Where do I start?? First, we are here in Istanbul, staying with our dear friends. Istanbul is a place I refer to as, “the city bread built.” Because wherever you go, there is bread. All kinds of bread! Rolls, these pretzel looking things called Simit, (Which if you pronounce it right, cement, it would be close to the truth.) Loafs of wheat, grains, and flour, any shape or color you like. I told our friends, “You can roll a ball anywhere and it will end up next to a bread shop or street vendor.” As if there are not enough shops that sell bread, they actually have people walking around and pushing carts selling Simit..
I think it all started back when Constantine was in charge. He built this great city they called “The New Rome”, and while building it he promised all citizens who lived within a loaf a bread a day. Doesn’t sound like quite a feat, until you know that from 330 AD to 400 AD it grew from 30,000 to upwards of 500,000… Bread, who knew…Wheat. Grains. & Flour. Oh my.
Anyways, enough of the history lesson. We are here.. We have been here for almost a week, and during this time we have been without water for 3 days now, and now WE ARE DESPERATE! We NEED A Shower!! We would love to experience a flushing toilet as well, but lets not discuss that here.
So, what do you do if you are in Turkey and you need to get clean? The Obvious. A Turkish Bath!! Now the Game is afoot Watson.. It’s a simple solution, that comes at a price and is almost like the amazing race to get to, and you definitely want the prize at the end. And here is how this day of adventure is going to take place. To get everywhere you walk.. And you walk, and when you have done all the walking you can do, you walk some more. This is our mode of transportation, but today it will be more diverse. We will walk to the boat dock in the drizzle and rain, also in search of a bathroom as well, and catch a ferry across the sea to the other side of Istanbul. (It’s on two different continents if you didn’t know that.)
We make it to the boat, not too wet, with our backpacks filled with our extra clothes and toiletries. Once aboard the boat we must have a chai. (This is truly a Turkish thing. Chai is basically like hot Lipton tea, served in a tulip shaped glass. The Turks drink this stuff religiously. Every shop, serves it. They even have teashops where you sit on small wooden stools with a small wooden table about knee high, and everyone gathers around to talk at this cultural phenomenon.)
The ferry is only about a 15 minute trip across the way and once on land you got it… We walk. We have found our spot, The Turkish Bath. At first you are not sure if this is wise, for a couple of reasons.. First, I am going to get almost nude around a bunch of other men, possibly.. Secondly, I cannot understand a thing they are saying. My mind goes nuts. Are they talking about me? Are they making jokes at my Texas accent? What do they think of a Texan who is among them? Which one is going to scrub me? Will this be a beating??? Oh, My mind! Who Cares. I need to use the restroom and get this dead skin off me!!
After 45 minutes of sitting in various types of sauna’s, sweating, ( at times wondering if my lungs were actually melting,) a stranger comes to scrub us clean. (Front and back.) We get to change into clean clothes. Oh How Precious. And what do you do after you have a Turkish Bath?? You have a Chai.
Round one of the journey is over… Now we must get food.
Breakfast is now what’s for lunch. It is 12 noon and we need food. So, we walk to the bus station, our second mode of transportation.. (Istanbul has an amazing network of buses, trams, and shuttles.) We catch the bus to an upper scale area where we sit by the sea at a restaurant named Kale, I highly recommend!! After a much need meal of various vegetables, eggs, and sausages with cheese, and of course all types of bread! We are in heaven. The last few days have melted away..(Literally! The Sauna was that hot.)
Now, the next leg of this amazing race, which leads us to a Japanese Garden that we just happen to stumble across as we walk the next 2 miles in the drizzling rain, dodging the bursts of water being shot at us by passing cars. Have I mentioned we walk a lot in Istanbul??
The thing about walking is you notice things, for instance a Japanese Flower Garden, or an Ancient City Wall, dating back centuries.. The flowers and trees have overgrown this shadow of a time long ago. The old smoke stack standing out of place in this modern upper scale neighborhood. Pathways once used to enter an ancient city now hidden. (How often our past memories, some good, some bad, lay hidden? They are still there, just over grown by the new.. I think it is good to walk. I think we should walk down our old paths, reflect on times of old. Where have we come from? What have we gone thru? They have shaped us to be who we were meant to be. Maybe not what we wanted to be, and maybe not how we wanted to be, but the past is there and it tells a story.)
We are here.. How many people walk by this place and not look up? There is a castle at one end of the wall. What went on here? What battles were fought at this location?? Someone lost. Someone won. Lives where changed. But we don’t have time for that. Life is happening now, and to make sure we get where we want, we use every means available to get there the fastest. Boats, cars, buses, trains, taxis, it doesn’t matter.. We have to hurry. We have to be somewhere. We have something important to do, to be! So we sail on pass things that should be learned. We skip over and take a bus instead of walking with someone we love. We hope on train, to avoid slower people, because people take to much time. (A pastor told me that once, God forgive him.)
We get in a taxi, so we don’t have to be with others. We shut people out. We move away from previous things on to new things as fast as we can so we can be entertained, so we don’t have to deal with what’s there. Life is this journey. This is the Amazing Race! But it’s not to the swift. It’s not to the strongest. It is to those who will lay down their pride, walk humbly beside others, looking around seeing the history that is in each soul. The ancient walls that were built up to protect the inner soul, these walls haven’t been broken, they stand erect, but the inner city is devastated. Someone fought here. Something happened.. Lives were changed.. Do we notice?? “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Luke 10:23
I am noticing.. Did I mention we walk a lot??