Jump to content


Welcome to Travelers' Stories About Turkey

Welcome to Travelers' Stories About Turkey, like most online communities you must register to view or post in our community, but don't worry this is a simple free process that requires minimal information for you to signup. Be apart of Travelers' Stories About Turkey by signing in or creating an account.
  • Start new topics and reply to others
  • Subscribe to topics and forums to get automatic updates
  • Get your own profile and make new friends
  • Customize your experience here
  • Create an Album and share your pictures
Please take a minute and register :)
Guest Message by DevFuse
 

Photo

"A Step in the River" By Barbara Bowen


No replies to this topic

#1 Admin

Admin

    Extreme Member

  • ™Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 330 posts

Posted 31 December 2003 - 10:32

"A Step in the River" By Barbara Bowen

A Step in the River

Remain open, and all will be well.

I'M RIDING THE FERRY To KuSADASI AFTER A STOP ON SAMOS, a Greek hub off Turkey's coast. Coincidence has me aboard with Mike, a fellow New Yorker I'd met in Patmos, the last island of my Greek visit. We've both heard tales about travel in Turkey--stolen credit cards, con men, nightclub mishaps, solo women accosted- but we're committed. Mike is due to catch a flight from Istanbul, and I'm meeting friends for a sailing adventure at Marmaxis, down the coast. The twilight sky begins to drape a soft curtain over Kusadasi Bay, filled with ugly tankers looming like steel cattle. The city is a profusion of shabby buildings packed like crowded teeth. It's a drastic contrast to Patmos, where pastoral charms-enchanted hills, grazing sheep, luminous multicolored stones-die hard, as my mind is taken hostage by a new riiise-en-sc&ne. The thought of traveling alone here fills my heart with vague dread.
I've read that Kusadasi is noted as a popular resort town. One of few Aegean passageways from Greece to Turkey, it's also gateway to Ephesus, the mysterious ancient city dating from circa 10 B.C. Most of Ephesus's remarkably intact ruins are from its heyday in the Roman period. By then a metropolis, it allowed religious free- dom for all inhabitants: Jews, Anatobans, Romans, Egyptians, and the first Christians. I'm drawn to ancient relics, especially those proffering clarity on the present day. Turkey is full of such riches. I plan to make stops in search of them on my journey south.
At the border crossing, Mike and I laugh nervously, then hold our breath as we squeeze past a throng of travelers. We hit the street. Turks accost us, selling their hotels, rugs, and jewelry. Barely audible, we yell goodbye amidst the din.
I'm looking for a bank. A Turk shouts and tugs at my sleeve, demanding I get into his car. "Here, here!" he shrieks, pointing to a feminine figure in the back seat. "American woman, right here! You come, you come, too!" I whip my bags off the ground and gallop, full throttle, to the other side of the street. The man sends a shiver up my spine, and so does the entire spectacle. I look for a place to hide-feehng like an alien pup among wolve&--bathed in a meteoric shower of fluo- rescent glare from the shops. Brassy trinkets, Turkish rugs, and handbags scream at me from all directions.
In Athens, I'd bought a ring from a young sultry Greek woman with profuse hair and equivocating black eyes. I bought the ring, an onvx. wonderin2 if I really

We started to dread going outside and got a negative feeling about Turkey, but after analyzing the touts're- sponses, my husband and I real- ized that by not speaking to them we were hurting their self- esteem. We had perceived them to be unfeeling, unscrupulous, aggressive forces trying to push us into shops. We felt like tourist dust being brushed this way and that by human brooms. But we didn't realize that the touts were human and that their job was difficult. They are constantly rejected and they only make money if they get tourists to go into the shops.
-Donna Schilder, "Hawker- nyms: Out-Touting the Touts"


liked it. At this moment, it seems to leer at me like The Evil Eye. A British woman taps me on the shoulder. Her calm, empathetic manner is balm for stretched nerves. She too was accosted upon first arrival in Kusadasi. She suggests I take a room in her hotel. It's close by, she purrs. We proceed down a dirt lane through the main square with a dizzy array of merchants and vendors. Shop fronts and outdoor stands are packed in solid rows. Vaca- tioning Turks are buzzing past, the foreign traveler being a rarity here in September.
We walk and walk, until, it seems, we've walked forever. We enter a quaint but tattered lobby. Who's there but the Turk-the one with the car. He owns this hotel. Stout and compact as a bul- let, his energy commands the entire room. He'd sent the Brit to snag me, sneaky devil. Sitting nearby is my American counterpart, as advertised. The Turk, I'll call him Osman, brings us "ahpel tee" to smooth our feathers. Mine are not smooth. But I tell myself to relax. Here, respect for personal boundaries will not equal what I consider normal. I hear the rate: about ten dollars. Rough rooms by American standards, but decent.
I reluctantly speak with Charmaine, "The American." She is also a victim of the coup, after all. She's twenty-something and lively. Defiance is loosening. I take a room, as Charmaine has, and we decide to brave the streets for dinner.
We wander the streets in awe. The men, and even the Turkish women, dispense airs of aggression. The square exhales the brash winds of Western commerce entangled with the exotic East. We amble up a street full of nightclubs. Like incensed roosters, men taunt and tease us toward their watering holes with the lure of discounts. It's all a game, circus-like.
One man leaps at me, grabs my arm, and shouts one inch from my ear, "Scooz me plez, con I haahsel you?!" He snatches a 5 mil- lion lire note, out of my hand. When I snatch it back on impulse, he turns beet red, shaming me for thinking he was stealing my money. He was trying to help me count it, he says, storming about like a peacock striving for take-off.
"Look, my friend," I say. "We Americans think it rude to snatch things out of one's hand. I know you weren't stealing my money (yeah, right). I have been in Turkey for only two hours now. Forgive me, eh?" hotel. It's close by, she purrs. We proceed down a dirt lane through the main square with a dizzy array of merchants and vendors. Shop fronts and outdoor stands are packed in solid rows. Vaca- tioning Turks are buzzing past, the foreign traveler being a rarity here in September.
We walk and walk, until, it seems, we've walked forever. We enter a quaint but tattered lobby. Who's there but the Turk-the one with the car. He owns this hotel. Stout and compact as a bul- let, his energy commands the entire room. He'd sent the Brit to snag me, sneaky devil. Sitting nearby is my American counterpart, as advertised. The Turk, I'll call him Osman, brings us "ahpel tee" to smooth our feathers. Mine are not smooth. But I tell myself to relax. Here, respect for personal boundaries will not equal what I consider normal. I hear the rate: about ten dollars. Rough rooms by American standards, but decent.
I reluctantly speak with Charmaine, "The American." She is also a victim of the coup, after all. She's twenty-something and lively. Defiance is loosening. I take a room, as Charmaine has, and we decide to brave the streets for dinner.
We wander the streets in awe. The men, and even the Turkish women, dispense airs of aggression. The square exhales the brash winds of Western commerce entangled with the exotic East. We amble up a street full of nightclubs. Like incensed roosters, men taunt and tease us toward their watering holes with the lure of discounts. It's all a game, circus-like.
One man leaps at me, grabs my arm, and shouts one inch from my ear, "Scooz me plez, con I haahsel you?!" He snatches a 5 mil- lion lire note, out of my hand. When I snatch it back on impulse, he turns beet red, shaming me for thinking he was stealing my money. He was trying to help me count it, he says, storming about like a peacock striving for take-off.
"Look, my friend," I say. "We Americans think it rude to snatch things out of one's hand. I know you weren't stealing my money (yeah, right). I have been in Turkey for only two hours now. Forgive me, eh?" hotel. It's close by, she purrs. We proceed down a dirt lane through the main square with a dizzy array of merchants and vendors. Shop fronts and outdoor stands are packed in solid rows. Vaca- tioning Turks are buzzing past, the foreign traveler being a rarity here in September.
We walk and walk, until, it seems, we've walked forever. We enter a quaint but tattered lobby. Who's there but the Turk-the one with the car. He owns this hotel. Stout and compact as a bul- let, his energy commands the entire room. He'd sent the Brit to snag me, sneaky devil. Sitting nearby is my American counterpart, as advertised. The Turk, I'll call him Osman, brings us "ahpel tee" to smooth our feathers. Mine are not smooth. But I tell myself to relax. Here, respect for personal boundaries will not equal what I consider normal. I hear the rate: about ten dollars. Rough rooms by American standards, but decent.
I reluctantly speak with Charmaine, "The American." She is also a victim of the coup, after all. She's twenty-something and lively. Defiance is loosening. I take a room, as Charmaine has, and we decide to brave the streets for dinner.
We wander the streets in awe. The men, and even the Turkish women, dispense airs of aggression. The square exhales the brash winds of Western commerce entangled with the exotic East. We amble up a street full of nightclubs. Like incensed roosters, men taunt and tease us toward their watering holes with the lure of discounts. It's all a game, circus-like.
One man leaps at me, grabs my arm, and shouts one inch from my ear, "Scooz me plez, con I haahsel you?!" He snatches a 5 mil- lion lire note, out of my hand. When I snatch it back on impulse, he turns beet red, shaming me for thinking he was stealing my money. He was trying to help me count it, he says, storming about like a peacock striving for take-off.
"Look, my friend," I say. "We Americans think it rude to snatch things out of one's hand. I know you weren't stealing my money (yeah, right). I have been in Turkey for only two hours now. Forgive me, eh?" He nods his head with stern approyal, watching to see who's watching him, now satisfied a woman hasn't appeared to best him.
One glass of sewage-beer later, Charmaine and I already feel like caged animals in a frenzied zoo. We commit to leaving Kusadasi in the morning. We are no longer eager to suffer the crowds at Ephesus, nor to rest complacent under Osman's rule. We attack Charmaine's travel book for a refuge south, where we both are headed. Back to the evening streets, amidst the mayhem. Crass commerce. Fevered invasion of personal boundaries. Kusadasi- fascinating and dreadful.
Near a clothing shop, we encounter a young Turk sitting with a sickly kitten, nursing it with a syringe. He is kindly stroking it. He talks with us softly, mourning the town he'd known as a child. "Kusadasi was a good place once," he says.
Charmaine and I amble back to the hotel, trying to compre- hend how economic hardship might elicit this jarring ambiance. Chronic weakness and corruption in banking, inefficient agricul- tural subsidies, flawed energy policies, and a slow pace of structural reforms, all contribute to Turkey's poverty and complex growing pains. I hate to admit, excepting the boy with the kitten, I'm un- easy in this vortex of raw confusion.
Charmaine and I make our getaway early. Turkish travel infra- structure is well-developed, especially the bus system. The bus to Soke, with one change, will lead us to our destination, Altinkum, a beach resort favored by Brits. Sadly, we leave the Ephesian Temple of Artemis and her statuary behind, unseen.
The countryside is mountainous with myriad pines. It recalls the Rockies, though the trees are spaced apart, exposing rich colorful topsoil. A surreal tableau of stunning green and burnt sienna rolls off to infinity. Mysterious wooden boxes line the hillsides, looking like crude urns for cremated ashes, a kind of cemetery We later dis- cover they hold beehives for the harvest of honey. We ride through peaceful hamlets engulfed by pink oleander and silvery olive groves. Out here, one is able to breathe a sigh of relief. The coun- try is revealing its beauty. We pass a line of young, armed soldiers along the road. Charmaine assures me they're simply guarding the basalt mines we passed a few nuinutes ago.
On our next bus, we meet Matthew, an Austrian bar owner from Altinkum. His breath is afire with spirits. He's funny, helpful, and probably in the right business. Thanks to him, we find a nice hotel, near the beach. Altinkum seems diametrically opposed to Kusadasi. It's small, slow, and quiet this time of year. We loll in the sun, serenaded by British accents floating above an expansive beach. Later, we eat waterside, engaging in conversation, as lan- guage barriers allow, with gentle Turks. Turkish women seem to disappear altogether outside larger cities. The vacancy is odd and extreme. Still, I'm cautiously warming up to Turkey. Charmaine is smitten, having a foundation of study to ground her. We've grown gratefiil that fate tossed us together.
The next day, Charmaine joins me in a motorbike campaign to three ancient sites. One of them, Priene, boasts an ancient Temple of Athena I've wanted to see ever since Athens. Viewing the Parthenon I had recalled the goddess Athena, in whose name it was built. I saw photographs of her thirty-nine-foot statue, moved long ago to Constantinople, now Istanbul. With helmet, spear, and bulging eyes, Athena's wisdom is projected as a warrior's, amazon- like. Centuries before the Olympians appropriated her, Athena's essence was of deep knowledge and regeneration, symbolized by the owl. The ruins of Priene date from this earlier era.
We rent an old bag-of-bones motorbike on the beachfront and set off, swerving and guffawing like a couple of drunks. Exiting the town limits, we enter an entirely different world. Rolling hills give way to long straight roadways, again giving way to rocky curves. Up ahead, cresting waves are licking the sky. Into the bracing air, we ride the coastline where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet. We are dwarves amidst the azure expanse. Scant traffic con- sists of mostly old-style tractors driven by salt-of-the-earth men W"*1 leaf@levy skin. Kn occa@lonA moaetn CaT passes 'b'J, yook@n% ghastly and out of place. Even Ed, our fondly named motorbike, seems too advanced for this scene. The hills unfold into a vast alluvial plain, as the road carries us further inland. We witness billowing white tents in the distance, appearing at once feeble and majestic. Cotton fields are coming into view. We didn't know white balls bursting forth on jagged branches. Draped in heavy garments for warding off the sun, migrant families are harvesting them. Their swollen loads protrude in odd juxtaposition to their bodies. Impulsively, we begin to wave hello. Waves returned, we feel a tinge less awkward about our entry into their world. This little bike is a time ma- chine, pushing us deeper into the past. Many families live packed into those tents. There is a simplicity out here-a bare earth struggle for sur- vival-that Charmaine and I will never know.
Miletus protrudes in the distance, like an ancient space- ship on a flat plain. By the eighth century B.C., Miletus was the principle Greek City State of the Aegean. It produced the world's first

As we sped off into the country, the pension manager shouted, "Fill up with gas!" A quick glance at the gas gauge showed a full tank, so we took his caution as a simple reminder to bring back a full tank. We took turns at the helm, no destination before us other than excitement and adventure. And we found both about fifteen kilometers outside of Cirgiip, when the scooter began slowing just past the village of Aksilur. As we sputtered to a stop, we remembered the pension man- ager's last words. Even though the gas gauge was still looking mighty "P, a glance into the tank revealed a shiny and stain- less steel bottom. Bone dry.
-Ryan Forsythe, "Friends I'd Never Met Before"


Western philosophers, including Heraclitus. A poetic fragment of his reads, "It's not possible to step twice into the same river ... it scatters again, comes together, and approaches and recedes." We are literally the only tourists here today. It's dead quiet, and the structures loom large. Portions of the great city are intact, like the Roman-Era theater seating 24,000 people. Roman baths, a beau- tiful old mosque and Hellenistic stadium, are also well preserved.
Two young Turks, Yesil and Aydan, escort me to an olive grove to see temples too far gone for the camera. But their Turkish hospi- tality is endearing. Aydan points out, in shyly chopped English, that he's getting married in the spring. He shows off his horse, the one Yesil is now riding. As we saddle Ed, they fill our hands with tasty roasted grains, on the order of peanuts. Leaving Miletus, we pass young women hauling cotton. They turn their backs, pretending they don't see us. Soon, however, they peek from behind their loads, beaming smiles, playing to the camera.
On the road to Priene, our main and furthest destination, a flatbed truck passes by. On the back, a huge load of workers is packed like blades of grass. We're a stone's throw away from the truck. With each of them facing us, the eye contact is near embar- rassing. Still, we are compelled, as if magnetically, to stay close. We're awkward intruders, trying to veil our conspicuousness. That's hope- less. We surrender and relax on the wind. Tensions between truck and bike start to give way, and we extend our hands up. A few of their hands move upward. More go into the air. Some eyes are lighting up, ours catching fire on theirs. White teeth are gleaming under sheer iridescent scarves in pastel colors that float like chiffon across the women's faces. The craggy, sun-beaten skin, the multi- colored wraps, the children's pigtails and overalls, ivory palms riding the air ... suddenly look unspeakably beautiful. We wave and flow and wave and flow, until every face has opened, and we have be- come simple spirits waffing on breezes that he behind the ravages of time, deep inside the strangeness of ourselves, where we are fa- miliar. The present moment expands into immeasurable lifetimes.
Priene is at least another thirty minutes away. The books make the three sites sound like hop, skip, and jump. They are not. Ed putts along, but is showing his age. We cross our fingers. The plain stretches to forever. W& are virtually alone on the road. Finally we reach Priene, most spectacular of the ancient Ionian cities, literally perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Meander Valley.
Priene was designed in the fourth century B.c. by Pytheos, who inspired the famous mausoleum. Largely unchanged since Hellenistic times, it was built in a strict geometric grid. The site is vacant except for a few other straggling tourists. Ghosts, eager to tell their stories, seem to hover among the giant rubble. Gigantic steps lead up to the Temple of Athena. It's located high on the bluff over the valley, once the seafloor in ancient times, before the silt- ing of the Meander River filled the harbor. We try to imagine how this still awesome sanctuary looked with the endless blue sea ex- panding outward, dramatic waves lashing at the heels of the cliff.
Charmaine and I don't speak much. My camera dwells on the golden afternoon light. I shoot, unhurried. Charmaine writes in her journal. Time freezes on the colossal Ionian columns, broken, but no less powerful. Athena's original and purest essence seems to be lurking. The temple bears an inscription noting that Alexander the Great financed its completion. He also liberated the Prieneans from the Persians. For this, they devoted a small shrine to Alexander, considering him in league with the gods.
We need to photograph Didyma, our last city, in the fading rays of today's sun. We jump down the mammoth steps, an old design, for lack of sophisticated weapons, to intimidate intruders. Ed awaits. We pack him up and retrace our path in the amber light, a play of glow and shadow.
Soon Ed begins to cough and spit. We plead with him that his death could well be ours, or at least cause unthinkable problems. The sky dims over the endless valley. A new chill enters the air. Thankfully, Ed obliges. As twilight falls, we reach Didyma.
Didyma was holy ground long before the Ionians ever arrived. The Greeks rededicated the site to their god, Apollo. The oracle was continued and intimately connected with the ancient city of Miletus.
The site is closing, but I quickly shoot what I can of the elegant structures. The Temple of Apollo is the dominant focus. It en- compasses over 100 stone columns in a double row, and seventy- foot walls. The design was so highly advanced, it needed work intermittently for 500 years. Though never finished, it was consid- ered the greatest architectural feat of the ancients. Many columns have been re-erected. What's left of the structure is pure drama and a sight to behold at sunset, but there's little time to savor it.
I find Charmaine across the, road, talking in her friendly man- ner with several Turkish men. They enjoy her with no trace of disrespect. The rural Turkish woman is tucked away at home, hv- ing the purely domestic life.Western currents pull hard in Turkey, but deeply rooted Islamic tradition drags like undertow, away from the larger cities. An infant country groping upon a land of deep and layered history, Turkey overflows with paradox.
Dusk creeps in and ushers us onward, back to Altinkum. Ed chugs along, giving us the last of his life. Entering the town limits, I feel myself crossing a threshold. At Athena's temple, we entered stillness, a wisdom deeper than a warrior's. The workers on the flatbed truck brought us wholly alive to the present. With them, the spirit of Artemis broke free. Turkey is undeniably raw-in her torrid struggle for identity and survival, yes. But also in her sheer power to touch eternal bone, in her elegance as ancient portal to the nerve center of being. The river called Meander once led through Priene, Miletus, and Didyma, all those years ago. The day was like a step in the river, as Heraclitus wrote, never to be re- peated. Despite all expectations, Turkey has warmed in my blood- stream. I glance at my ring. It now appears benevolent.

Barbara Bowen is a writer of drama and creative nonfiction, with twelve years experience in professional photography. Her work is inspired by travel and mythology, and isfocused on the intersection between art and spiritual- ity. She has written theater reviewsJor New City Magazine, Chicago. Her prose and poetry have been published in journals and reference books across the U S.

"A Step in the River" By Barbara Bowen



Reply to this topic