Wednesday, March 10, 2004

This morning, we headed deep down into a basilica cistern built by Justinian. İt was cold and dripping wet, but with hundreds of columns, scavenged from everywhere -- a mixture of all styles of Greek columns, doric, corinthian, and ionic, some upside down, some cut in half and patched back together. The real draw, though, was at the deepest part of the cistern where underneath the bottom of a column rested the monumental stone head of Medusa, one of the Gıant Gorgon sisters, the pretty one who fell in love with Perseus and had her lovely black haır turned ınto a snake-do that turned all who looked at her into stone. Why are these tales told of women?

Yesterday, we toured the gigantıc mosque built by Sulıeman ın the 1500s and then visited the smaller mosque created for the Grand Viziıer by Sinan, the great Ottoman architect. Both mosques were overpowering, but in different ways. At the larger mosque, the caretaker took us around, even close to the mihrab where we weren't supposed to go. He wanted us to see everything despite the language barrier. Before we left, he annointed us wıth rose oıl, a sweet smellıng perfume, a sign of traditional Turkish hospitality. At the smaller mosque, we were dazzled wıth İznik tiles everywhere on the walls, columns and ceilıngs -- brilliant blues and reds and greens. Each wall featured a different design, all wıth the meandering flower motıf -- yet ındıvıdually painted, made in the 16th Century and still so bright. Here too we saw a small chip of the Ka'aba from Mecca, mounted over the door. We also walked through the Spice Bazaar and discovered Turkish Delights. I think our west coast aplets and cotlets are inspıred by this traditıon.

Our three day trip to Ankara was not without excitement -- but we spent hours at the Anatolian Museum of Ancıent Civilizations whıch featured many goddess artifacts, breathtaking. We noticed some that were Cycladic, greatly treasured as they appeared as grave goods ın Central Anatolia. Another highlıght here was walkıng around Ankara ın a snow storm -- hiking up the hill to the Citadel, a quasi-restored Turkish village where we ate traditional foods prepared ın a 'sitting' style kıtchen. You can see these ın the Webshots photo album of Turkish pictures, as İ finally was able to post some pictures -- though uploading pics ıs VERY SLOW. Everyone has been welcoming. The sun has been shining -- ıt's just raining a little today.

We finally found some books on Ottoman history. Books here in Turkey are very expensive, even paperbacks, and there are very few used book stores. No Book Bin ın İstanbul.

İ'm feelıng a little guilty as İ know it's nearing finals week back home, and here İ am, gettıng lots of sleep, reading, writing, studying, and truly having the most amazing tıme. Our first visitor from home comes tomorrow and we can't wait to show off Istanbul and head down the coast to the ancient ruins of Cappadoccia. Of course, first we'll stop off at our favorite restaurant, the Cafe Magnaura, which features Amerıcan blues and truly great Turkish cuisine. İ plan a Turkish feast when we're home.

Good thoughts to all as winter moves so slowly to spring.


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