Saturday, April 10, 2004

A note from Allen to Rachel:

Now, as I did with Egypt and Israel I'd like to give you some closing impressions of Turkey.

First let me begin by saying that it's very hard for me to write objectively about Turkey because I've dearly loved this country ever since I was in my 20s. It awed and amazed me then with its beauty and the warmth and the innate decency of its people.

I'd expected this visit to remove the rose tinted glasses of memory and yet I find Turkey even more wonderful and more romantic than I'd remembered. Partly, I suspect, that's due to the presence of your ever lovely ever wonderful mother. But it's also Turkey. The Mediterranean coast with its blue water, green tree carpeted mountains, and picturesque villages is romantic. Istanbul, the Ottoman geographic soul of Turkey, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its palaces and great minarets rising straight up from the waters of the Bosporous and the Golden Horn. Only in Istanbul would a 400 year old mosque be known as the New Mosque. On the Princes Islands in the strait you go around by horse and buggy because no cars are permitted. Each morning we ate our breakfast on the roof of our hotel. On my left was the Sea of Marmara, to my front was the Blue Mosque (my favorite building in the whole world), to Mom's front was Haga Sophia (the greatest church in christendom for 900 years). Topkapi Palace was a 5 minute walk from our hotel.

Yet Turkey is much more than its physical beauty and romance. If geography is destiny, Turkey, with one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia and a knee in the Middle East, is and has long been destined for extraordinary things. It has long been the battleground of eastern and western armies and ideas. The Greeks, the Macedonians, and the Romans invaded from the west, the Arabs from the south, and the Persians and the Mongols from the east. And both the people and the culture show it. You meet a great mix of Turks - from blue eyed and faύr skinned to swarthy and slant eyed peoples. The people are 99 percent moslem and yet the country is as secular as the United States. The Moslem sabbath is friday and yet the weekend here is saturday and sunday. Trading has long been at the core of Turkish life and it shows in turkish hospitality and the warm friendliness of even short contacts. Here, inviting strangers to tea is a way of life and social interaction is the grease that makes life work. Alas, that results in long and elaborate meals and many hours in the Turkish baths. God, am I going to miss turkish baths and turkish food.

Sic transit gloria.

Love, Dad

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