Leaving home: two weeks in Turkey

In shallow Tuz Golu (Salt Lake)

In shallow Tuz Golu (Salt Lake)

We’re back from two wonderful weeks in Turkey, a trip we’d thought about taking for some time. Funny thing about me, though, as much as I’d looked forward to the trip, the week before leaving, I could hardly bear the thought of it. Whatever possessed us? and similar thoughts bothered me while I made lists and packed and counted down to departure. H. laughed at me, because it happens every time. I’m such a homebody, that’s the fact of it, and in a strange and completely unnecessary way I feel as  long as one of us is here–in this particular house we call home–our lives and our children’s will keep orbiting as they should. (The children will laugh at this too, for they’ve all circled their own places for years by now!) The minute we’re off the driveway, I’m fine. Nothing I can do about it now, I think, and since there really isn’t, I leave physically and mentally and I don’t worry about the house either.

Now we’re back, and this happens too: we’re in a daze and still overwhelmed by this thing that was two weeks in Turkey, both of us dreaming strange dreams about it nights–for which we can probably blame jet lag–and finding ourselves stuttering to answer friendly questions about how it was and highlights and so on. How was it? Great. A fascinating country. So many layers of history. So much beauty. Diversity. An excellent guide. Highlights? Istanbul, the Ataturk mausoleum, Cappadocia, Antalya, the Mediterranean Sea, Aspendos, Gallipoli, minarets (the basic shape, the variety). And more.

But the what. I’ve been thinking about the what of travel: what it is, what it does. We had some time to kill in Toronto on the way over, so I sat there googling combinations of home and travel and leaving one’s center–the stuff that always exercises me before I leave, per above–because I thought perhaps it was high time to figure out (again) why this venture had, in fact, possessed us. (Like that woman walking the Camino de Santiago who said, “They told me I’d find the answer here. Then I realized I didn’t have the question!)

I landed at quotes by travel writer Pico Iyer, and he was going on about travelling to lose ourselves and travelling to find ourselves and he said “home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not the ones that tie you down,” and he also said, “the state of foreignness is the closest thing I know to home.” Well, maybe for him, but for me, nope, nope, nope, and nope. But then he said (in the row of quotes, that is) that we travel to open our hearts and we come with our ignorance and we “become young fools again” and we “get taken in” and “fall in love,” all of which sounded plausible enough.

I think it’s a lot like reading a really gripping book and when you lift your head from the last page you realize it’s dusk and the house is cold, that’s how thoroughly elsewhere you’ve been.  Or watching a powerful movie and you step out of the theatre stunned and disoriented, and then you think about the story for days. Book or movie, it touches you and takes you in new directions, in terms of your inner life or knowledge or actions. You’ve been immersed in another story, not your own. But then when you’re done with it and home again in your life, you discover that other story has come along and is part of you.

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Oh to be as wise and witty and holy a fool as Nasreddin Hodya, Turkey’s legendary trickster figure!

Travel (for me) leaves home. Lines of coaches disgorging tourists with their cameras and varying degrees of ignorance and misperception can be caricatured easily enough, but nevertheless, a tour is a narrative, a choreography of getting on and off and looking and listening and eating and sleeping, of landscape and ruins and wonders and other people, a story of short intense chapters, and it’s not the home-ness of it that renders it so compelling, but the un-homeness of it all, the wrenching away into another account of life altogether. Love, like Iyer said, and its “heightened state of awareness.” Then it’s over, and you’re home, and you realize you’re still in thrall to it, you’ve been taken in, you were younger for a while. Young happy fools, you are, beguiled by the complex story of another place, which you’ll be thinking about for quite some time.

———-

Below, if you’re interested, 16 photos as a tiny peek into our trip, along with the reason I selected each.

This is a view of Istanbul from Topakapi Palace, and I think the reason I especially like it is because it's not a very good photo, technically, but for that reason it looks kind of painterly and (to me) magical and mysterious.

Because this view of Istanbul from the Topakapi Palace isn’t quite focused properly or it was hazy or something, but to me it looks kind of painterly and mysterious, even otherworldly.

The woman on the right, in this mosaic in Hagia Sophia? Empress Zoe. Because I want to learn more the her and sister Theodora. Two powerful women, but friends, it seems, they were not. not.

Because I’m curious about the woman on the right of this mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Empress Zoe, and her sister Theodora: powerful women, I gather, and also powerful rivals.

I don't care for Turkish Delight, actually, but it certainly looks appealing. I wonder if C.S. Lewis was being subconsciously or consciously racist by having Edmund switch loyalties to Aslan all for the taste of Turkish Delight?

Because, while I’m not fond of Turkish Delight,it certainly looks appealing.At Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.  (Sudden thought: Was C.S. Lewis being subconsciously or consciously racist by having Edmund switch loyalties from Aslan to the White Witch over his desire for Turkish Delight in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”?)

Because I love this scene of three older women reading in a window nook in Bursa's Grand Mosque. I see private devotion but a sense of community, peace, ease, beauty. H.  grabbed this for me on his cellphone at a bit of a remove after I spotted and had watched them awhile.

Because I love this scene of three older women reading in a window nook in Bursa’s Grand Mosque. I see individual devotion but community too, concentration, intention, purpose, beauty. H. grabbed this for me on his cell at a bit of a remove after I had spotted and was intrigued by them.

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Because the mausoleum of Turkey’s “father founder” Ataturk is impressive, and because I love the color of the stone. Like earth and grain and sun all mixed together.

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Because you see pictures of him –Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey–everywhere.

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Because it’s Goreme, site of the fascinating rock chapels, in Cappadocia, and because the guy lower right was part of our group. (Tourists like to buy hats),

Because this Turkey trip was our 40th wedding anniversary to each other, and here we are, so far so good, at the family grouping in the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia.

Because this Turkey trip was our 40th anniversary gift to each other, and here we are, so far so good, at the family grouping in the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia.

Because this old Roman theatre at Aspendos was amazing. (We saw a lot of ruins, most of them more ruined than this, however.)

Because this old Roman theatre at Aspendos was amazing. (We saw a lot of ruins, most of them more ruined than this, however.)

Perge. Because we really did see a lot of evacations and ruins of earlier civilizations.

Because we really did see a lot of evacations and ruins of earlier civilizations. These are Roman and at Perge, I believe.

Because this street scene in Antalya is so pretty, and the weather was so nice, and it was a leisurely, happy day.

Because this scene in Antalya was so pretty, and the weather was warm and sunny and it was a day at leisure in which we wandered around the narrow streets of Old Town and made some interesting discoveries and later that day, swam in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Because it’s the Mediterranean Sea and I grew up on its blue on Sunday school maps, and now I was in it, here, at Antalya.

Because I like biblical Philip, and this, apparently, is his tomb; in Hierapolis.

Because I like biblical Philip, and this, apparently, is his tomb; in Hierapolis.

Because the war memorials at Gallipoli -- both Turkish and Anzac -- were emotional (feelings of both sadness and anger) and I'm always interested in what families chose as epitaphs.

Because the war memorials at Gallipoli — both Turkish and Anzac — were emotional (feelings of both sadness and anger) and I’m interested in what families chose as epitaphs for their dead sons.

Because I'm still smiling over this one: she was an old woman, clearly, an old, hardworking, peasant woman, when she suddenly whipped out a cell phone to answer it and sat down to chat. But why not? Why shouldn't she have a cell phone before I do?

Because I’m still smiling over this one: she was an old woman, clearly, an old, hardworking, peasant woman, when she suddenly whipped out a cell phone to answer it and sat down to chat. But why not? Why shouldn’t she have a cell phone before I do?

Because minarets feature  so frequently, these two, for example, from a mosque on the Bosporous.

Because minarets feature so frequently. These two, for example, from a mosque on the Bosporous.

19 thoughts on “Leaving home: two weeks in Turkey

  1. Dora, I thought I was the only one who felt like that on leaving home! I ALWAYS am reluctant to leave my home and all that’s in it, but once I’m on the way I’m totally fine! And I loved your comparison of reading a book to taking a trip. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed so much about reading. You can go to far away places without ever leaving the comfort of your chair!
    thanks for sharing your photos. My favorite — the three women reading in the window nook. Welcome back!

  2. Thanks for posting your thoughts about traveling and also for the photos. Very interesting. Now I’m feeling ambivalent about traveling to Turkey myself–part of me wants to go there and see it myself and part of me doesn’t because I’ve already been there vicariously. Thanks again. Phil

  3. Thanks for the reflections and pictures, Dora. The symbiosis between leaving and coming home is fascinating. I think “home” gains meaning when we can leave it and then come back to it with fresh eyes. But the transitions can be hard! Now I want to go to Turkey.

    • Thanks Byron. We really don’t travel that much, not like some who were on the tour, but this has certainly happened on previous trips as well. Interesting, though, that since returning I’ve learned of a number of people who have been to T. and I hear how it’s still with them, so I’m wondering what exactly it is about the place. Hope you get there too some day.

  4. Your tour seems to have mirrored ours. Glad the Mediterranean was warm enough for you to swim in. Also, we did not see the umbrellas in Antalaya, but it was an interesting city, nonetheless.

  5. Thank you Dora for writing your thoughts about home… Leaving and such. How we wish we would have been at our home and could have had you “drop in” and share your experiences face to face! I can agree with Pico Iyer…”we travel to open our hearts….come with ignorance… “. I love the traveling and can feel “at home” in many places…but I still love coming back to my space, my home and find quietness and rest! So glad you took the risk and left “home” to see a wonderful part of the world. Those memories will be with you forever.

    • I think you’re are uniquely gifted in that feeling at home in many places, Hazel. Good thing, as you have many opportunities to be in other places. — And for sure, we sure hope to get to the dropping in yet!

  6. Welcome home, Dora. I loved the photos from the trip and enjoyed your reflection on traveling and leaving home. I am another of those who plan trips then wishes in the last week that I could just stay home. Don’t remember doing that when I was young, though. Then it was just eagerness, a different phase in my life.

    • Well, I am in good company on this score, then. And I think you’re right, it may have something to do with stage of life. When young, eagerness, eagerness. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Have I only NOW discovered your blog? It was a wonderful account of your journey!! I wish I had more time to read. . . and remember my own trip to Turkey! Loved your account!

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