Why Turkey?

To Turkey I did go
With light luggage, of course, in tow.
The planes were on time.
The trip east just fine
And in Copenhagen I did find
Many of like mind.

Istanbul was the next stop
A city impossible to top.
The Hagia Sophia is magnificent
And so historically significant.
Topkapi’s rubies and emeralds so iridescent,
The Blue Mosque is imposing,
Its tiles all aglow
And those Bosphorus dolphins put on quite a show!


Next to Ankara on the night train we did flow
(Wrong rooms made it funny
And the mood – plus the next day – was sunny!)
The wonderful Cultural Museum Meli found
Covered topics profound
But all the facts fell into place
At a surprisingly easy pace.

Ataturk was there, in Ankara, too
The focus for not just a few.
All Turks stop by
To visit the man
Who took them by hand
Into their future,
Hopefully grand.

Cappadocia now beckoned.
Little did I reckon
On what it had in store:
Weird formations galore,
Underground cities, never a bore
And more!

Jewelry, pottery and wines all displayed.
But I was not dismayed.
The choices were easily made
And the light luggage evolved
(As the money dissolved)
Into tons of bright beautiful things:
Dolls, vests, hats, scarves and earrings.
Pottery, candy, silver, apricots and those damn figs.

Others bought too:
Arlene, earrings so blue.
Laura, an elegant sweater.
Bill, train tea glasses,
Jean, golden necklaces,
The Libermanns, the stunning saz
(I hope it lasts),
Harriet, everything available and coffee to brew,
Frances, a sword for son #6,
Rita, an Istanbul tee
And lots and lots of jewelry.
Patty, bold silver bracelets three,
Even a kilim hat for Meli.

Next with lira and credit cards flying
We went magic carpet buying!
Henry’s checkbook was busy
And we were dizzy
Figuring knots per square inch
And hearing sums which made us wince!
The salesmen words didn’t mince
Telling us of carpets fit for a prince.
Yes, most they did convince.
Arlene even bought seven!
Sandra bought two,
One for herself,
Another –
For her brother
(Lucky brother!)
Yes, many rugs will fly west
------------------------- on SAS!

Now night and dancing came next.
We all did our best
To keep up with Meli and the Turkish rest.
Bill and Jean waltzed with finesse.
We wiggled our shoulders
And got bolder and bolder!
The Raki wasn’t bland
And Harriet ate lamb.

Jim now became the star
Although he did not go far.
His partner a bell dancing classic,
Their encounter was fantastic!
To keep up with her he gallantly strove
Then for his seat he just dove!

Cheryl her hips and her scarf did twiggle
And Rita did roar, chortle and giggle.

Many then needed their rest.
Oh yes!
Most rushed to their beds and put down their heads.
One, more of a local Turk wanted to see.
Now, who can that be??!!

Next day back on the bus
The buddy system worked well.
For me it was swell.
Patty’s natty hat made her easy to spot.
But she worked a lot,
Looking for me.
Out on a spree
On the bus always last.
Try as I might to obey
I cannot tear myself away
From these brushes with the past,
From these buildings and these people, alas.

All did their best to care for the rest:
Jim warmed Harriet’s cold toes,
Kleenex was passed for each nose,
Dave paid for every bathroom,
Yuksel passed Turkish Delight,
Meli bought pistachios,
Glady listened to snores
--without complaint,
“Evil eyes” were given to all.

Each found his/her own way
Through Turkey to play.
Frances looked divine
As at Antalya’s “Club Twenty-Nine”
She did dine.
Cheryl carried Brian’s cup
For her morning gulp.
Thus her little son “came with her”
And “shared” all the sights
(A leather jacket will be one of his delights.)

And wasn’t it thrilling
As Suzanne’s and Eric’s bottles kept spilling?
Water splashing and soaking seemed their trip theme.
Though in rain by shower cap Eric’s head stayed dry
Suzanne’s hair was so wet
The Guzelyurt hotel manager had to pet
Those curls to dry them.
He grabbed her
And pulled her
Tighter and tighter!
She tottered and teetered
Toward his desk heater.
He ruffled and rubbed
As she frantically tugged
And then just succumbed.
When he was done,
Did we run!
In gales of laughter
We retreated
And the story have oft repeated!
(He was just doing what he could
To make - despite the heat breakdown-
His guest
Look her best.)

The wetness continued, oh my!
Jean’s laundry wouldn’t dry.
Lots of wet socks, though draining,
Were remaining.
But now on all it was raining.
Soon all were as wet as the snow
Which now suddenly came out of the blue
To add color to Cappadocia’s muted hue.

On the road again
Metin steady at the wheel.
Out the window we gazed
In an astonished daze
As splendid Turkey rolled by:
Mountains, mosques, minarets,
Goats, storks and cows,
Carpets, poppies and ruins,
Women in various guises
(Colorful trousers, that fundamentalist scarf,
Some jeans and tops and business garb),
Hundreds of good looking men,
Lots of sheep without pens,
Kids in school smocks,
Snowy peak tops,
Everywhere mysterious caves
And turquoise lakes and seas full of waves.
Breathtaking views
And a cultural heritage so deep
It makes Meli weep.

As we went along Mary Lou was never blue,
Soaking up every clue
About what was new.
Glady napped well,
And true to tell,
Tried yogurt.
Just a bit.
Harriet ate lamb and never quit.

Those donkeys kept braying
And Dave kept paying.
He carried the bread
Both literally and figuratively.
Dave, Dave, duck, duck!
His tall chin to his knees
He had often to tuck
‘Cause we spent lots of time underground
Moseying around.
Cisterns, caverns and cities
Pottery shops, churches, nightclubs
And wine cellars
Many fine things down below!
Turkey in two layers
So much more to savor!

In the Taurus Range at Huglu we picnicked
When over a hill
All of a sudden
The blue horizon was pierced
By the red Turkish Flag
Held up straight in the hands of a proud little boy.
What followed isn’t easy to define.
It’s hard to find words to describe
What went through my mind.
My emotions I usually guard
Not liking to confide.
So it blew my mind
To suddenly cry
As the line of 100 school children marched by
To meet us
To greet us
To dance for us
To hug us
To say an international “Hi!”
This moving gesture – why?
Meli just called to say that we would be lunching nearby!

Well, we all tried the language
But my tongue needed a bandage
After trying the formal “good-bye”
So I used that short exotic “gula-gula.”
Then there was “sowel”.
Rhymes with “owl”
Or is it “towel?”
My pronunciation , a howl!
“Naselsin” was a hit
Proving it’s wonderful to know just a bit.
And everywhere we went
Turks opened home, heart and tent.
All have a great hospitality bent
And served us tea without relent.
Copies of our photos of their kids will be sent
Since cameras aren’t common in every tent.
Indeed so many pictures did we take
Development money will eat up the rent!

Sounds surrounded!
The muezzins’ morning call
(So Henry and Harriet in bed couldn’t stall),
The shepherd’s flute,
The “sheriff A” salute,
The bus’ toot.
The Antalya owl’s hoot,
The views of the Kurds,
The salesmen’s soft words,
Laura’s sweet voice singing
“Small World” the tears bringing,
The sound of the saz,
The goats’ bells of brass,
Bill’s thoughtful speech,
The brakes on the mountain as they screech,
The grandmother’s laugh through blue eyes,
The demure bride’s sighs,
Henry’s Parisian accent,
Talk about Christians, Muslims and Jews,
Words about various world political views,
Taut Turkish tones,
Our Texans’ drawls
Patty’s endless airline calls,
The goatherd’s high hiss
As his flocks he tried to assist
The commuter bus to miss,
Sunglasses and camera (!) going splash,
The tinkle of that tea glass,
Harriet eating lamb
And all of those snores.
(Poor Sandra, tormented,
Finally softly vented
And thus her roommate prevented
From entering their door.
Now her ears are not sore.)

So many new friends – U.S. friends – found.
So many moments profound.
So many things to astound.
So much humor and good food around.
So many hotels, cities and stops.
So much chatter.
So much good talk.
It’s hard to remember
Much less, to report!
So to a list I must resort:
Marvelous malleable marble
Making my favorite, Afrodisias, memorable;
Konya’s loving Melviana
Such a contrast to the fundamentalists’ scowls;
The palest of pale blue pools reflecting the light
And the Bourgainvillas’ fuchsia so bright
Against Pamukkale’s stark snowy white;
A camel between my thighs,
What a surprise!
That black tent’s precise construction
With goat hair and bamboo defying destruction;
The rope maker’s refusal
To be photographed
 At her craft –
Turkey’s image her concern;
All the ancient columns in the pool overlapping
With the mineral water warmly lapping
As I floated nearly napping,
(Then, as I emerged
Gravity – with a vengeance – began snapping!);
The awards that Meli and Dave
To each for his/her antics gave;
The perfectly pulled-off birthday surprise
We – for Meli – devised;
The shoelaces we kept retying;
The packing, re-packing and re-packing!
That walk down that long, long hill
Along which the village did spill
(Everyone’s hand we did shake)
To the restaurant oasis at the lushly watered base;
Jean running after the donkey-borne Bill,
Camera in hand, his image to still;
Those mushrooms covered in coconut;
The Mediterranean sailing adventure
Replete with the Mickey Mouse joke;
The Bosphorus boat breakdown
And the hop to its replacement;
The Antalya hotel owner’s pride
In her finely restored building;
The dignity in the fine handsome face
Of the boy who helped us over
Guzelyurt’s twilight cliffs;
The gentle pace of Konya’s almost only nun.

I almost can’t go on -
Don’t want to bore -
But one event’s details I can’t ignore:
After the Ephesus tour
A Turkish bath awaited.
It was with mixed feelings anticipated.
Remove every stitch!!
Expose every inch!!
That wasn’t all.
The attendants are always male!!
When we heard that, we women went pale.
Was this – by far -
Going too far?
Would some drop out
Their participation abruptly stop?
But no, lo
All went through the door
Prepared to sort of try
But at a moment’s notice, ready to fly.

In tiny cubicles with beds
All our clothes we shed
(Guys to the left,
Women to the right.)
Then in under the pierced dome we went.
Carefully wrapped in fabric tight
We looked a frightened sight
Although Meli said that we would be alright.

First we sat in the steam
Sweating in streams
Still too edgy
To relax and easily chat.

All too soon we had to move on
To an immense marble room with basins just beyond.
A huge marble slab also sat in the space.
We started to pace.
Then the big chested attendants walked in
Grinning through black mustaches
Under their bellies, towels around their middles.
They were there to work,
Not to fiddle.

One got Rita first
(Was she brave or just standing too close?)
He spun her out of her wrap
With an adroit snap!
He gave her a soft whack
So that she suddenly sat
On that old cold slab
With a gasp!

We were all soon agog
As bare bodies were plopping
Arms, legs, etc. were flopping!
We watched amazed
As one after another was splayed
And all was arrayed
For scouring and soaping!

Mary Lou, though, stayed cool
And Arlene wasn’t phased.
Her composure she maintained.
Through all a serene smile she retained
And, yes, every hair stayed in place!
Harriet, a little worried,
Had quite a look on her face
But (though there was no lamb in the place)
Soon hit her normal up beat pace.

Eye make –up was now a mess
Then disappeared with the rest

  1. Of our inhibitions!

In just two weeks we came
From playing the shy “name game”
To being a roomful of laughing naked dames!
Glady was actually singing!
Suzanne was in her element.
Since all was awash
She had no dry barriers to cross
And could splash, splash and splash
And laugh, laugh and laugh
And she did!

Now although my cheeks did burn,
It was my turn!
I squeezed my eyes tight,
Put up no fight
And to my delight,
Found it swell!
For, what the hell,
We all look alike.
The workers can’t be surprised.
All before had passed by their eyes!
They worked very hard.
As we subjects behaved.

Now, done fretting, sweating,
And being scoured, soaped and rinsed
In great lush towels we were wrapped
And in the cubicle beds, gently laid.
We had all done precisely as told,
No independence displayed.
So, now on our own, we were dismayed.
What was next?
Then, when hot apple tea arrived,
Because they’d been told
To lie down supine
Some tried to drink inclined!
Hot sweet tea seeping through the towel!
When I heard that I started to howl
At the image of such complete obedience!
I lost my composure totally.
I laughed, rolled and roared
Tears of glee just poured!
From each then the laughter then soared!
It bounced off the walls.
It filled up the halls.
It rose like the steam through the pierced dome.
A little louder and you could have heard us at home!

Then, clean as we had ever been
And reunited with our men,
We left for the tour’s last night’s dinner.
As we stepped from the bath’s door
Through the dark came the mosque’s evening call
Thrilling us all
For the bath’s sensations and the eerie sound
Made for an environment wonderfully exotic and quite profound.

Why Turkey?
The history is compelling.
The people are charming.
The kids, so disarming.
Nothing was alarming
- Except the calories I kept downing
And the dread trip journal I kept ducking.
All along the light was just right.
And each sight a delight!

Meli, our guide, hardworking, passionate and bright
Had her facts right.
Her transitions and conclusions fantastic,
Her tour was dramatic
And, oh, so thematic:
The Anatolian culture refined
Through centuries of time.
Groups together or one after another
(Lydians, Phrygians, Lycians, Persians,
Arabs, Greeks and Romans)
Added layers
Of ways
To live, grow and prosper,
To make governments proper,
To gain power,
And to allow art and literature to flower.
Attaturk finally leading the way
To the present Turkish day.

With Meli as our guide
Provincialism we fought
By traveling with thought,
Insight and reflection.
We kept an open eye toward detection
Of similar cultural inventions
Our common humanity requires
-And therefore inspires.
Far, far from home
In a place not my own
It seemed so pure
I felt absolutely secure.
I yearn
To return.

It is now very clear
This thing has gone on much too long
Like some epic song!
My fellow travelers will tire,
Their own memories are afire.
So now from these words I will retire.
The checking account, I’ll venture,
Will eventually fill up for more adventure.
Will that come near this trip in meaning?
Or have I just been dreaming?

Musing on travel in Western Turkey during a tour led by Mehlika Seval and David Hoering in, May and June, 1991.
                                          Mary O. Reinhart