I see so obviously such religious items. On a terrace with large red parasols at the Atatürk Caddesi they serve the most delicious gözleme I have ever had, slightly crisp and very well filled with cheese, spinach and salami. The streets behind my hotel accommodate a partly covered bazaar. Suddenly I hear music and I see a small room where six men are playing saz, drums and are singing. Like in a theatre setting there are about fifteen chairs, all occupied by men. Leaning on the doorpost, I listen for a while but within minutes, I am invited to come in and have tea. 
These three days in Bursa will be busy days. Tonight I will see Kerem again, tomorrow I have an appointment with Ayhan and on Monday I will meet Üzeyir for the first time. All three men I have ‘known’ throughout my favourite internet site about Turkey. Kerem I have met before in Kuþadasý and with Üzeyir and Ayhan I chat on MSN. Especially for this vacation we exchanged cell phone numbers. Ayhan gives me directions to his bijouterie shop by sms and I walk by to say hello. I see a pair of lovely light blue earrings with a text that looks Arabic to me. ‘Is this a Koran text, Ayhan?’, I ask, ‘they are gorgeous.’ ‘No,’ Ayhan answers with a smile, ‘it is old Ottoman. I will give you these earrings as a present.’ That was never my intention and I protest several times. Ayhan only laughs and orders one of the sales ladies to wrap them up for me. I decide to buy a matching necklace, so that I buy something instead of only getting something for free. For a while it looks like I will get the necklace for free too but I protest now even more. ‘You are a friend,’ Ayhan says, ‘friends are not allowed to pay.’ ‘No Ayhan, you are a business man and I insist on paying, you need to make money,’ is my reaction. We argue for a while and partly it goes the way I want. I can pay half of the price, more he will not accept, no matter how hard I try. Ayhan tells me he will pick me up tomorrow at 13.00 at my hotel. We say goodbye and I leave his shop. 
Waiting for Kerem seems to last forever, probably his bus is delayed. Suddenly I notice that Atatürk Caddesi is empty, no cars to see while this afternoon it looked like a racetrack. What is happening? Then finally, two hours later than expected, Kerem arrives and at the same time it becomes clear why there are not any cars out on the street. A parade of many ethnic dance groups comes by. We see Turkish, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Chinese, Sudanese, Mexican and many other groups passing by. We head to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately the gorgonzola is not available meaning Kerem still cannot eat a pizza Quattro Staggione with the cheese he never tasted. During dinner we talk a lot, like we did before when we met, about travelling, the future, differences in culture between Turkey and my country, the countries Kerem likes to visit one day. 
I have heard that it is possible to get your future predicted by ‘reading’ coffee grounds here in Bursa. ‘Kerem, can you ask people where that is possible?’, I ask. A man passing by tells us we need to go to cafe Barrantico so we look for it. We find it quite easily but unfortunately it is closed. Too bad, I would have loved to know if a ‘tall, slim dark-haired man is waiting for me’, like fortunetellers at a fair always all seem to predict. Kerem laughs out loud when I tell him this. We go back to Cesmeli Otel so Kerem can check in too and drop his luggage. In my hotel room we chat for a while. Kerem has left the door of the room open because as he says ‘he is not allowed to be with a woman in one room.’ I sigh when he says this. ‘Are you afraid of me?’, I ask slightly irritated. ‘No’, he answers, ‘it is just not allowed.’ For a moment I wonder if I should remind him of his own sms in which he said a double room was ok as well. Imagine, I could have booked such a room, how would he have handled this ‘problem’ then? I decide not to say anything, I do not want to start a religious discussion. 
The next morning we visit the Seljuk Ulu Camii, built in the fourteenth century, together. It is a huge mosque with gorgeous wall paintings and in the middle a sadirvan, a fountain where you can clean yourself before praying. ‘I have never seen an abdesthane inside a mosque’, Kerem says with surprise in his voice, ‘they are always outside as far as I know.’ One of the gems here is the mimber, cut out of walnut tree. The carvings are very refined and show great artisanship. After this visit, Kerem has to leave again. He has to work tonight and though he would love to stay another day, he could not get an extra day off. Travelling back to Söke will take six hours. At the bus stop we say goodbye. It was short but nice to meet again. 
Ayhan is waiting in his car for me at exactly 13.00. First we go to a çay bahçesi with a great view over Bursa and then we go on to a restaurant for lunch. There is a six hundred years old plane-tree in the middle of the garden, its branches sometimes as thick as a thigh. We have to be careful not to hurt our heads while walking in the garden. I prefer a light lunch but Ayhan keeps ordering: pirzola, gözleme, açili esme, meyve, it does not stop. Then we go to Mudaniye, a coastal town at the Sea of Marmara, at about twenty-five kilometres from Bursa. We take a stroll along the boulevard and Ayhan explains the meaning of historical buildings to me. ‘Look’, he says while pointing towards a white house, ‘this is the building where the guards who monitor Abudullah Oçalan, the leader of the PKK, stay. From here they go to the island where he is imprisoned for life.’ The building seems very much secured with cameras, gates and an alarm system; the guards next to the fence are armed to the teeth. 
I am not allowed to get us both an ice cream. Ayhan is paying again. ‘You are my guest,’ he says, ‘if I am ever in the Netherlands, then you can pay for me.’ The ice cream with lemon, hazelnut and fig-taste is delicious, but it is no Maraþ-ice-cream, it melts! On the way back to Bursa we have a stop at a pastane, according to Ayhan the best there is and he insists that I taste some of their specialties. At seven thirty, he drops me off near by hotel. I thank him from the bottom of my heart, what a great afternoon this was!
Üzeyir is waiting for me next to the Ulu Camii. ‘Shall we start here with our walk?’, he suggests. It turns out to be not such a good idea as it is prayer time and the Ulu Camii is full of people. A drink then first in Koza Han. Half an hour later and the mosque is still very crowded so Üzeyir tells me its history while waiting on the pavement. Then we go to the Yeshil Camii and Yeshil Turbesi, both at the other end of the city. The first is filled with scaffoldings, the latter is closed. Both are being restored. Back in the centre, we go shopping in the Eski Han and the Bedesten. Üzeyir knows how to ask for indirim some cute little nargilehs are mine now, their price dropped in seconds. 
‘Yesterday I tried to find a fortune teller, but cafe Barrantico was closed, do you happen to know another possibility?’, I ask. Like Kerem, Üzeyir laughs about this request but he asks several people on the street if they know a place like that. A little later, we end up in cafe Papyrus where in a small stuffy office my future is told by a huge woman of around sixty years. She speaks a lot, meanwhile scribbling in a handwriting that looks to me a mix of Arabic and fantasy writings. ‘You will meet a tall person and you will flirt with him,’ is her first prediction. Üzeyir has to giggle about this. The fortune-teller asks a lot, many go without saying I think a bit sarcastically but a few are very coincidental. I have to answer each question telling if she is right or wrong: ‘Anyone in your family whose name starts with an H? Do you live on the second floor? Did you have trouble last March? Have you been married? Does your ex still love you? Does he still owe you money?’ She predicts more: ‘At the end of September you will get rid of two bad things and you will get two good things in return. In three days, weeks or months you will receive pleasant news. At a social meeting like a birthday you will meet a tall person with whom you will dance, flirt and be happy with.’ I have my doubts with these predictions but time will tell. Then it is time for coffee and especially for ‘reading’ my coffee grounds. The fortune-teller turns my cup around several times, mumbles a lot and finally she says: ‘I see the head of a horse.’ No matter how thoroughly I look myself, I do not see any resemblance with that but it is a good prediction for a single woman like me. It means that a relationship, a house, or money is coming in my direction. The fortune-teller has not finished yet. ‘You have a long way ahead of you but everything will be as you wished or hope,’ she says, ‘your heart is pure, you are brave and optimistic.’ Some more questions follow though I cannot think of any reason she has to ask me these. ‘Some of these things I could have told you too, for free,’ Üzeyir says laughing. He translated everything the fortune-teller told me. Then I have to read of piece of Turkish from a small book with loads of red roses on the cover. I have no idea what I am reading but according to Üzeyir my pronunciation sounds funny. After dinner, we watch the dance shows of the groups we saw earlier in the parade on Atatürk Caddesi. It seems there is a contest going but both of us have no idea what the prizes are. We see dance groups from Mexico, Mongolia, Sudan and Spain. The applauding, cheering and whistling sounds most loud when the Mexican group, excessively dressed in feathers, performs. 

Çavdarhisar

I am only just in time to catch the bus to Çavdarhisar, there are not that many buses going to this village so I am lucky. A little south of Kütahya, I see the Günen Çini Camii, on the outside completely covered with shining blue tiles. I can see there are different motifs on the tiles but I cannot see what they are, the bus is driving too fast. In a little cafe in Çavdarhisar, I have a cup of coffee and I ask for the toilet. They send me to the mosque, two hundred metres away; the cafe has no women’s toilet....


Whilst walking, Süleyman approaches me; he is the owner of a small cafe opposite the entrance of Aýzanoý, the place with many Roman ruins. He offers me a ride in his bus to his cafe, his wife – the cook – is sitting next to him. I am the only guest now and Süleyman sits across the table. He tells me the story of his life. ‘I lived for five years in Germany, ten years ago, that is why I speak German. I married a German woman then, not out of love but just to get health insurance. I needed that insurance because of my son.’ He sighs and points at a young man leaning against a tree not far from us. ‘Tayfun, my son, is now 24 years old and he is mentally retarded because of a shortage of oxygen during his birth. They said he could be cured in Germany but unfortunately that was not true.’ He calls: ‘Tayfun, please get us two glasses of tea.’ Tayfun looks at his father, his face set and he walks away to return shortly after that with the requested tea. ‘He listens very well to what one says,’ Süleyman explains, ‘if you ask him to do anything, he will. I am going to find him a wife; it is about time he gets married.’ I think my face shows my surprise because Süleyman hastily continues: ‘That is quite normal here. Many parents look for spouses for their children. There are plenty of women willing to marry him because he is so obedient. I already heard from six cousins that they are interested.’


Aýzanoý, the old name of the village of Çavdarhisar, now only exists as an archaeological site. At this place, several Roman ruins can be found amongst, as they claim, the best-preserved Zeus temple in the world. This temple from the second century AC is not only dedicated to Zeus himself but also to Cybele, the Anatolian goddess of fertility. Ionic pillars are almost completely intact, the building is a little isolated from the other ones, I can walk around it and admire it from all angles. There is a lot more to see at this extended piece of land: a Roman bath, a theatre, a stadium, dozens of tombstones. Some parts of Aýzanoý are not very well maintained; stones have fallen down or have subsided. Every August two German archaeologists come to this excavation to do more research. All information signs here are tri-lingual: Turkish, English and German as the organisation these archaeologists belong to pays for the information signs.


At Süleyman’s place, I drink ayran. ‘Where are you heading for today?’, he asks. ‘I’d like to go to Emet to visit the thermal baths,’ I answer. ‘Do you already have a hotel reservation? No? Then I will make a call for you’, Süleyman replies. He makes three calls and says: ‘I have called the city hall to ask which hotels have reasonable prices. After that, I inquired at two hotels. The first one is fully booked but at the last one I made a reservation for you. It is a motel and it costs twenty-seven lira, is that ok with you?’ Yes’, I say, ‘that sounds great. I only need to pick up my backpack at the bus station before the bus to Emet arrives.’ Süleyman waves aside my words: ‘No need to do that, my son will pick up your backpack in my van.’ ‘Tayfun?’, I ask surprised, ‘does he have a driver’s licence?’ ‘No,’ Süleyman laughs, ‘my other son. He is now with his grandfather, who is the caretaker of the bus station where your luggage is. He does not have a driver’s licence yet but he is very well able to drive. Sometimes we say he is driving like a little devil.’ Fifteen minutes later a little van arrives, a seventeen year old boy gets out, hands me my backpack and even before I can thank him he is off again. 


Emet

Emet is one of the many villages in Kütahya area where you can find natural hot springs. They used these hot springs for making hammams and baths and that is where I am heading. Yeþil Kaplýca is such a bath with water with a temperature of approximately forty-five degrees. After washing myself, I go into the bath, for a moment gasping for breath. Hot! It reminds me of the Japanese baths I know. The entrance fee here is the feeble amount of only two lira, including a rental towel and a private dressing cabin. How on earth can a company be profitable with prices like this? In this hammam there are no scrub or massage treatments, women give each other a scrub, one neighbour after another. All women wear at least their underwear, no strings or gorgeous lace lingerie. I only see waist-high white big underpants. The latest underwear fashion has not arrived in Emet yet. Except for the common bath where around twenty women are present, there is the possibility of renting a private bath by the hour. These you can use mixed, together with your partner. It is not the type I like, I prefer this large one, people watching. Emet has four types of baths, every day another for women. Still, women are not treated as well as men are, men have three baths daily to choose from, women only one. Alternatively, does it mean men are dirtier than women that they need so many baths? 


My motel does not offer breakfast and the only cafe at the otogar has nothing more than coffee, tea and cola. A supermarket across the street is the solution. The two sales clerks give me tea and want to know every detail about my holiday. ‘Where are you going now? Where have you been already? Do you like your trip? What do you think of Turkey? What do you think of Emet?’ question after question, they do not stop. Then I get a question I do not understand, it is about Dutch people. In my dictionary, the sales representative puts his finger on the word he means to ask: ‘Are Dutch people hot-blooded?’ I am lost for words; some Turkish people ask very strange questions. The otogar of Emet is an oasis of peace. There is only one office of a bus company, so no touts around. You can count the number of buses that leave here each day on the fingers of one hand, hence the number of waiting passengers is minimal.


Eskiþehir

I expect to travel to Eskiþehir via Tavþanlý. It is the shortest route and I can enjoy looking at another part of the area but no, the bus goes via Çavdarhisar like yesterday. Green. Green in all shades, that is what I see while on my way to Eskiþehir. Stacks of corn and wheat are waving in the wind but do not ask me which type of wheat, I am a city child. I see farmers harvesting their pieces of land, grass is covering the little uncultivated pieces and the trees are full of leaves. Thirty kilometres before Kütahya I notice a little mosque, a tiny blue painted one. I guess at most only ten people could go in at the same time and the minaret is two and a half metres high at most. Very cute. Suddenly I see two cyclists, packed for a long holiday, tent and sleeping bags with them. Their luggage is from Ortlieb, so I reckon they are Dutch or German. Would it be possible these are the same cyclists I saw three weeks earlier near Kemaliye? I would love to cycle here as well, just as I did to Budapest or in Sri Lanka and then be able to visit little villages or take the road to ‘Frig Maðaralar’, the ice caves I just saw. The quality of the road surfaces but even more the manners of Turkish drivers restrain me from doing so.


In a tiny store, cramped with meerschaum products, I buy a tespih for Abdullah; he has never been to Eskiþehir. The owner of the shop cannot speak, he is mute, but he does understand me. The prices for his artisanship are extremely low, still I get a discount without asking and he gives me a little cigarette pipe as a gift. The famous meerschaum pipes I leave for what they are, I do not know anyone who smokes a pipe and as just a souvenir, I do not want one. 


The name ‘Eskiþehir’ means ‘old city’ but there is hardly anything old to see, when I look around me. It is more a city for shopping. The Hamamyolu Caddesi is one and a half kilometres long and for a couple years now only for pedestrians, no cars are allowed. Along this street are many small restaurants with crowded terraces. The lacking visible history makes it a fairly boring city. One of the few nice things are groups of statues covered in gold paint. In the park opposite Reþadiye Camii, I see three groups: each group has five or six statues and a different theme. There is one representing professions: a carpenter, a football player, a masseur, a tailor and a ceramist. The group ‘victory’ shows four soldiers in different positions and a wounded man. The third group has ‘art and sports’ as theme. I notice, amongst others, a motorcyclist, a singer and a cello player. 


In the Reþadiye Camii an old man stops me when I want to enter. ‘Bayanlara, women’, he barks at me and points with his walking stick towards stairs I did not see. Being a tourist I am sure I will make mistakes now and then, though never on purpose. I have met more friendly people in mosques than this old man. Happily I can take pictures from the women’s department too, not all curtains are closed. Very nice to see in this mosque are the colourful wall paintings and the blue tiles with Arabic texts. 


They have an extended choice of dishes in Þomin Et Lokantasý, if I can believe the paper menu. The restaurant however seems to have a former communist management as over eighty percent of the dishes is not available. What is left, are only the usual kinds of kebabs, pides and salads. After having paid my check, two waiters ask me how many days I will stay in this town. ‘I will leave tomorrow,’ I answer. That is not a good answer, according to the look on their faces. I have to come in again and they promise to tell me why I should stay. I get a cup of Turkish coffee and with some expectation; I look up to the waiter to hear his ideas. ‘Well, err, we have a good archaeological museum here’, he says. Silence after that. ‘What else is there for me to see?’, I ask. ‘Err..... and a beautiful park’, he adds. More than these two things, he does not seem to know. All staff members come to me and tell me where they were born. Konya, Sinop, Ankara, Doðubayazýt, all waiters seem to be very satisfied when they hear I have visited these places and that I am able to tell what I have seen in their birth places. 


THE MARMARA-REGION


Bursa

In Bursa, I find, without difficulties, a good hotel in the centre of town, near the Ulu Camii: Cesmeli Otel. In the closet, I see a prayer carpet and a tespih. This is the first hotel where I see so obviously such religious items.

On a terrace with large red parasols at the Atatürk Caddesi they serve the most delicious gözleme I have ever had, slightly crisp and very well filled with cheese, spinach and salami. The streets behind my hotel accommodate a partly covered bazaar. Suddenly I hear music and I see a small room where six men are playing saz, drums and are singing. Like in a theatre setting there are about fifteen chairs, all occupied by men. Leaning on the doorpost, I listen for a while but within minutes, I am invited to come in and have tea. 


These three days in Bursa will be busy days. Tonight I will see Kerem again, tomorrow I have an appointment with Ayhan and on Monday I will meet Üzeyir for the first time. All three men I have ‘known’ throughout my favourite internet site about Turkey. Kerem I have met before in Kuþadasý and with Üzeyir and Ayhan I chat on MSN. Especially for this vacation we exchanged cell phone numbers. Ayhan gives me directions to his bijouterie shop by sms and I walk by to say hello. I see a pair of lovely light blue earrings with a text that looks Arabic to me. ‘Is this a Koran text, Ayhan?’, I ask, ‘they are gorgeous.’ ‘No,’ Ayhan answers with a smile, ‘it is old Ottoman. I will give you these earrings as a present.’ That was never my intention and I protest several times. Ayhan only laughs and orders one of the sales ladies to wrap them up for me. I decide to buy a matching necklace, so that I buy something instead of only getting something for free. For a while it looks like I will get the necklace for free too but I protest now even more. ‘You are a friend,’ Ayhan says, ‘friends are not allowed to pay.’ ‘No Ayhan, you are a business man and I insist on paying, you need to make money,’ is my reaction. We argue for a while and partly it goes the way I want. I can pay half of the price, more he will not accept, no matter how hard I try. Ayhan tells me he will pick me up tomorrow at 13.00 at my hotel. We say goodbye and I leave his shop. 


Waiting for Kerem seems to last forever, probably his bus is delayed. Suddenly I notice that Atatürk Caddesi is empty, no cars to see while this afternoon it looked like a racetrack. What is happening? Then finally, two hours later than expected, Kerem arrives and at the same time it becomes clear why there are not any cars out on the street. A parade of many ethnic dance groups comes by. We see Turkish, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Chinese, Sudanese, Mexican and many other groups passing by. We head to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately the gorgonzola is not available meaning Kerem still cannot eat a pizza Quattro Staggione with the cheese he never tasted. During dinner we talk a lot, like we did before when we met, about travelling, the future, differences in culture between Turkey and my country, the countries Kerem likes to visit one day. 


I have heard that it is possible to get your future predicted by ‘reading’ coffee grounds here in Bursa. ‘Kerem, can you ask people where that is possible?’, I ask. A man passing by tells us we need to go to cafe Barrantico so we look for it. We find it quite easily but unfortunately it is closed. Too bad, I would have loved to know if a ‘tall, slim dark-haired man is waiting for me’, like fortunetellers at a fair always all seem to predict. Kerem laughs out loud when I tell him this. We go back to Cesmeli Otel so Kerem can check in too and drop his luggage. In my hotel room we chat for a while. Kerem has left the door of the room open because as he says ‘he is not allowed to be with a woman in one room.’ I sigh when he says this. ‘Are you afraid of me?’, I ask slightly irritated. ‘No’, he answers, ‘it is just not allowed.’ For a moment I wonder if I should remind him of his own sms in which he said a double room was ok as well. Imagine, I could have booked such a room, how would he have handled this ‘problem’ then? I decide not to say anything, I do not want to start a religious discussion. 


The next morning we visit the Seljuk Ulu Camii, built in the fourteenth century, together. It is a huge mosque with gorgeous wall paintings and in the middle a sadirvan, a fountain where you can clean yourself before praying. ‘I have never seen an abdesthane inside a mosque’, Kerem says with surprise in his voice, ‘they are always outside as far as I know.’ One of the gems here is the mimber, cut out of walnut tree. The carvings are very refined and show great artisanship. After this visit, Kerem has to leave again. He has to work tonight and though he would love to stay another day, he could not get an extra day off. Travelling back to Söke will take six hours. At the bus stop we say goodbye. It was short but nice to meet again. 


Ayhan is waiting in his car for me at exactly 13.00. First we go to a çay bahçesi with a great view over Bursa and then we go on to a restaurant for lunch. There is a six hundred years old plane-tree in the middle of the garden, its branches sometimes as thick as a thigh. We have to be careful not to hurt our heads while walking in the garden. I prefer a light lunch but Ayhan keeps ordering: pirzola, gözleme, açili esme, meyve, it does not stop. Then we go to Mudaniye, a coastal town at the Sea of Marmara, at about twenty-five kilometres from Bursa. We take a stroll along the boulevard and Ayhan explains the meaning of historical buildings to me. ‘Look’, he says while pointing towards a white house, ‘this is the building where the guards who monitor Abudullah Oçalan, the leader of the PKK, stay. From here they go to the island where he is imprisoned for life.’ The building seems very much secured with cameras, gates and an alarm system; the guards next to the fence are armed to the teeth. 


I am not allowed to get us both an ice cream. Ayhan is paying again. ‘You are my guest,’ he says, ‘if I am ever in the Netherlands, then you can pay for me.’ The ice cream with lemon, hazelnut and fig-taste is delicious, but it is no Maraþ-ice-cream, it melts! On the way back to Bursa we have a stop at a pastane, according to Ayhan the best there is and he insists that I taste some of their specialties. At seven thirty, he drops me off near by hotel. I thank him from the bottom of my heart, what a great afternoon this was!


Üzeyir is waiting for me next to the Ulu Camii. ‘Shall we start here with our walk?’, he suggests. It turns out to be not such a good idea as it is prayer time and the Ulu Camii is full of people. A drink then first in Koza Han. Half an hour later and the mosque is still very crowded so Üzeyir tells me its history while waiting on the pavement. Then we go to the Yeshil Camii and Yeshil Turbesi, both at the other end of the city. The first is filled with scaffoldings, the latter is closed. Both are being restored. Back in the centre, we go shopping in the Eski Han and the Bedesten. Üzeyir knows how to ask for indirim some cute little nargilehs are mine now, their price dropped in seconds. 


‘Yesterday I tried to find a fortune teller, but cafe Barrantico was closed, do you happen to know another possibility?’, I ask. Like Kerem, Üzeyir laughs about this request but he asks several people on the street if they know a place like that. A little later, we end up in cafe Papyrus where in a small stuffy office my future is told by a huge woman of around sixty years. She speaks a lot, meanwhile scribbling in a handwriting that looks to me a mix of Arabic and fantasy writings. ‘You will meet a tall person and you will flirt with him,’ is her first prediction. Üzeyir has to giggle about this. The fortune-teller asks a lot, many go without saying I think a bit sarcastically but a few are very coincidental. I have to answer each question telling if she is right or wrong: ‘Anyone in your family whose name starts with an H? Do you live on the second floor? Did you have trouble last March? Have you been married? Does your ex still love you? Does he still owe you money?’ She predicts more: ‘At the end of September you will get rid of two bad things and you will get two good things in return. In three days, weeks or months you will receive pleasant news. At a social meeting like a birthday you will meet a tall person with whom you will dance, flirt and be happy with.’ I have my doubts with these predictions but time will tell. Then it is time for coffee and especially for ‘reading’ my coffee grounds. The fortune-teller turns my cup around several times, mumbles a lot and finally she says: ‘I see the head of a horse.’ No matter how thoroughly I look myself, I do not see any resemblance with that but it is a good prediction for a single woman like me. It means that a relationship, a house, or money is coming in my direction. The fortune-teller has not finished yet. ‘You have a long way ahead of you but everything will be as you wished or hope,’ she says, ‘your heart is pure, you are brave and optimistic.’ Some more questions follow though I cannot think of any reason she has to ask me these. ‘Some of these things I could have told you too, for free,’ Üzeyir says laughing. He translated everything the fortune-teller told me. Then I have to read of piece of Turkish from a small book with loads of red roses on the cover. I have no idea what I am reading but according to Üzeyir my pronunciation sounds funny. After dinner, we watch the dance shows of the groups we saw earlier in the parade on Atatürk Caddesi. It seems there is a contest going but both of us have no idea what the prizes are. We see dance groups from Mexico, Mongolia, Sudan and Spain. The applauding, cheering and whistling sounds most loud when the Mexican group, excessively dressed in feathers, performs. 


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1. Cavdarhisar - Bursa
2. Istanbul


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