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Letters from Anatolia
Dmetri KAKMI

Part 1

"Fate smashes us as though we were made of glass,
And never are our shards put together again."
Abul-‘Ala’ al-Ma’arri (973 - 1057)

Saturday, 4 May
: Melbourne to Istanbul. The prodigal son returns. I’ve never liked that story. On principle I don’t like the idea of going back to places which have, at one time or another, been the source of exceptionally happy or sad times. There’s no point to it. Events can never be repeated. People die; buildings get knocked down, streetscapes change, and at the most unexpected moments you keep snagging your toes on the time scale as it begins to contract around you. Sooner or later you begin to feel like a car wreck, your insides mangled by the relentless machinery. I know. I lived through it. And I promised myself it would not happen again because, quite simply, I would not go back to Turkey. Yet within months I was plotting my return. Now here I am going back, waiting for my flight to take off.

I have left Turkey, my birthplace, twice in my life. The first time was when I was ten and we were migrating to Australia. Our home was in the northern Aegean on an island named Bozcaada. To my child’s awareness, life seemed idyllic in most respects. I don’t believe my parents wanted to emigrate. At the end of the day it really came down to one thing: Politics. We were Greek Christians living in a country that was going through the most profound political and cultural upheavals.

My parents announced their will to migrate to Australia soon after man landed on the moon. I felt an abyss open beneath my feet. On that final day, as Turkey fell beneath the wings of the airplane, I did my best to forget everything. That was in 1971. As I grew older, Turkey loomed in my imagination and Bozcaada became a lost paradise, the best of all possible worlds.

Quite by chance I met a young Turkish economist in a chat room on the Internet. All too quickly our lively and warm dialogue developed into the bonds of friendship. Quite apart from the fact that there was a convergence of sympathies, I saw the friendship as an opportunity to shed the skin of resentment that plagues the Greek when confronted by a representative of Turkey. I would rather understand and know than go to my grave filled with ignorance and prejudice, I told myself. This, I suppose, is what is meant by love of a country. Anatolia had snuck up on me unawares.

The time to test the waters came in 1999. Suffice it here to say that the return journey was as traumatic as it was jubilant. Watching Bozcaada drop behind the horizon that second time was like watching the last rays of hope fade all over again. From there on, the dye was cast. Turkey was in the blood. I couldn’t go for long now without being pulled back.

Exile, I used to believe, is a dream of glorious return. Now I know that it is essential for the dreamer to wake up and see the world for what it is. It is not enough to go back and seek only the past. It is the present, with an eye to the future, that will ultimately save you.

As I write, the airplane is skimming the Marmara. The Princes’ Islands and one or two ferries drift on the placid, wine-dark sea. Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport spirals into view, bringing to mind that today is Greek Easter. Despite every fibre in my body crying out for sleep, I want to attend mass at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener.

Sunday, 5 May: Istanbul. Perhaps the defining sound of Istanbul is just now beginning to waft across the Golden Horn, winding its way through the steep, tightly wound streets of Galata and Beyoglu: the call to prayer. At mid day, the hoja’s voice is enervated as the heat and dust spiralling above the rooftops. When it returns at five and then again at eight, it will have regained some of its earlier vitality in the cooler, clearer atmosphere. But it is best heard at the crack of dawn, when sleep is still glued to the eyes and the ears are muffled to the world. It is quite unlike anything heard in western countries.

I understand that in some parts of the city the call to prayer is not tolerated. It seems modern secular Istanbulites are not only indifferent to mosques, they also resent being woken up with the birds. But I love it; it is the rooster of Islam. There is something infinitely melancholy and archaic about this song that floats five times a day over the rooftops, drawing people like a siren. Sometimes it can sound like a dirge, sweetly, seductively sung, cajoling Allah out of the clouds. At other times, it is full of fire and crackling with thunder until the stones quake with awe. Turkey is supposed to be a secular state, but it is perhaps the one sound that says you are no longer in a Christian country.

It turned out that the Patriarchate was stuffed with crowds from outlying areas, come from as far as Thrace and the Aegean islands to celebrate Greek Orthodoxy’s day of days. Being in no mood to join the throng, Ahmet and I opted for a hip little café in the lee of Istiklal Caddesi. The sight of Ahmet ordering a medium-sweet Turkish coffee for me while he opted for a cappuccino quietly amused the cultural purist in me.  On my last day in Istanbul he will turn down a glass of raki on the grounds that he finds the taste offensive. ‘What sort of Turk are you?’ I will say in jest. His reply: ‘A modern Turk.’

After our coffee we strolled to the Church of the Panaghia. When we found it, the church was a snug structure, tucked away at the end of a narrow lane and surrounded on three sides by the haunches and backsides of other buildings. A short flight of stairs and gates guarded the entrance. The impression was that of a besieged compound drifting into obscurity on a cushion of sweet-smelling incense.

‘Do you think it is alright for me to come inside?’ Ahmet asked.

‘Do you want to?’


‘Well, then you must. Don’t worry, you’d pass for Greek. Just don’t say anything. Stand at the back with your hands folded before you and leave the rest to me.’

In the narthex I paid for two candles and we proceeded inside. A smattering of people were standing in the shadows as the priest, in his surplice of gold brocade, chanted the liturgy, his voice an atonal Byzantine drone over which other male voices weave their own melody.  I had forgotten what an expressive and vivid evocation the liturgy can be, rising and falling on a wave of exultation and suffering. Not surprisingly, at times it can sound like an Anatolian dirge before retracting to a finely wrought monody.

In the flickering candlelight, the beautiful, classical iconostasis dwarfed the priest like an admonition. It was a splendid revelation emerging from the gloom, the carved gold licked with heart’s crimson and a black as deep as sorrow. Icons of various saints were displayed on it like medals on a Titan’s chest. Off to the side hovered six altar boys in black. In the smoky light all that could be seen of them was the halo of their pale faces floating in midair. They lacked only wings sprouting from their temples to complete the picture of seraphim.

Considering the history of our respective peoples, standing with Ahmet beneath the biblical scenes felt like a subversive act of the first order. Either that or a symbol of the new friendlier relations forged between the two nations since the earthquakes of 1999.

Monday, 6 May
: Istanbul. I am delighted to see the queen of Turkish cinema, Türkan Soray, smiling reassuringly from billboards lining Atatürk Boulevard; she is the first cinematic idol to have cast a spell on me. Here she is pushing Disbank, a small private bank. She must be well into her fifties now but her Cleopatra eyes still have the power to reduce men to lambs.

During the 1960s and 70s, Türkan Soray was often cast as the good girl straying from the straight and narrow. She had a weakness for dark brooding hulks that made up with rutting what they lacked in social graces. Inevitably, they were as drawn to her as she to them. One always crossed her path and turned life upside down. She would follow him to the ends of the earth, get slapped around and learn to like it. When her world was on the verge of collapse, her ever-patient husband would turn up with the fruit of their loins in tow. One word from the little beggar would be enough to make her see the error of her ways and embrace security over licentiousness.

In her day, she had eyes like saucers rimmed with kohl and a delectable bosom. Her whole being seemed to breathe the thinner air of renegade sexuality barely kept in check by an adherence to family values. She was the perfect symbol for a Turkey uncertain of whether it wanted to shuck off its baggy pants or keep them on. Now she is on television playing the earth mother with a head covering, as popular as she ever was.


Two highlights from today. First was the church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, now the Little Mosque of Haghia Sofia. Second, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque. They lie at opposite ends of the Old City, the former on the shores of the Marmara and the latter on the Golden Horn.

The church of Sergius and Bacchus was built in 527 AD by Justinian and was for a thousand years a place of worship for the Christians of Constantinople. Early in the seventeenth century it was converted to a mosque under Sultan Beyazit II. Entering the grounds today from Kücük Aya Sofya Caddesi you are immediately struck by this astonishing accomplishment enclosed in a grotto of maple and plane trees, and enclosed on one side by a pocket-handkerchief Muslim graveyard.

Inside, you are confronted by a blue-green gem of neglect you want to hug to yourself. As you step through the entrance, you are greeted by the odour of rising damp and see the black patches spreading up the walls to enfold the dome, which is divided into sixteen alternating flat and concave sections and supported by eight pillars. The building was damaged in the earthquakes of 1999. Plaster still rains down on the heads of the unwary. The caretaker says there is no money to repair the damage and has removed prayer rugs from the general area to prevent an accident. Just a few feet away from the southern wall a train rattles by at regular intervals, undermining the already frail structure.

After a brisk lunch of spicy meatballs and the salty yoghurt drink ayran on Divanyolu Caddesi, we walk to the place where I would like to be buried: The Rüstem Pasha Mosque. Today we approached it via a circuitous route from behind the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. When I returned subsequently I took an easier, though not as colourful, way. If you take the Street of the Mat-Makers parallel to the Golden Horn from the Spice Bazaar you will soon come to the shop of a döner kebab machine seller. Here is a small tea garden and off to the side in a wall is a vaulted stairway. This will take you up to the porticoed forecourt of the mosque, overlooking the shops and warehouses.

When you are up here you are afloat on a cloud of cinnamon and cumin, and the sounds of metal on metal rising up from the shops of the blacksmiths. Inside is an ethereal sublimity like no other, hovering high above the bustling places of trade. So near to the narrow, crowded streets of the artisans' quarters and yet such a refuge, such silence and a hovering sense of light falling over the profusion of crimson and turquoise tiles. It is a place to contemplate the nearness of the divinity.

I can still see the gossamer of threads descending like golden raindrops from the magnificent central dome, ablaze with windows, to support the three-ringed chandelier. But it is not a chandelier in the western sense. These are three concentric rings from which teardrop glass light holders hang. Once they would have been oil lamps. Today a light bulb nestles like a glowing egg inside each one.

Tuesday, 7 May
: Istanbul. I saw a sobering thing today at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. In fact, two. One was depressing and the other gave me hope.

We were standing in the vast central space where all day long you will see men worshipping unselfconsciously, while tourists pad around the edges in their socks.

"Can you smell that?" Refik said. "Worshippers are supposed to be clean when they come in here. This is what gets me about these people, they don't know what they are doing."

It has to be said the foot odour is enough to knock out a small elephant, particularly after prayer time. To be fair, tourists don't help the situation either.

I was admiring the muqarnas that decorates the edges of the central dome when my eyes fell on a latticed screen at the rear of the mosque. As I watched, a woman's pale hand darted out and made a quick grab at a little boy trying to abscond. The little tiger was yanked back into the murky realm and all returned to stillness once again. As I curiously continued to probe the darkness beyond the latticework, I saw great shapes behind the wooden screen, like dangerous animals in a zoo. I suddenly realised why there were no women praying in the central space. They were all behind the screen. I could only hope that Allah hears prayers when they come from the mouths of the unseen.

My pleasure somewhat dulled, I turn to study the mihrab. There to the left of the niche stood a young man and woman. He was dressed in sober black and she in grey pants and a grey coat that reaches to just below the knee. Her head was covered in a powder-blue mantilla sprinkled with tiny pink roses. Still as mannequins in a window display, they stood facing Mecca and observing the rituals of prayer before the eyes of the world, seemingly thumbing their noses at convention. Framed by the grilled window, they were a still life of intimacy and devotion. A red flag to a bull in this space. As if the mere sight of them was not enough to start a riot, the young man gingerly flicks his wrist to take the hand of his beloved as they continued to pray.

"That is what religion should be," Refik whispered. We watch the couple for ages, spellbound.


After the establishment of the new republic, Atatürk dragged the diminished Ottoman Empire, screaming and kicking to the beauty parlour for a radical make over. Anatolia would be Westernised whether it liked it or not. Most are eternally grateful for his interventions, while others insist the great leader threw out the baby with the bath water.

Whatever the case may be, one of Atatürk's more admirable achievements was to give women the vote and equal rights in the constitution, the overflow of which was to free them up to appear in public with their heads uncovered.

When I returned in 1999 I was surprised to see that covered women were back on Istanbul streets. Some had only their hair covered, while a small number flapped around like peripatetic letterboxes. Perhaps three years ago I was more tolerant; each to their own, I thought, and even argued for the right of women to cover themselves should they wish to do so. That is, after all, the definition of a democracy. But this time I am finding their increased number difficult to tolerate.

Surely the idea behind the act of casting a woman's body into life-long purgatory is that her flesh is a constant temptation to men. Islam, according to the dictates of some, demands that women cover themselves so that men are not tempted to indulge in the delights of the flesh, unless it is for the purpose of procreation. The subliminal message is as old as the mountains: A woman's body is an unclean vessel designed to tempt men away from the worship of God. Man, on the other hand, has not an ounce of self-control and nor should he. It is up to the woman to have the good sense to hide herself from the gaze of the world.

"The fundamentalists are the first to scream for the democratic right to cover themselves. But they would be the first to trample on our rights if they got into power," Refik erupts in true fashion, when I bring this up with him. Which is exactly why I worry for women such as my friend Oya in this uncertain climate. She is a modern Turkish woman. As a doctor, she is educated, intelligent and independent. What future would there be for her if these people came to power?

Wednesday, 8 May
: Istanbul. Here the men think nothing of draping themselves over each other like cats. Sitting down or deep in conversation they are a crab of arms and legs. When they promenade, which they do often, they are arm in arm. The affection shown between friends is like a kitten applying its tongue to warm milk. When two men greet on Istiklal they peck each other on both cheeks, while a hand gently touches a wrist or elbow.

This is hardly surprising given what a beautiful race the Turks are. The men have hair glossy as raven's wings and the women eyes the shape of almonds. Their eyebrows arch like swallows’ wings on the white brow.


Turkey would have you believe she is a godless country but all around you see evidence to the contrary. For example, on the back windows of busses and taxis is written the word, Masallah – God willing. God willing you get home safely because the manner of driving here would induce all but the hardiest of racing car drivers to soil themselves. Hanging from the rear view mirror is the ubiquitous blue glass for averting the evil eye. I buy one for Turgay and Gabby who are soon to be parents.


Crows wash themselves in the shallow puddles of the Imperial Pool deep inside the Harem of Topkapi Palace. They are tumbling black clouds, big as puppies. When they take off, there is a hint of blue to the wings. Their cawing from high above breaks the Iznik-tile blue of the sky. Pity the concubines didn’t have wings to raise them above this gilded cage.

For some reason, the egg-shaped cover that once held the black stone of the Kaaba intrigues me more than anything else seen today. The gold casing and shifting black deep in its bowel belong to another world. If you place your hand inside, something will snatch it.

Later, pink and white horse chestnut blossoms rain on my table as I drink tea from a delicate pink tulip-shaped glass. The cubes of sugar in the glass bowl are bits of Antarctica in this heat. In the Hippodrome, beneath the shadow of a pomegranate tree, pink roses melt against the purity of a Guilder rose, the Persian Tree of Life.

Thursday, 9 May
: Bursa. If elveda, farewell, is the most beautiful word in the Turkish language, Ulu must ranks as the most evocative. Turks love the word so much they call everything by it: Ulu Cami, Great Mosque or Friday Mosque, Uludag, Great Mountain. So primitive sounding, the word pushes out the lips and fills the mouth and back of the throat like a gong, an on-going vibration that becomes indistinguishable from the air you breathe and the thoughts you think.

The Great Mountain is today the premier ski resort in Turkey. In times past, however, it was the haunt of the Ottomans who made do with the Byzantine town of Pursa before setting their ambitions on Constantinople. With new masters came the name of Bursa.

In the town centre is a district named Yeshil. It means green; the colour that defines Bursa is also the holies colour in Islam. Bursa’s green resembles the English green, only with a darker underbelly. If it were any darker it would be threatening. It cascades from the mountain and washes the mosques and tombs with a glowing turquoise that is at once familiar and utterly alien. Behind the wooden houses of the old sector, the foothills slide into the streets, virtually knocking on the back doors of shops. Meanwhile Uludag looms like a chthonic force spat up by the earth and about to collapse onto the city. The forest spreads on all sides, almost a bottle-green-black against the cooler air. From here on the Anatolian heartland begins.

The Muradiye high above modern-day Bursa is a mosque in the Arab style, modest, rectangular and abstemious, with a raised platform on which worshippers pray. The mihrab is a splendid niche decorated on all sides in early examples of Iznik tiles and capped off with a muqarnas arch.

It was the Seljuks who brought this pared-back style of architecture into Anatolia when they left Persia. In the hands of the Ottomans, who did to Seljuk architecture what the Romans did to Greek, this style manifested an extravagance and opulence it hardly suspected it possessed. For all that, I prefer the Seljuk taste which seems to me more in keeping with the asceticism required of holy spaces, an invisible hand which is aesthetically pleasing without being distracting. The Ottomans were a bit too viva Las Vegas.

As we wandered about this intimate space, the imam asked if we would like to observe the prayer that was soon to begin. There was no question of leaving; to do so would have been an insult. Besides it was too good an opportunity to pass. We allowed ourselves to be led upstairs to the balcony where Refik promptly fell asleep on the floor. I remained glued to the rail, watching everything with a hawk’s eye.

Eventually men began to drift in, individually, in ones and twos, or in clusters of five or six. They took their place on the platform and began their private prayers. When the platform was almost full, the imam arrived wearing a gold skullcap lined in red. The congregation stood as he sat before the mihrab. Then they sat again and began the prayer in earnest.

The silence that came in with the men was sinister yet somehow calming, reassuring. It was as if the men had left their personalities and individuality at the door with their shoes. Here they are nothing but heads of wheat, indistinguishable from their neighbour and bending to the same gust of wind that guides them to stand, fall to their knees, touch their foreheads to the ground. At a signal from the imam, they cupped their palms to their ears as if picking up a sonic call from beyond. Then they slowly turned their heads to the right and left. In Islam there is a belief that on the right shoulder resides a guardian angel and on the left a devil. Perhaps this is a salute to the implacable forces that control destiny from one moment to the next.

For a split second, I imagine the doors are being locked before the slaughter begins. ‘None of us is going to get out of here alive,’ whispers the devil on my left shoulder. Almost immediately, he is silenced as the imam takes the microphone. His voice is a Gregorian chant, a rhapsody of koranic verse, descending abruptly into a Tibetan profondo basso teetering on the edge of an abyss, before finding its wings again. On and on it goes until the air is a buzz of a thousand bees.

While growing up in Turkey observance of this ritual was forbidden to Christians. Now here I am watching the mystery, not unravel, but deepen before my eyes.

From an anthropological stand point watching the prayer was fascinating. Experienced as a spiritual event, it was moving. Lived through as a Greek, it was utterly terrifying. Is there such a thing as genetic memory, which we tap into, even against our will? Origins betray me to the point that I can only return to Turkey as an Australian. To come back as a Greek is to be overwhelmed by history.

Tomorrow we head westward toward my province of Çanakkale, just across the Gallipoli peninsular. From there it is only a short ferry ride to Bozcaada.

Friday, 10 May
: Cumali Kizik. Before leaving for Çanakkale, we stopped at a village on the outskirts of Bursa. Founded by Osman I in 1320, Cumali Kizik represents the point in which the Ottomans abandoned their nomadic past and became a sedentary people.

It was still early morning and a small wind had sprung up as we enter the foothills. Damp greenery crowded the edges of the narrow road. Goats and cows fed in fields framed by paper-white lilies growing in profusion under chestnut and almond trees. Poplars lined our way and stood guard on either side of the town gates. The sound of running water was everywhere, heard even above the din of sparrows. But neither detracted from the profound silence that sat on rooftops and nestled in the elbows of thick boughs like a watching presence.

As we wended our way through the steep alleys we were careful not to slip. Houses crowded on all sides, leaving barely any room to walk three abreast. A gutter in the middle of what must have been the main street carried the water from melting snow high in the mountain through the village, accounting for the gurgling and chattering that is audible from all over. The water was a clear blue that polished the stones to a high gloss making them seem like a shell on a turtle’s back. Everywhere were shades of blue, green and brown so rich it is easy to believe they have just been born.

The alleys are multi-coloured canyons that follow the contours of the hills, twisting and winding in tight little knots around ridges. Sunlight does not penetrate as far as the street level; thought it filters into sudden courtyards, brushing a vine or doorway, table and chairs, communal tap, with warm fingers. The houses are double or triple storey wood and stone structures, with the traditional overhang into the street. Where plaster has fallen away the sinew of the house is visible; in others even that has been flayed to reveal the guts. Neglect and ruin is everywhere but no more so than careful restoration.

At the apex of the hill the village green is jubilating in the sunlight. Here in a rough circle are the orchards, vineyards and grazing lands. Two urchins, no more than eight or nine, are chasing a black dog in and out of wild mint. A hand-painted sign points the way to a rose garden and restaurant blanketed by fruit trees. I sat on a mossy rock by a stream and watched as a wild-haired little girl joined the two boys in tormenting the dog.

As we take the weight off our feet in a tea garden shaded by linden trees, the local imam wanders over. Would we like to see the village from the tip of the minaret? He is a tall, slender man, with sharp features and searching eyes. When he speaks, his English emerges in odd lilting cadences that sparkle almost as much as his pate.

The climb to the top is an endurance test but well worth the effort. From up here the village is awash in sunlight and red tile roofs, embroidered by a sea of green spreading as far as the eye can see. The leaves of the apricot trees are glossy as patent shoes, with a dollop of sunlight in the cusp. On the north, Bursa nudges the village like a beast not sure of its capabilities.  Further out, a power station belches a column of thick smoke into the air.

From this height the damage and neglect to house is more obvious. ‘In winter the weight of the snow causes many roofs to cave in,’ says the imam. ‘There is no money to repair them. Many choose to move out. But now that families from Bursa visit on weekends, we can begin to fix things.’ Ironically, Bursa’s expanding suburbs have swallowed up the orchards, the village’s traditionally livelihood. ‘Most of the young men travel to town for work and the women look after the fields and animals,’ he said.


The landscape between Bursa and Çanakkale is very Tuscan. Rows of poplars, lonely willows, stony hills and then an entire grove of olive trees shivering in the sunlight. Green is everywhere, in every conceivable shade. Now strong and velvety, now a smoky haze in the distance. And everywhere the peasant women in colourful garb bent over the earth, hoe in hand.

Where the cultivation stops, patchwork quilts of purple, yellow, pink, white and red wild flowers run recklessly onto the road. Ruinous old shacks and houses nestle among clumps of plum and apricot trees, while further back a modern industrial complex outshines the sun.

We stop for lunch at Lapseki on the Dardanelle Straits. Imagine my surprise at discovering that this is ancient Colonae, the city ruled by King Cycnus. His son Tenes was raised on my island and was its king. The classical Greek name of Bozcaada is Tenedos. It means the place of Tenes.

So this is where it all began. Right here, with these waters flowing by and seagulls crying overhead, Tenedos entered history. The weight of time and history is starting to make my head feel like an olive in an oil press. Don’t know whether I want to vomit or rejoice. Instead I drop some tears into the strait, hoping they will flow out to the Aegean and wash up on Tenedos.

To make matters worse the hotel in Çanakkale is on the water, in front of the jetty we used to berth at when my father came here to sell fish. Ghosts are clamouring for attention, which is as it should be. One of the many mouths of Hades is located just upstream.

Saturday, 11 May: Gallipoli. From Lone Pine Gökçeada floats on the Aegean, all ridges and precipitous peaks. To the north, the island of Samothraki rises like an aubergine-coloured volcano. A thin band of mist half way up cuts it in two. They could be two islands, one floating above the other. South of Gökçeada is the barest suggestion of a long-flowing hump in the haze. That’s Tenedos.

It is very peaceful and serene here. The pines and undergrowth are back after the fires of a decade ago. The air is fragrant with hints of wild sage and pine resin. Birds chirp and lizards scuttle from hot rock to hot rock. Gorges and ravines as far as the eye can see. Villages shelter beside coves where once boys died. And then you turn to confront the sea, which has bleached the colour out of the mauve hills and distant islands.

Not being too interested in the whys and wherefores of the battles fought here, I finally give in to the call of the sea. I remove my boots and slip in my legs up to the knee and hands up to the elbow. As the water pours into my pores, it becomes once more blood of my blood. I am in it. It is in me. The water I played beside, swam in, fished and floated on since birth. Dipping myself into it now is akin to floating in embryonic waters. It is another climate all together, trembling and deceptive.

There is nothing left to say about the Anzac myth but what I said to Refik. "We won protecting our homeland. They tried to take it from us, cut it up into bite sizes for the fat cats of the day. But we wouldn’t let them. That’s all there is to it, as far as I'm concerned." He asked if anyone in my family fought in the war. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘My grandfather. He was a Greek who fought on the side of the Ottoman army.’ The landscape has swallowed their bones and regenerated itself; that's nature's way of dealing with grief.

Later at Point Helles, Tenedos finally rears out of the water. It is so close you could touch it. From here you can see the back of the hill of Hagios Elias dipping down to a lower hillock, which embraces in the crook of its arm the bone-white fortress and houses of the village, rising and falling with the contours of the hills.

‘Here,’ says Refik, ‘I brought these for you.’ I train the binoculars on the island and for the first time in thirty years see the three islets behind the island, lying flat and low on the wine-dark sea. I'd forgotten they were there. A lighthouse used to stand on one. Now, not even a mound of rubble exists. The other two were grazing land for goats. The somewhat longer islet now turns with dozens of white windmills for generating electricity. It looks out of place, a bizarre ship from another age. Opposite, on the mainland, Troy is a mere pimple on the plain.

In a photograph taken by Eleanor, I look like life has just flashed before my eyes. Behind me the island is a hazy, barely conceived thought balloon, a phantom struggling for existence. In my blue jeans and tee shirt if I fell into the sea, I would instantly become water.

It's hard to believe I will be on Tenedos in three weeks time! The idea is to see the Turkish mainland first, go back to Istanbul for a short rest, and then travel back this way again to get to the island.

To be continued in the next issue...

- . -

Dmetri KAKMI was born in Bozcaada, Turkey. He is currently writing a non fiction book entitled, 'Foretold in the Language of Dreams: An Aegean
Mosaic'. He works as an editor for Penguin Books.

This issue is dedicated to the Peace Process of SRI LANKA & prominent Turkish author Yasar KEMAL

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