Shortly after 9/11 and the NATO invasion of Afghanistan, I spent a month in Istanbul, from December 2001 to January 2002, visiting the family of my late friend, Cem Ozcan. It was the snowiest winter in over 50 years, which derailed our travel plans somewhat. However, the beauty of Istanbul was inescapable–the snow marking the lines of the fulsome domes of the mosques and especially the Aya Sofya (Haghia Sophia) was otherwordly–and the hospitality of Cem’s family and all the other Turks I met was so very warm. It left me with a gnawing desire to return there someday.
I got that chance in 2006 when I met Sevket Basdelen, who invited me to come visit him and, if things worked out, to come and stay. We had a great time getting to know each other on the initial visit in April, seeing some of the sites of Istanbul and then traveling south to his hometown of Soma to meet his family, stopping in the fishing village of Dikili on the Aegean Sea along the way. We saw Bergama, which was known as Pergamum in ancient Roman times, the home of the famous physician Galen. We stayed in a pansiyon on Cunda Adasi, an island in the Aegean, where we saw the ruins of a Greek Orthodox basilica, drank lots of cay (tea) as all Turks do and hung out in a cafe complete with a cat and her kitten, where they even let me play their electric guitar one night!
The highlights of our stay on Cunda Adasi:
In the city of Soma in the state of Manisa, I got to meet Sevket’s family. I stayed in his parent’s home, as well as at his big sister’s. Everyone was so friendly to me, even though my Turkish was minimal. Sevket did a lot of off-the-cuff translating. His English is quite fluent, so that helped quite a bit. Still, in situations like this, you can never help but wonder what gets LOST IN TRANSLATION ( or, conversely, what gets added or garbled in translation!)….
Some photos of the city of Soma and of Sevket’s family:
After the visit to Soma, we took the bus back to the coast to the city of Izmir, where we caught one of the big buses back to Istanbul. I wish I’d taken some photos of the inter-city buses. They were pretty amazing. More like airline travel than bus travel. There is a steward in each bus who provides you with snacks and drinks and wet cloths, warm or cold, to freshen up with. There are movies to watch, when they are working, although I always prefered to look out the window. It’s really quite a treat, riding the inter-city buses in Turkey. Which is a good thing, considering that the ride through the mountains, of which there are very, very many, is hair-raising in the extreme!
You’ll have to join me in my next post, in which Sevket and I decide to move in together in Istanbul after I take a flying trip back to the States to take care of busiiness and family matters. That will be “I Used To Live In Istanbul…Part Two.” And it will be more reflective of my thoughts and feelings as an expat there, and I will expound on all sorts of themes… Can you possibly wait?