On the weekend before we left I was sorting out old postcards in my late parents' house. I found this postcard from Istanbul. I think a relative must have ended up there in a war. By some miracle, our first hotel was just across the road from this scene.
After nightfall people sat and chatted the way they might in Italy. Gaza was the main news topic. Turkish flags were at half mast. Religion in Turkey seemed little more pervasive than in Italian villages a few decades ago, except that more women were dressed conservatively; that said, there were fewer Burkas than in London. Some mosques were little more than a 2 storey house with a minaret coming out of a corner. They were white, silver, painted green or made of terra cotta bricks. Though there was some segregation, much of the time it wasn't evident. In the evenings families were walking around, with many affectionate fathers holding babies or steering pushchairs.
These are the walls that kept the crusaders out. Recently, gipsies were evicted from this area. Looks like they're returning. Someone's using the land for crops.
We visited Gallipoli, saw some trenches. Once we'd crossed into Asia we saw several amphitheatres. This was one of the more impressive - at Ephesus I think. We saw the remaining column of an Ancient wonder of the world - the Temple of Artemis - and the rather confusing site of Troy, whose numbered layers had lettered sublayers.
These "cotton castles" and thermal pools in Pamukkale are beside the extensive Roman remains of Hierapolis which we walked around while the temperature was in the 40s. Russians posed in bikinis.
Back in Istanbul we were in the mood to buy tacky souvenirs, but it was holiday time, the end of Ramadan, and the Grand Bazaar was closed (we'd lost ourselves in it on an earlier trip). Allegedly it's full of Chinese goods anyway. Fortunately there was no shortage of other places open.
We did all the usual touristy things (though I bottled out of going to a Turkish Bath). The merchants were much less pro-active than in Egypt. The food was rather like Crete's though there was no pork. We saw many scrawny cats, not all of them alive.
If I hadn't seen The Basilica Cistern on TV we might not have bothered with it. It's an underground water storage tank with columns making it look like a subterranean cathedral. Later on our 1500km travels we saw silk threads spun, carpets being woven (I hadn't realised that carpets could change colour as they're rotated) and saw pancakes being made in the traditional way down a village track.
The variety contained within Hagia Sophia (features similar to Ravenna's combined with Islam) was mirrored in other aspects of life. Burgerking rubs shoulders with mosques. We went in a minibus with disco lights to a club that sold the usual cocktails. Cheddar cheese was in restaurants, and Vegemite sandwiches were at Gallipoli. The riverside houses we saw could have been beside Lake Como. As we went East I expected scenes from Borat's Kazakhstan. There were a few, but mainly the country seemed south-European. Outside Istanbul and Izmir were hills and hills of tower blocks. 50% of Turkey's 70+ million population is under 30 and they have to live somewhere.
Literature? I try to mention it in each blog post, so here goes. There was a multi-tent bookfair in first square we visited (in the foreground of the old postcard I found). We walked through Istanbul's book market. We saw the Roman library in Ephesus, which once held 12,000 to 15,000 scrolls. We visited Pergamun where they invented parchment. I read "Riptide" issue 10, the latest issue of "The Interpreter's House", "The loneliness of the long distance runner" and "Slaughterhouse 5". I wrote about 100 words. Such a feeble writing urge isn't usually a good sign for me. I suspect I'll use Troy's confused layers as a metaphor eventually.