Day 5 Traveling to Bursa

GoAhead Tours seems to be of the mind that we want to see as much as possible of Turkey, even if a lot of it is at 55mph! We knew that when we signed up for the tour, we knew it was ambitious, however tonight at 6 when we arrived in Cannakkale in the dark after being on the bus all day it seemed like a much less acceptable way of traveling. Ah well. It’s a tour, and I am at the stage in life where I don’t want to be schlepping my luggage around train stations with languages I can’t read sending me off to somewhere weird.

We left Istanbul this morning at 730, after an early wakeup call and bags out the door by 630. The ride out of town was lovely actually, watching all the traffic coming in from the Asia side of the city made us all very happy we were traveling east instead of west. Just a short distance out of town, we took a ferry to cross Sea of Marmara to the town of Yalova. Nice little stop at a very modern grocery store with real flush toilets, and then on to the mountain town of Bursa.

The town of Bursa is really a very large industrial city famous for its textile manufacturing, but the part we were to see was on the mountain at the base of Uludag National Park, where we could see snow and the ski lifts. We visited the Green Mosque, named for it’s green tiles (aka the Blue Mosque and it’s blue tiles), then had lunch at a nice little restaurant with a view of the city. View of the city also means view of the air pollution, the price paid for all that textile work, I guess. Suleyman told us this restaurant had the very best most classic special kabob of all, and so once more I tried it, and once more the sheepy taste got to me and I couldn’t eat it. Now I think I like lamb, but maybe I need something done to it, like bbq, or that great morrocan honey coating I ate with the lamb I had back in Spokane one time. Memories of those Morrocan lamb kabobs are what I thought I was going to find here in turkey, but not so far.

After lunch, the part of Bursa we visited was charming, and quaint, with old and not so old men playing some kind of gambling game on the side streets and a very sweet, very little old lady collecting money for her little packets of tissues. I had an ulterior motive when I pulled out some Lira, she was just so cute and I wanted her photo. She smiled with me and then insisted on a cheek kiss, both sides, and one of our tour buddies, Gong, who used to be from China and now lives in Austin, took my photo with her. Gong is great, and has a killer camera with a lens that needs a man his size to carry. He introduces himself as “gong, you know, like the gong show”. He’s very nice. The scary part of all this, is that when you look at the photo, we match, the little old lady from Turkey has the same chin and nose that I do. She could have been my ancestor from somewhere, except for the fact that she was literally half my size. Still, it makes for a delightfully fun photo at least.
We then shopped at the Silk Market, since silks have been produced here for centuries and the shop was accessible at least. I found a great pillow cover in silk with images of Turkish horses and sultans that I love. However the big tourist bus got into a pickle trying to turn around on the streets, so we all gawked, while the locals looked entertained, and finally our tour driver Zach managed to get the monster turned around. Talk about being a tourist! Geez.

We all climbed back into the bus for the 4.5 hour drive to Cannakkale on the Aegean coast. The drive was boring for a time, but as the countryside opened up it was really lovely, much like northern California coastal landscape with rolling hills of very deep very dark soils and many assorted agricultural fields that were mostly harvested and barren. Views of the Dardanelles opened up to the north, the straits between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and the place where history has been made over and over throughout civilization. Tomorrow we will get more history lessons as we visit Troy.

Today however, Suleyman was focused on giving us a good picture of Islam as he knows it, and Islam as it is practiced in Turkey. Most Turkish people are Sunni’s, meaning that they do not have a hierarchy or a clergy. He explained the 5 pillars of Islam, and that all it takes to become a Muslim is to say basically ‘There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet’. Although he explained that the translation is somewhat distorted and said that the Arabic words mean more closely, “There is no deity but God and Muhammad is his messenger”. He tried to answer questions, but became a bit uncomfortable when I asked where the word “infidel” came from. Suleyman has explained to us how many Muslims pray 5 times a day, and that there are very specific, ritualized ablutions required before prayer, with the men all washing properly at the open faucets lining the exterior of the mosques. The women perform their ablutions in private however. He also said that he only prays once a day, and that many Muslims are reformed in this way, and don’t practice so intensely, yet still consider themselves devout.

Also, we have a large group of Methodist church members traveling together, and they are mumbling, “When are we going to get to some of the Christian history”. Tomorrow, I said, tomorrow. On this next day we will be seeing many of the Christian sites talked about in this part of Turkey, including the final resting place of the Blessed Virgin. It is really interesting having tour guides with different perspectives. In Malta, a Catholic country, we learned a lot about Catholic Christian history, in Thailand, we learned a lot about Buddhism, and here we have a chance to learn about Islam from a person who practices Islam in a sectarian country, without the scary connotations that we have in the US at the moment regarding Islam. It’s one of the great things about traveling, I think. That and the food. Ha!

We landed this evening in the dark in Cannakkale, close to Troy, with the smell of the sea and the sound of the call to prayer echoing all around the hills. Mo is fighting a nasty cold, and we were glad when dinner at the hotel had come and gone so we could go back to our room and rest for the next day of wild GoAhead style travel. I think after tomorrow, though, we will have a couple of days in one place to regroup a bit and relax. Suleyman warned us in the beginning that this was a teaching trip, not a relaxing trip. He meant it. Best part for me is plenty of knitting time on the big bus that manages a fairly smooth ride even on these narrow country roads. My sweater is coming along and who knows, I might get close to finishing it before this trip is over.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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