Thursday, September 27, 2007

Remembrances from lives past, 6

And this, my last excerpt from Ottoman Beachcombing:

...On to Sivas (SEE vas) where we remained a great attraction to the people. We were blatantly stared at, constantly approached. One after another, people asked, in German or in Turkish, whether we were German. This is the heart of the worker exodus to Germany. Even the gray beards who wear the skull caps and tattered gray sports coats and old woolen pants, the ones who go to the mosque at each call, even they came up and spoke in broken German. Not once have we been approached and asked if we were Americans. Always German or English. Sivas seemed rough and outpost-like, a large town with few cars, but lots of horses and carts. The line-up of push carts at 7:30am, at least 50 of them, waiting at the central warehouse to buy fruit and make their rounds, many with wheel-spokes painted blue, red, and white, with rural scenes painted on the sides. We loved it there, the smells like Afghanistan, like times when we were wilder.
From there to Tokat (toe KOT), and instantly we knew this place was better still, magnificent, untouched, prosperous but old. Sometimes it looked Alpine; other times smelled like Darjeeling. The stark stone mountain and kale (CALL ay; fort) behind, and the Afghani women begging (refugees from the Russian invasion), sitting on the street corners. Not Sivas, but Tokat was the place to come for a month or a year to do research. Tokat even surpassed Bergama in quaintness, beauty, livability. The children, who in groups, would call out "How are you?" as we passed, a chorus that crescendoed when we'd call back, slowly, clearly, "We are fine," repeated and repeated as we walked away. The children who'd giggle when we'd say "Merhaba" (MARE ha BAH; hello), and excitedly whisper "Merhaba sogledi" (SOY led eh; he said 'hello'!). The parading escort of children when we explored the back streets and saw the women spreading wheat on blankets in every open space. The friendly smiles; the curious "Merhaba's" when we'd say "Merhaba" or "Iyi gunler" (EE yee GOON ler; good day). Sometimes five or six would gather round, and we'd chat in Turkish awhile. The boys who held my hands as we walked and explored. Once they asked my age and I said "12 years old" and they laughed and laughed....

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