smashes us as though we were made of glass,
never are our shards put together again."
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
you think it is alright for me to come inside?’
you want to?’
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
is what religion should be," Refik whispered. We
watch the couple for ages, spellbound.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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...
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.