Archive for April, 2011


Briefing-Historical Background of Modern Turkey

This briefing was absolutely fascinating. It was like having a National Geographic Article in the flesh. Our academic for this briefing was Asli Ozyar and she has become one of my role models. She was brilliant and I cannot wait to debrief with myself in Australia and email her to get resources off of her.

Her idea of modern Turkey is anything from the past 10,000 years. She briefed us on the Hittites (many of you will recognise them from the Bible) and the ancient Anatolians. Basically the Paleolithic era. This. Woman. Was. Fascinating. I took 6 pages of notes on this briefing so you will have to bear with my idyllic blubbering.

She mainly discussed the history of Turkey prior to the Greco-Roman age. Did you know that the very first man-made monumental shrine IN THE WORLD was discovered in Turkey? Yeah. Impressive. I’m impressed. These weren’t just any random monumental shrines, these took some serious manpower to build. We are talking Stonehenge times 15. Serious manpower. I’m really upset that we weren’t able to go to the Hittite Museum in Ankara, but I shall make it a priority on my next trip.

Let’s start with a little bit of background though. Anatolia in Greek translates to “land as seen from Greece” or “land where sun rises”. Apparently they are one and the same. Turkey, being where east meets west, meaning in Anatolia itself there were complete regional differences. This does not include the area outside of Turkey. 3-400,000 years ago the first hominids appeared in Istanbul and about 10-12000 years ago they found the first permanent settlements in Turkey. Part of this was from climate change and part of this was due to the discovery of food production. Gotta love that agricultural lifestyle.

Anatolians

One of the big questions she asked was “What came first? Settling or agriculture?”. I found this to be an interesting question in light of my American and Australian background knowledge of Native Americans and Aboriginals. Certain Native American tribes would actually participate in agriculture using low maintenance crops that they could plant and then come back to at a certain point in the year to harvest and settle down for winter, while being hunter/gatherers the rest of the year. The Aboriginals would frequently cultivate and harvest native plants while at the same time living their hunter/gatherer lifestyle. I sort of assumed it was similar to that beginning and then they just happened to develop from this type of lifestyle to a fully agricultural, community driven lifestyle. In reality, it’s been discovered that they settled first and then developed into an agricultural society. They are still digging up the evidence regarding this, but there is enough evidence to say that they settled first. Archeologists are still trying to figure out the how and why of it all.

As previously stated with the massive religious shrine, Turkey is the home of the first known permanent sites in the world. The curious thing about this, as stated above, is that they were hunter/gatherers and there was actually no necessity for these permanent sites at this time. They still don’t know how they were capable of making these shrines. Everyone knows a lot of the sites in Turkey was made by slavery, but as these were hunter gatherers we are talking about I doubt they had a significant amount of slaves. These shrines were made with very large, very heavy stone slabs. There’s about 15 shrines in the one location in total and they contain monolithic pillars (one giant slab of rock rather than individual slabs contained in each pillar) and they weigh a couple of tons each. This would have taken some serious engineering and social skills.

In light of this, I should let you know that the only known earlier artwork there are cave paintings of wild boar and birds at Gobekli Tepe.

Following this monumental structure, there have been village type architecture found in Cayönü which coincides with the megalithic structures used for worship. All this led to the Bronze Age (for this region, not necessarily for other regions) which happened in the 4th millennium BC. During this age they’ve discovered that Anatolia was full of villages, but not large cities and most of them had access to mines. The exploitation of metals in this region began very early and very few other regions in the world can compete on the same timeline.

In the scope of human evolution in regards to civilisation, metallurgy (the working of metals) has been a key ingredient to social progression and cultural complexity. Copper “swords” were found from the 4th millennium BC and by the 3rd millennium BC elaborate burials for the elite were being performed. They found crowns, golden goblets and writing as well. From the remains that they have been able to put together almost all the remains are identified as female. They are still unaware of the exact significance of these burials, but obviously the women in these societies were important. The big thing to understand here is that the treasure they were buried with, much like the pharaohs of Egypt, was produced purely for the burial.

These people were the first known people to work metals. Bronze and copper and all that jazz. They were making metal pots before most civilisations were working out how to drink out of their hands. Turkey has an insanely rich history. The Hittites and their ancestors were essentially the peak of ancient human civilisation. They kept everything recorded on clay tablets using cuneiform writing when the Egyptians were discovering Papyrus. I’m recording this digitally and it’s going to be destroyed and lost far before the baked cuneiform clay tablets from thousands of years ago.

Hittites

I’ve always had a rather strong fascination with Turkey due to the fact that it does have the East meets West history, but I never really knew about its ancient history. Now that I have a very limited background on its ancient history I have even more of a fascination with it. I reckon I could get a holiday home on the beach as they are super cheap here, spend three months out of the year here studying Turkey for the rest of my life and be a happy person. One of the things I find fascinating is all the history about the Hittites. The old testament of the Bible mentions the Hittites quite a few times but really doesn’t say much about them, but we learn so much about them from recent discoveries.

The Hittites formed urban states that contained territorial aspects. Turkey, as hosts to the Hittite Kingdom, was essentially the first real “State” as we know nation states today. Ankara has an open air museum that I will definitely be visiting next time I am in Turkey that is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing preservation of early state archives on clay of a land deed written in an Indo-European language recorded in cuneiform script. This is the earliest recorded Indo-European language found and is a sister language to Greek. The benefits of writing on clay tablets is that they don’t degrade like paper and paper-like items (such as papyrus), they survive fire, you can put them back together if they are broken. It’s beautiful.

They have also found peace treaties between the Hittites and the Egyptians used as a means of empire building. There was a formal international treaty between Pharaoh Ramesses II and Hattushili III, they have found land titles from Anatolia, letters from scribes to their families. It’s so amazing. It was an annalistic recording of political events which provided a model for later widespread use of annals in the Near East and shows a great historical consciousness. 10’s of thousands of archives have been found and there was also a great amount of artwork found of pottery that had handles and sharp edges, imitating metals before most people were making clay pots. It was also found that the Hittites were very fond of falconry and likened falcons to symbols of deities. The god that they worshipped originally was the weather god (the bull, aka Zeus in later times) and this was especially important for them as they relied on dry farming.

The more interesting thing is what happened to all of this, in my opinion. There is a sudden period between the bronze age and the  iron age in which all trace of their culture is lost. I liken it to Babylon where everyone suddenly started speaking a different language. They stopped using clay tablets to record things and we aren’t really sure what happened to them as a civilisation.

The Iron Age

The collapse of the Bronze Age shows a strong change in the balance of powers. It’s very bizarre because it shows a de-evolution of people (as opposed to regression, which we are seeing today). Sites were abandoned, there was new migrations of people and the 1st millennium also shows the rise of the Assyrians and the Persian Empire. There was the uprising of Alexander the Great and the first forms of what we know as globalisation (as opposed to the previous empire building) began to make an appearance. The reasons are unknown, but it is theorised that this was due to climate change and civilisation in Anatolia and Egypt reaching a saturation point.

I also find it interesting and it sort of relates to a book I need to reread called When God was a Woman. Women were buried with gold treasure that was specifically made for the burials. I think it would be fascinating to know the culture that held women in such high esteem and why it necessitated them being buried with such beautiful treasures. It is a far cry from the lack of women’s rights in the world today, Turkey included. It forces me to consider the interesting dynamic between regression and evolution in human cultures.

Based on briefings we have had during my time in Turkey and discussions with the people on this trip most of the people agree that mankind in general is regressing. It just gives me one more thing to think about. Once again, using Sara as an example, being Muslim she believes that Judgement day will come and she believes that it is near due to the fact that there is very little decency and compassion left in the world. This is a far cry from the academic who briefed us, who when questioned about her religious beliefs in such a predominantly Muslim society stated “I know too much to believe in any god”. I find that I can relate to her and really look up to what she said. I must say, with as much as we know, it takes someone who is very devout and strong in their faith to believe anymore, but it takes someone who is just as strong in their belief that there is no God to deny something that many people may socially persecute them for.

I know what it is like personally as I have been persecuted by many people, some my own “family” though I only consider them related by mere coincidence rather than family at this point.

While this religion topic may seem to digress it is highly relevant to how historical Anatolia shaped modern Turkey. Historical Anatolia and the Hittites started out with few gods, but they were definitely polytheistic. They had the Bull, which represented Zeus essentially, they had the deer to represent mother Earth and another god that I can’t recall, possibly the falcon. They were very Hellenistic as they realised that allowing cultures to keep their own gods allowed for better assimilation (back to the assimilation and integration briefing) and the culture grew to possibly thousands of gods, similar to Egypt or ancient Rome and ancient Greece.

Somehow, for better or worse, you decide, the polytheistic belief system developed into the monotheistic Ibrahimic religion that it is today. It varied throughout history, shuffling between Christian and Muslim, into the conservative Muslim society that most people associate with Turkey. I have barely scraped the surface of this briefing (once again with scraping the bloody surface), but I hope it has been enough to inspire anyone reading this to learn more about the topic at hand. I have purchased a copy of the Qu’ran and my copy of the Bible is in the US but I plan on bringing it back with me next time I am in the US so I can read more on the Hittites and ancient Palestine.

If anyone wants the email of the professor who gave this briefing so that they can get some more sources on the topic at hand please let me know and I can get you her email address.

Briefing: Intercultural Dialogue Platform

I’m going to attempt to not bore you too much regarding our briefings, so if you aren’t interested just don’t look at any of the blogs that start with briefing, but I would like to give a brief background and I would like to give my opinions and thoughts on the briefings.

The Intercultural Dialogue Platform is a NGO (Non-Government Organisation) headed by a man by the name of Fethullah Gülen. This man is actually exiled from Turkey due to the fact that if he returns he will be tried by the government for his “un-Turkish” ideals and his religious opinion in government. This idea of “insulting Turkishness” will be touched on in a different blog.

This groups was really fascinating to me. Their purpose originally was to establish a dialogue between the Muslims (predominant in Turkey), Christians and Jews in Turkey to find common ground, determine what could be done to benefit everyone and what could be done for a more peaceful interaction between the different religions. The actual board of this NGO is made up of 20 some people I am told from different sects of Christianity, Catholic priests and bishops, and Muslim Imam’s.

This group has seven main platforms and the main platform is dialogue, but they have a very recent platform which includes women which actually is in regard to the perception of women in the media (very different discussion from the women’s education group we met with). This group’s opinion of women in the media is that women are sexualised and this needs to stop. As a VERY liberal woman I would have to say that I agree with them. I find it interesting that Turkey is such a conservative country (In all towns I have been wearing long sleeves, long pants and always have a scarf just in case I need to cover my head) but all the billboards and TV adverts and music video’s I see include scantily clad, gorgeously beautiful women. I’m pretty sure I saw a mobile (cell) phone advert that had a woman in a bikini. So yes, one of their campaigns is trying to combat the sexualisation of women in media.

I would actually be interested in seeing a translation of a Turkish school textbook after this briefing as they mentioned that there were “negative connotations” (these weren’t elaborated on) in Turkish school textbooks of minorities and other groups of people. I can assume that the Armenians and Kurds may be mentioned in a negative light, but I’m not sure who else it would mention in a negative light. I think it would be similar to US history texts mentioning the Native Americans as “Primitives” or “savages” though. They mentioned that they successfully campaigned to have these negative connotations removed from textbooks. I would be especially interested in having English translations as I did a thesis at Montana State University on censorship of textbooks in public schools. One of the guys on this trip who is Chinese discussed with me that he was glad to see that it wasn’t just China who altered “history” in textbooks. It truly is a fascinating topic.

Another thing that really interested me about this group can relate directly to Prime Minister of Germany Angela Merkel’s direct quote “multi-culturalism hasn’t worked.” Talk about a racist comment in light of a country that outlaws anti-semitism language. In context she is talking about a minority population migrating to a country with better opportunities but not assimilating and integrating with the local culture. They are retaining their own culture and staying with their own communities and particularly in “radical Islam” is recruiting young kids into a downward spiral, not of drugs, but of terrorism. Minority youth are feeling increasingly isolated and as a youth I can say that kids will look to anywhere that they can feel as part of a group. I digress. This group is focusing on dialogue for how groups can get together without integrating and assimilating, but can live side by side in their own communities within one country ruled by a minority group. They are looking at how to teach tolerance at a grassroots level in children because they are the future) without forcing them to assimilate and integrate different cultures to have, as Bill Bryson would put it, “Amalgamation, the perfect small town.”

I find this view very interesting. I can see where they are coming from as I think it is very important to remember your own culture and where you are from (for educational and discussion purposes if nothing else) as I am from the US and living in Australia and travelling around the world, but I think staying within your own community and not assimilating to the local culture breeds nothing but resentment and deprives the local culture from a very good learning experience. It’s like bringing Mexicans into the US solely for the Mexican food and then wanting them to leave or the Asians into Australia for the food and then wanting them to leave. It doesn’t make sense. It breeds racism and a superiority complex (I’m not saying it’s just “white’s towards other races” as it definitely works both ways and a mate of mine who is Chinese is somewhat racist towards other parts of China). I’m going to use my roommate again as an example and for this I hope she will forgive me.

She is Australian Turk. She was born and raised in Australia by Turkish parents. Went to a Turk school, goes to my University, is very interested in women’s rights and having a career, but is also very much tied to her Turkish culture. She wants a husband and children but also wants her career in a culture where a woman is a housewife once she has children. I can see from the way she talks that there is a difficulty in reconciling the Australian and Turkish culture, even if she doesn’t realise it yet (she is only 19). The fact that she has thought about it though and managed to be a very outspoken and independent and opinionated woman growing up in a very Turkish household and a Turkish school shows a successful assimilation and integration (in my opinion) of a multi-cultural lifestyle and I am rather impressed and believe that it can work and that it can only lead to good things in a country.

The main thing that I got out of this briefing, though I didn’t agree with everything was that it is extremely important to accept differences. I know that growing up I was different from many of my peers and my family for various things, but my family for the most part accepts me as I am. They may strongly disagree (my parents included) with a lot of my views and beliefs (or lack thereof pending on the subject), but they accept my differences and they believe in me and they know I am a good person. I have had family members and friends of the family who have essentially disowned me for some of my views, but other family members accept me for what I am, views and all. This, to me, proves that multi-culturalism can and does work when people are willing to be tolerant of those with different views and though I may not agree with everything the Intercultural Dialogue Platform ascribes to, I do think they have a very good message to send to the world.

After Topkapi Palace we went for lunch at this little restaurant with an insane amount of food per person. The amount of food I ate at this one meal was literally more food than I’d eaten in a week back home. Granted I was starving myself to pay for this trip, but that’s beside the point. There was one noteworthy thing to say at this restaurant though. This was the first time I’d ever tried Baklava. Ivo goes on and on about this particular dessert (which I wasn’t even aware was a dessert) and let me tell you…it is spectacular. I can’t get enough of it. I’m going to have to start making regular time consuming trips to Auburn when I get back to Sydney to obtain this sweet pastry of perfection.

After lunch we went to the Basilica Cistern. Wow! I have to say now that I have felt like an inarticulate 5 year old this entire trip. Everything I have seen is either “Wow”, “Amazing” or “Holy Buckets”. The Basilica Cistern is no exception. This insanely massive underground water holder thing was rediscovered only a few decades ago. It was reopened for the general public in the 1980’s and it is amazing. Apparently, it was built in Roman times (Constantinople was actually the capitol of the Eastern Roman empire, Rome being the capitol of the Western part of the Roman empire) and it has survived to this day with very little restoration. We walked into a very dark and dank area but it had a vast feel to it. It really is very dark in there. When we looked at the “far end” of the cistern it was actually only halfway down.

The story is that this cistern was built however long ago and then for some reason or other the people forgot about it, as they do, and residents would dig down below their houses and reach water and not realise that there was an entire cistern there which was bringing water from an outside spring via clay pipes and aquaducts. When it was “officially” found they cleaned and restored it and now charge people to see it as a tourist attraction and for good reason. It is truly amazing. There are heaps of carp and goldfish in the water and one can also throw coins into the cistern and make a wish, similar to the Trevi fountain in Italy. I will admit that I threw my coins in and made a wish, but I won’t tell you what that wish is. I recognise that the wish is highly unlikely to come true, but a girl can still wish, can’t she?

The columns in the Basilica Cistern aren’t actually all alike. Most of them look very different due to the fact that they are “Borrowed columns”. It was very common in the day to “borrow” columns from the Roman temples by taking the marble columns from other places to build different structures apparently. Keeping what would eventually be ancient Eastern Roman temples intact wasn’t a very high priority at the time. We later learned how they made such nice marble columns, but that will come in a later blog.

It was extremely difficult to get decent photos within the Basilica Cistern due to the fact that I had a cheap camera (compared to the really nice cameras) and it was very dark in there, though I need to say a MASSIVE thank you to my darling Ivo for letting me borrow his camera as it is much, much nicer than mine and I have been able to take extremely nice photos on it. At the back of the Basilica Cistern there were 2 other columns which had a base consisting of the head of Medusa. Everyone should know the story of Medusa, but for those who don’t, she was a beautiful woman with the most beautiful hair. She would brag and boast of having the most beautiful hair until one day one of the gods turned her hair to snakes and everyone who turned their eyes upon her would turn to stone. There are other stories which can be seen here though.

Anywho, 2 of the columns had Medusa’s for bases and one of the Medusa’s was upside down and the other one was turned on her side. One of the reasons for this apparently is because in “ancient” Christianity and the Ibrahimic (Abraham for the Western Christian/Catholic cultures) religions to turn something upside down was to deny it and to say “No, we don’t believe in you and you don’t exist”. To turn upside down Medusa would be to deny the pagan religions of the Roman and Greek gods. Personally, I was a fan of Medusa, but to each their own. I found these column bases absolutely fascinating. I figured that this was the end of the cistern and we would head straight for the exit, but no. There was an entire other section of the Basilica to check out with more columns, more carp, more goldfish and more to look at.

I just find it so amazing all the columns and the arches and how they were able to build this underwater cistern that survived for hundreds of years despite people building buildings over it and houses over it and streets where cars would drive over it and after all that pressure it is still standing in near pristine condition today (though I have no idea how the carp and goldfish got there).

The Hippodrome

After leaving the Basilica Cistern we went to see the Hippodrome, which apparently literally translates to “the place where they race horses”. The Hippodrome now is actually just sort of a giant public square with 3 sort of obelisks (2 obelisks and one small spiral thingy) and the Blue Mosque, or Sultanahmet mosque falls smack dab in the middle of it.

So in trying to picture a Hippodrome I think of it as a horse racing arena. You see the horse races and they contain a track, which goes around a fence and there is a giant grassy knoll in the middle that no one really touches. As I understand it the obelisks are what the horses would go around (where the grassy knoll was) and the stands or stadium seating was where the 30-some thousand spectators would sit to watch such exciting entertainment of the day.

Way back in the day, there were public uprisings and protests regarding the lower class of peoples, and Emperor Justinian, in all his might and glory, was pretty ticked off about people not being pleased with his rule and he actually waited until the Hippodrome was full with about 30,000 people waiting for an exciting horse race (think Ben Hur) and had the doors locked and had his army slaughter, yes slaughter, the 30,000 civilians in the stadium. Word has it that this took no longer than 3 hours. Talk about efficient. To be insensitive and completely inappropriate, I don’t think even Hitler was ever that efficient.

The Obelisks (and random Greek thingy) in the Hippodrome were also very interesting. The first obelisk that we saw was actually an Egyptian obelisk. It has Egyptian hieroglyphics and everything and was apparently only one third of the obelisk brought over from Egypt. How the Egyptians built such tall, slender structures without them falling over with the slightest wind is beyond me. The second “obelisk” was actually just this random Greek spiral, brought over from Greece and was the middle of the 3 obelisks. It literally looked like a spiral noodle only green and buried about 3 metres down, but that just shows how far the hippodrome has been buried since the thousand  or so years that it was used. The third obelisk we didn’t really get to see as it was under construction and I don’t really know what it was or anything about it, so I’m really sorry about that, but you’ll have to look it up.

Sultanahmet Mosque/ Blue Mosque

So the proper name for the mosque is Sultanahment Mosque. The Turks, I am told, hate the fact that it is commonly known in the Western world as the (in my opinion appropriately named) Blue Mosque because it takes away from the cultural heritage of it. I can understand why it is called the Blue Mosque though.

Before we entered, the outside looked like most every other extremely large Turkish Mosque. We actually entered from the side of the mosque, not the front of it, which I thought was quite bizarre as the front was no busier than the side, but whatever. I’m not sure how familiar most of my American friends and family are with mosques, but when you enter a mosque (especially for prayer) you are expected to be clean, because cleanliness is next to Godliness. They have a thing before prayer called abulations where you cleanse yourself in the fountain outside the mosque. There are very specific rules on this which I think I touched upon in another blog, but if not you can Wikipedia it.  Part of this cleanliness is that you don’t wear shoes in the mosque. You are also supposed to cover your head in the mosque if you are female and they provide scarves for you if you don’t already have one.

So we took our shoes off and wandered into the mosque and let me tell you, my 5 year old inarticulate self is saying “Wow!” and “Amazing”. There are literally thousands of tiles covering the interior of this mosque. It has the usual 4 pillars holding up the dome and these are also covered in tiles. All these beautiful hand painted tiles are painted with tulip patterns which are the symbol of the Ottoman empire. As I said previously, these tiles are HAND PAINTED. I’m sorry, but I can’t get over that bit.

When Özcan was telling us about the history of this mosque I had to eat my words about the sultans of the Ottoman empire being completely jaded. I maintain that they were somewhat jaded, but apparently the sultans where expected to be educated and learn a specific skill. The sultan who had the Sultanahmet Mosque built apparently specialised in architecture. Mosques all have minarets (even the tiny ones, and I have seen some tiny ones in rural Turkey) and Sultanahmet Mosque is no exception. Each minaret at Sultanahmet has 3 balconies, which is nothing special until you realise that there are 3 different staircases leading to each balcony and none of the staircases ever meet.  Nothing special until you realise that the minarets aren’t really more than 2 metres across. To fit 3 staircases in such a small space and making it so they never meet is an amazing feat. To this day, engineers, with all their sophisticated technology can not figure out how the Sultan managed to do it. I mean, it’s not exactly like they can just tear it apart to figure out how they work.

I still maintain the sultans were jaded to a degree however.

So back to the spectacular interior of the mosque. Thousands of gorgeously painted tiles and people praying. There were women in there who took off their headscarves (Europeans) and people who were speaking loudly and I was absolutely embarrassed. I will be the first to admit that I am not religious or spiritual in any way, but I am a firm believer in respecting the place you are in and the women taking off their headscarves was so disrespectful. I was truly embarrassed. The floor of the mosque was covered by (in my opinion) beautifully woven carpets with a tulip pattern, but apparently these carpets are mass produced as they used to have beautiful hand crafted Persian carpets in the mosque but someone broke in and stole them (who steals something from a place of worship? That’s just begging for bad karma). As my knees and hips were still hurting from the previous day I sat down fairly quickly and just decided to people watch with our trip advisor. Suleiman mosque is truly a magical human creation and attracts all walks of life as it is in such a tourist area. I watched those wretched European women who were wandering around without their headscarves off, I watched lovely old Turkish women with their children and grandchildren praying and marvelling at the architectural wonder that is this mosque. I watched men crossing the boundary meant to keep tourists from the main prayer area to pray to Allah for whatever it is the religious pray for (as an atheist I don’t really know what the religious pray for). Thankfully, the mosque is closed to the general public during prayer so that scheduled prayer time goes uninterrupted.

After visiting the mosque it had actually been a very long day and we decided it was time to go back to the hotel. While it may seem that it wasn’t that long of a day, can I say that we didn’t get back to the hotel until about 3ish or later. Some of us actually went to Istiklal to just check out the “main drag” of the younger generation before settling at some random cafe down a side street. I ordered the infamous Turkish Elma çay (apple tea) which was delicious and I have recently become addicted to while some of the group played backgammon and we enjoyed the “view”. It was amusing as we chose a table that we could all fit at and by the time we were settled in we noticed that two of the girls had a wonderful view of “WC” which means “water can”. I find this interesting that every “toilette” is labelled as “WC” as there isn’t actually a W in the Turkish alphabet. There were actually separate toilets for the bay and bayan, men and the women, but as the men seemed to be using them both (and not closing the door) this didn’t seem to matter much. I couldn’t keep myself from laughing every time I looked over there.

At one point during an intense game of backgammon some kid who couldn’t have been older than 13 passed with his friends, stopped and said something in Turkish.  Sara, one of the girls on the trip and my roommate who happens to be Australian-Turk said to him in Turkish “What’s wrong”. The look on his face was priceless. His jaw dropped and his eyes were wide as saucers and he bolted. Being as most of us were obviously not Turkish it would seem he was trying to scam something from us. He wasn’t a terribly experienced thief and I hope it stays that way. Frankly, I’m not sure what he could have stolen from any of us as the only thing on the table was the backgammon board, but whatever, it was still hilarious, though sad at the same time.

On the way back from this cafe place there was a very cozy bookshop that reminded me of the bookshop that Audrey Hepburn worked in in the movie Funny Face. This bookshop was mostly full of books written in Turkish (understandably) but there was an English section and then there was also a section of books by Turkish authors written in English. They had popular Turkish authors and books, but they also had books on politics and religion by Turkish authors written in English as well. This section is the one I was really interested in. I didn’t get any fictional books by Turkish authors (I may when I get back to Istanbul if I have enough money) but I did get a fascinating book on secularism and state policies on religion with a focus on the US (passive securalism with a very religious demographic), France (aggressive securalism with a less religious demographic) and Turkey (aggressive securalism with an even more religious demographic than the US). I also wanted a book written by a Turk about the Armenian Genocide (acknowledging the Armenian genocide) but it was about 40 Euro’s. For those of you who don’t know about the Turkish/Armenian relations, the Turks completely deny the Armenian genocide, which the rest of the world acknowledges as genocide, if not ethnic cleansing. Needless to say, I will be back at this bookstore if I have any money left over at the end of the trip.

After this bookstore we went back to the hotel for dinner and discussed all the interesting things we saw before going to bed so we could prepare for an extremely busy next day.

Pictures can be seen in this facebook album here.