The Grand Bazaar was built shortly after the Ottoman takeover in the 1450’s and has been added on to and improved over the centuries. With that in mind, I was expecting something distinctly Turkish when we went there on Friday, October 17, but was disappointed to find it was just a pretty but low-end mall having store after store of Chinese-made goods. We did buy nuts and tea from a merchant there though who is of Turkish descent but born and raised in England. He moved to Turkey five years ago. He asked me where I’m from and was surprised (as are so many people we encounter) to hear “America.” He told me I have propriety (his word) and values like he does (all based on my tea purchase?) and unlike every other American he’s met. He also told me I’m more feminine than most Americans. That one I really don’t understand – I was wearing a skirt, maybe that was it. “Thank you?” I said. “I’m not really sure how to respond to that.”
Last Sunday we took a train and a bus to the Rahmi Koç Museum which houses many, beautiful, old cars as well as trains and a boat and a submarine. Koç is an elderly billionaire who ran (now his sons do) an industrial conglomerate started by his father which now has more than $12 billion in annual sales and employs 40,000 people, according to Wikipedia. Koç got the idea of having his own museum after seeing the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. We paid extra to tour the submarine but didn’t know the tour would be in Turkish. (Nearly all the museum informational signs are bilingual or English only.) There were many brides and grooms having their wedding pictures taken at the museum in front of some of the fancier cars. Their decorated wedding cars were parked in the lot.
On Wednesday, October 22, we took the public ferry from Eminönü in the old part of Istanbul up the Bosphorus to an area (still part of Istanbul, I think) next to the Black Sea called Anadolu Kavağı on the Asia side. We had three hours to eat lunch at our choice of fish restaurant and walk up the steep hill to the ancient castle ruins of Yoros Kalesi (Yoros Castle), parts of which are off-limits currently because of archeological excavations. The castle was built some time during the Byzantine period and continued to be used by the Ottomans. Its strategic location was essential for keeping out enemies sailing south from the Black Sea. The village of Rumeli Kavağı, directly across the Bosphorus on the European side, worked with their neighbors on the Asian side, running a chain across the Bosphorus during war times to catch enemy ships.
Dolmabahçe Palace as seen from the ferry:
Yesterday (Friday) we took the train to Eminönü again and found a place to walk along the shore. The weather was perfect, and the area wasn’t thronged with tourists. It was wonderful.
And finally (loud cheering ensues), I would like to comment about the little bit of Turkish/Ottoman history I’ve learned recently. In an earlier post I had commented about the Armenian genocide without learning much of anything about it. I still haven’t read in depth about Turkish history, but Tuğrul sent me some links to YouTube videos in which University of Louisville history professor Justin McCarthy talks about the mass slaughter of Turks by Russians and other groups over the centuries. Tuğrul also sent me a link to an article by 98-year-old, British-American historian and Princeton professor Bernard Lewis. Lewis, in speaking to a journalist with French newspaper, Le Monde, years ago was sued for denying the holocaust, a crime in France. The holocaust denying for which he was sued was not the Jewish one but the Armenian one. While Lewis doesn’t deny the mass killings of the Armenians by the Turks, he stops short of calling it genocide since the Armenians were engaged in armed combat with the Turks and because once the Armenians left Turkey, they were not further pursued for destruction – major differences between that and the Jewish genocide by the Nazis. So…I plan to read McCarthy’s Turkish history books, but only one is available as an e-book and costs $60. When I get back to the States though, I’ll find myself a paper copy. When it comes to history, there are at least two sides to every story. I should have considered that in my earlier post.