I tune in only the once to the room TV to be confronted with the humanitarian crisis that is the catastrophe of Syria. Whether it was the BBC, CNN, French or German English services all broadcast graphic images of the pandemonium. Whilst 1000km from where I sit, to the east at the Turkish Border desperate Syrians, grapple with officials and locals. The TV on the balcony disturbs and disrupts my continental breakfast. I feel faintly insecure the more so as I am about to fly to Greece. It is driven home to me how insulated and insular we are in Australia. In these few minutes I realise that in our country we are all relatively secure and stable despite the machinations of our Prime minister to convince us otherwise. There is no statesmanship in this failed Christian’s mean and miserly reaction to these stateless human beings.
I will also confess to suddenly feeling rather guilty that my apparent altruistic concerns are diluted by the intrusions of a materialism related to the pending Apple iPhone 6S extravaganza scheduled for 8pm local time.
The experience of exploring a Muslim Mosque is also a personal psychological and philosophical conundrum. Whilst they vary in size, the basic architecture is one of sameness and the inside a cavernous carpeted hall with a correspondingly huge circle of lights which are suspended just above head level and given that there is invariably a dome of immense height, the overall effect is that of a giant chandelier of which the mechanism to raise and lower it, has suffered a severe mechanical failure. I find it aesthetically unsettling.
The plainness is in stark contrast to the at times sublime artistic creativity that makes up the interior of Christian cathedrals and churches.
Anyway the point is that being born into a Christian society I was a convenient Christian. The high school science teacher Mr Robinson fresh out of Teachers College was the altruistic man in charge of the ISCF – the Inter School Christian Fellowship. Gird your loins he decried and boy my adolescent loin cried as I signed up for the weekly lunchtime tease. Hence everytime I enter a cathedral I have what is a rather silly assumption that it is my birthright to be there despite never having actually and truthfully signed up for the club, that club at least. By the same token i feel that I am trespassing, intruding and really should not be there when I enter a Mosque.
I have had basically an enjoyable 6 days in Istanbul staying in the old city. I have explored on foot all the mandatory attractions. My iPhone does not lie and calculates that I have walked on average 16km every day. If there was any suggestion of a queue I would take in the charms from the outside. But long stultifying lines as is common in the European capitals were few. At the Topkapi Palace I gained rapid access to the Quarters of the Harem. It cost 15 Turkish lira but was free for Eunuchs. I successfully argued the case that in view of my age I was to all intents and purposes castrated. The Harem had a small Mosque specially set aside for the Black Eunuchs.
I joined the crush at the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market took a ferry trip on the Bosphorus and wandered through the tiny back streets of old Istanbul. The Galata Bridge must be crossed but resist the onslaught of the restaurant spruiker.
It’s not on the list of things to do and see but the old Istanbul rail station was near the Topkapi palace and was of course the eastern railhead for the famed Orient Express. An historical museum housed in the station was satisfyingly musty and nostalgic.
I had a Fawlty Towers experience whilst having a kebab last night. Sitting on an outside stool a young man in his late 20s gave a gentle cough to attract my attention then said in halting English “I love me” followed by a giggle. Nothing like a self respecting Turk. However having helped him with the complexities of the English first and second personal pronoun, it was obvious that it was indeed directed at the second person. I suspect that as Manuel loved Mr Fawlty, so this young man loved me!