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Published: September 15th 2015
You gotta see it to understand it
We have an apartment on the east side of the Dardanelles Strait. Our big kitchen has a long granite counter and a small sink. A dishwasher we never use and a full-sized refrigerator that we do. We bought a cavernous toaster oven because in Turkey they don't come in any other size. It's like toasting bread in a fireplace. There is a long, window-walled living-room with two sofas and a table where we take our meals. A small terrace where we dry our laundry and do little else. The bedroom holds a double bed and a huge closet where we have distributed our two carry-ons worth of clothing in a manner which gives us the appearance of permanence. The apartment windows are equipped with clattering roll-down shutters that block out daylight and noise so completely we have midnight at our fingertips.
There are six apartments in our building. The top floor is occupied by a retired French teacher, his wife and their adult son. We are the only other tenants and we dwell on the ground floor. The thick, plaster coated walls allow us to listen to our eclectic collection of music without disturbing the neighbors. There is a small
Noah and Karen
Weisbaden, Germany. August 2015. Welcome home son.
square in front of the building. On Wednesdays it is filled with vendors selling vegetables and fruits and fresh cheeses. Tomatoes are 15-cents a pound. Peppers and eggplants sell for 20-cents and so on. Velvety, fast-pitch softball-sized peaches set us back a whopping 40-cents a pound. Big jars of thick amber honey will run you $3. All of it flavorful and fresh. For foodies like us it it is an embarrassment of riches. The vendors arrive in the early morning from the surrounding hills. They tow their produce filled trailers with old, belching 1950's International Harvester tractors. Thick, scarf-draped women ride atop the goods. At sunset they break it all down and head back out into the darkness.
We rise around 5 AM, make the coffee, check our e-mail and when we've finally run out of reasons not to, we head outside. We have a kitten who waits for us on the front steps. Karen feeds him bits of cheese and cuddles. He purrs like a Porsche. There are strays everywhere. Mixed breed dogs and cats of every description. Never mistreated and kept fat and happy by the community. People keep improvised water bowls topped off and tummies filled.
We have joined with our fellows in the collective responsibility.
We follow a cafe lined path along the waterway. Ships hauling grain south from Odessa and manufactured goods north from Europe ply the waters 24/7. This is Hellespont. The historical boundary between the West and Asia. The north winds here would sometimes force ancient ships to anchor before making their way to the Black Sea. Settlements sprang up to serve them. Canakkale has been continuously occupied since 3,000 BC. It is the narrowest point on the waterway. Alexander the Great crossed here to invade Asia. The Turkish Ottoman empire built castle-like fortresses on both sides of the strait to control access to Istanbul. The British navy had its rear end kicked here in 1915. The ancient city of Troy is 25-miles south of where we dwell. There is history everywhere you look.
When we arrived last month the days and nights were hot but in the last week cool winds have been sweeping down from the North making for pleasant days and hard sleeping nights. We walk 5-miles every morning exchanging greetings with our brisk-gaited fellows. It is a beautiful place and every dawn presents something new to
Good people in Canakkale
look at like luxury cruise ships heading to Constantinople or four-masters straining under full sail. At this time of the year vast schools of fat Sardines are roiling the waters. Fishermen in tiny boats net them by the ton and the delicacy can be found in local markets for $2 a pound. We have them grilled over charcoal fires and eat them by the dozen.
For excitement we take the local bus 4 miles into the city of 180,000. We play cards in a local cafe where waiters hustle tiny glasses of tea and toasted sandwiches stuffed with fresh white cheese and tomatoes. Or you can pick something up at one of the nearby bakers and bring it in with you. There are so many bakers here. We have a woman in our neighborhood graced with Mrs. Kringle's girth and smile. She is master to a huge, old, oak-fired oven where she bakes hundreds of fat, round, crusty loaves every day. When they are ready she uses a ten-foot long wooden paddle to slide them out like a happy baccarat dealer collecting some poor loser's chips. It is some of the best bread we have ever eaten and it
That time of the year. I didn't recognize them without the can.
sells for $1 a loaf. The bakery tour is free.
They've built a new shopping center here. Loaded with high-end clothing stores. The Turkish Lira is in free-fall. Our exchange rate advantage has increased 50% since last year. I bought a couple of Nike shirts for $30. Karen has found a women's wear store that she and I are very happy with. Her side of the closet is filling out. There are more restaurants to choose from than ever. A pricey meal here will run you $15 per person and that's with all the bells and whistles. A new Cineplex with English language films has sprung up. A ticket with reserved seats to the new Mission Impossible film with popcorn and beverage included was $5 and it turned out to be a private screening.
Turkey is served by an amazing infrastructure of buses. We visited friends on the Aegean coast 3 hours south of Canakkale. We paid $10 for the ticket. The bus was equipped with refreshments, on-demand movies and very good WIFI. Local buses are frequent but crowded. The fare is 60-cents and as the only resident Americans in town people will usually jump up to offer
He's a veterinarian and lives with his family in Maryland. Small world.
us their seats. It's a thing. I used to fight it but now I just sit down.
Turks love ice cream. There are ice cream parlors everywhere dolloping out hand made gelato concoctions in fancy cafes. We favor one near the Trojan Horse on Canakkale's waterfront promenade. The horse is the movie prop from the film 'Troy' with Brad Pitt. It sounded stupid when I first heard of it but in reality it looks like it belongs there. At night the promenade is filled with well-dressed Turks from all over the country taking in the sunset or playing basketball or listening to street musicians. Karen and I will sit there sometimes and talk about the goings on. We'll look up to see a group of Turks attracted by the sound of our voices, standing around us and eager to practice their language skills. The other night we met a guy from Istanbul who used to live in Phillie but he hates the Eagles and he wanted to talk about the Giants' chances in the NFC East this year. His veiled wife stood next to him and smiled at us throughout the conversation. He extended an invitation to visit them
Karen and Lera
I call her Svetlana. She's from the Ukraine. She taught herself Turkish in 3 months. People like this make me sick.
if we ever got back to Istanbul and he meant it. These people always mean it when they reach out to you and we had no doubt that should we ever take him up on the offer he would give us the shirt off his back because that's what Turks do. A Turk's guests want for nothing while they are in a Turkish home. Neither food nor shelter nor loving companionship. Turkey is a remarkable place in this regard.
There is a gym we go to. We found it last year when it was new and shiny and A/C cooled and the manager was enthusiastic. These days it's owned by a paunchy fellow who sits at a table outside the front door drinking black tea and perpetually raking his fingers through his hair like a man inundated with worry. The A/C is but a fond memory. We drink a liter of water each and use a beach towel to sponge away the sweat. Half the machines are labeled 'To Be Repaired' and we know that come next year this gym will have become a storage space for kitchen supplies. After working out we eat lunch at Ates Doner which
Karen and Aunt Servat
Wonderful lady whom we stayed with on the Aegean coast with her Nephew Hasan and the rest of the family.
serves the best grilled chicken that we have ever tasted. Half a chicken and a plate of humus are more than enough to feed the two of us. With drinks the tab comes to $6. The owner remembers us from last year. He has the cook send over plates of grilled peppers and tomatoes. He also serves us two glasses of horrendous tea which we politely accept and then poison a table-side potted plant with. We were happily surprised at the number of people here who remembered us. They give us big hugs and occasionally take selfies with us that they post to Facebook with a caption that probably reads 'Can you believe these guys actually came all the way back here?'
In the evening we'll ramble down to a waterside cafe. We'll play Gin and have a soft drink while the sun sets in brilliant reds behind the Gallipoli peninsula. When it gets dark they turn on the Chinese lanterns. Children chase each other around the tables while fisherman cast hunks of bread onto the water's silver surface and the sound of evening prayer drones in the background. I'll pay the 60-cent tab and we'll slowly walk home,
Dr. Hasan and his sister Nilgun
Doing what they do best. Nothing.
stopping along the way to pet a dog or comfort a cat. We'll lower the shutters and put on an episode of something like Supernatural but we'll fall asleep before the end and wake up the next morning to do it all again. And that's our life as of now.
Our lives here have been helped immeasurably by our old Turkish friends and new. Old friends like dear Tolga in Istanbul, happy Hatice and Nevzet in Canakkale, thoughtful Dr. Hasan in Izmir. This year we stayed at the City Residence Hotel In Canakkale when we arrived. A new hotel 5-minutes from the port. The manager is a young woman by the name of Yesim. She's lived in the States and went to the University of Michigan. We talked to her about helping us find an apartment here and within 72-hours it was done. WIFI installation; Done. Cell phone service; Done. She has been a blessing in every sense of the word. The hotel is bright, clean, quiet and a tremendous value given its in-town location. If you're ever in the neighborhood you could do a lot worse. We know because we have.
City Residence Hotel; thecityresidence.com
Friends In Istanbul
We are adopted as family everywhere we go. Tolga is in the middle and Lera stands in front of him. The dude on the left is a friend of Tolga's whom we had met last year. His gal is on his left.
Phone: +90 286 212 0844
Shouts out to the Goodbrads back home and Noah who is packing his dufflebag for the last time. His Army hitch done and his new life about to begin. Right now I think I'm about the proudest Dad in the world. God love you Noah. You did it and you did it well. Please tell your gal, Aerin that we send our love and we'll load more pictures later. Congrats to Ken and Kate who just married, honeymooned in Turkey and set a record for number of places visited in a week flat. You GO kids!
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