Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day in Gerusalemme

This thing about "cultural identity" has become very clear to me: I now know where to place myself culture-wise (because of my upbringing and formative years!): Northwest European and tinged with Christianity ...
So here in Jerusalem I miss the pretty Christmas trees and the magical lights that shine out through  dark winter nights; I miss the carol singing and Bach's Christmas Oratorio; I miss the way people become more cheery and wish you "Merry Christmas" -- even if it's only for a few days; I miss the warm mince pies and of course the stuffed turkey and the sprouts and parsnips; the holly berries and the paper chains decorating the living room; the stocking hung at bedtime on Christmas Eve; the magic of the bumpy parcels in the grey dawn; even the soft crunch of snow beneath boots; the quiet afternoon and the Queen's speech; slowly munching tangerines, walnuts and hazlenuts, dates and chocolates; snapping crackers and pulling out the flimsy paper hats and the ridiculous jokes. Traditions that pass on and on. So unimportant. Carrying such weight of warm bright memories.
But this year for the first time in my life I am in Jerusalem on Christmas Day. People are at work as usual, the students attending lectures, the stallholders in the souk selling their fruit and vegetables and much else...
I feel something missing; and I know all my shadowy traditions are absent. People are acting according to their own memories and rituals, not mine.
So I went to Bethlehem. No crowds of tourists. Very pleasing. A quiet church, dimly lit. Maybe a little too much silver and gold for that poor shivering Baby who only wanted his mother's warmth.

Bethlehem, house of bread, a name to conjure with...
Under my breath I sang the carols that I know so well: Hodie, Christus natus est, and many more. Prince of Peace; that's the part I really go for. In the adjacent church of St Catherine, mass was being celebrated. Inside the church of the Nativity there was hardly a voice to be heard.

Then out into the dark square where there was a huge Christmas tree and a few friendly families. After a glass of peppermint tea, home on the bus through Beit Jala where the churches appeared shut, back along the winding roads, across the wadi and up the hill to the Damascus Gate.
I think about all the people packed onto the bus as we drove out to Bethlehem. Chatty women carrying their shopping home, dressed in long skirts and wearing head scarves. As in the pic below:
Looking much like some of the people we see in Kusadasi. I want to hear their stories, to ask them about thier lives... Language incompetence proves quite a barrier! But we smile, I say my few words of Arabic, generally eliciting a response.
In the end, I realize, I can only tell my story. I am busy with that.
Investigating the interstices, gently removing the stones, uncovering, unfolding.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ephesus, that great city, part 2...

Still digesting... City-shock, something like the Persepolis experience... Pause to meditate on time and people's achievements, and the destruction caused by geographical factors -- earthquakes, the sea silting, and so on...
Empty streets and market places, where once the throngs gathered, where once Paul preached (we found a doorway with a cross above the lintel!); huge theatre, reminiscent of Epidauros, and the amazing 'Terrace houses' with their mosaics and painted walls, all recently uncovered.
Not to mention the impressive Library, recently restored (see below).

(Found this lost passage so here come some more pix)

That's David in the blue woolly hat, walking towards the sea...
Next batch will show pix of the Terrace houses.

Ephesus, that great city ...


I have lost my first musings on time and transience, but will see if I can revover them... meanwhile, here four pix  of Ephesus, the last showing a cross above adoorway. The top one shows ceramic pipes used in the heating system...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

And all is bright again..

Just to remind us that we are, more or less, on a Mediterranean sea coast, the sun returned this morning, blazing in a bright blue sky, and we enjoyed breakfast sitting outside in the cockpit... But wind still a little chilly, so David borrowed my scarf...
I meanwhile, gazed contendedly at the light on the gently rippling water, sipping my tea thoughtfully and musing on the enormous influence climate and geography in general has on the history of humankind... Rest assured, my meditations grow less lofty as the day advances...!
(I'm actually thinking about to when to do the next load of laundry.)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Cakes in Kusadasi

This ancient coastal city facing westwards towards the isles of Greece is gradually becoming like home. If possible, we go for a walk every day (sneaking a patch of dryness in between the many downpours). On market days, that is, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we set out with empty rucksacks on our backs, honing in towards the radiant piles of vegetables, shiny scaled fish, coloured spices and gleaming fruit. We are always amazed at how low the cost for such superb quality. Close to Kusadasi is the meandering river Meander (hence our word!) flowing through a fertile plain. But not only the fresh fruit and veg is of magnificent quality: so too is the bread, which comes in all shapes and sorts, including our beloved wholemeal with sesame seeds spinkled atop; and of course, the cakes, pastries, and Turkish Delight. There should be a picture here, of our joyous expressions as we munch yet another succulent pastry filled with a mixture of chopped nuts and honey and apple.
Oh yes: and the tea (Turkish: chay!) served in small glasses placed on a ceramic saucer. It is Indian black tea, and I have succumbed to a lump of sugar in this otherwise too-bitter hot drink. It is very good. We are offered it in almost every shop we enter. Otherwise pay one Turkish lire (about 50 eurocents) for a glass, sugar included!
Below a picture of the market held on Wednesdays, offering clothes, textiles and household articles, a vast colourful entertainment.
Street after street, this market continues, selling everything from babies booties to steel eggbeaters...
We try to time our outings so that we can enjoy the radiant sunsets, seen across the bay of Kusadasi, looking towatds Samos, the nearest Greek island. The sun goes down close to the end of the Bird Island whence the Turkish name Kus Adasi, a bird being kus in Turkish. Recently there have been huge exciting cloud formations, racing along through the glowing golds and pinks.


"My darling Hossein"
While meandering (somewhat like the river, yes) through the market today, I asked some bright young Turkish ladies if they could tell me where I could "post" a letter -- and held up the stamped, enveloped letter. Unfortunately, their English and my Turksih didn't get us too far, when lo! a beautiful young lady with spectacular black curls tapped on my shoulder and said, "Post Office? Follow me... " and she set off at a spanking pace, with David and me striding after her slim figure... On the way she explained that her "darling" Hossein worked at the Post Office.  It was shut now, she explained, but she would give the letter to one of Hossein's mates. And there they were, four handsome young men, lounging in the entrance hall of the PTT building. Our helpful young lady gave them the letter. She said if we had any problem to ask for Hossein at the PTT. I am just slightly dubious about that letter's reaching its destination in the UK ... we shall see. Afterwards, we sat in a pleasantly unpretentios street-corner cafe and had a cup of chay accompanied by a scrumptious cakish something...

Here David walks along the evening beach...
And here, darkness falls from the wings of the night (Longfellow).

Another glorious sunset. Different every day. Life certainly isn't boring in Kusadasi.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Sinte Klaas Avond in Kusadasi

The good Saint Nicholas, after all, came from Turkey, so they say. Here in Kusadasi the elements remembered the Dutch song about the wind howling through the bare branches of the trees -- and behaved accordingly.
The rain poured down, the cats sped to sheltered spots, we made hot soup on the boat and watched the pretty patterns on the water.
Here a few snatches of grey sky before the heavens opend; and the pontoon's well-fed cat, Blackie, who likes to perch upon canveas sail covers...

And (this one is for Matteo!) our winter home, the fine ship Stroemhella, safely moored and riding out many a storm ...

Today one of our local friends whispered softly that it often rains in Kusadasi every day in the month of January. Right now it's just lightning and the occasional distant rumble. And no snow, so far.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Back in Kusadasi

Possibly now more apropriate to call this: Another return to Kusadasi -- there ae going to be several more occasions when we depart for a week or two...
Left Dubai in the middle of the night, sleeping city still brightly illuminated but the streets dark and still. Trundled sleepily through rows at the airport, tumbled thankfully into plane, and slept again...
Sun accompanied, we found our taxi driver and sped from Izmir airport to the setur Kusadasi marina -- stopped along the way to buy two kilos of the most luscious mandarins (clementinas?) I have ever tasted...
Really good to be back -- we recognize friendly faces, rescue our wilting Turkish and revive it listening to the CD titled Modern Turkish.
David continues entranced by his Magic Squares, I sleep a lot, combatting swollen glands and aching ears ... which gradually recedes.
The wind howls, moans, shakes the masts, rattles the rigging, blowing warm from the south. All ths is due to change soon, apparently.

Today is David's birthday; cakeless, but plenty of succulent Turkish Delight and wonderfully fresh fruit and veg. No complaints here.
Th clouds turn pink around five o'clck. The wind drops.
I never get as much done in a day as I woud like -- have many stories bouncing in my mind, few caught and put into print!
Easier to manage with the poems, in a way...
Dark now. Full moon tonight (will rise later).
Dream of the mighty mountains of Oman...