A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Friday, January 18, 2013

On to Istanbul, Part One

Here We Go Again

After an eleven day stomp from Edirne, the Turkish city near the Bulgarian border, travel pal Inge and I entered Istanbul.

 Until Banja Luka ın Bosnia, our travel plans had been short-term, to travel from one nearby city to the next together, but it was there that we decided to go all the way to Istanbul before going our separate ways.
 "Istanbul by mid- January!" Inge had said, like a hard- charging military commander.
Well, it is mid- January, and here we are in Istanbul.

After the break in Edirne it was good to be moving again, and it was good to have company again. Inge had parted for a bit after Sofia to get a little breathing space, then we had just rejoined when she flew home to Germany to give the puppy she had rescued a new home, and to enjoy the holidays with friends and family.
Inge´s company was all the more appreciated, therefore, as I had been starting to talk to myself a little too often those final days through Bulgaria and Greece.

Our first week walking from Edirne was over rolling, windswept plains, and we camped in places as various as a cemetery, in an abandoned warehouse where thieves were hard at work in the room adjacent to ours, or in abandoned schools.

Despite the cold our spirits were high; every village tea house we passed offered us tea or coffee, and the local people we met were overwhelmingly friendly.

One Way to Find a Place to Sleep (Not Recommended)

In one village as the sun went down and the temperature dropped, Inge found an abandoned school to investigate. The school in this village had broken windows but no apparently easy way to enter it, so after trying the front entrance İnge walked to the back of the school. I explained to a curious man on the street that we were looking for a place to sleep. He saw Inge snooping around the school and ran into a nearby tea house.
"That guy is going to tell on you, Inge!" I shouted.
"I don´t care, it´s cold and we need a place to sleep!" she shouted back, using words a bit stronger than those I have written.
I sat down at the foot of a statue of a man with a top hat, probably a village notable from the past, waiting resignedly for whatever trouble was coming our way. The trouble came with the arrival of a man with a thin, black moustache wearing  a brown jacket with a badge and a ball cap. The man who had reported us was with him, pointing to Inge. The security man shouted a few sharp words in Inge´s direction, then looked at me, still sitting, as he held his arms out, palms up, and shrugged, looking for an explanation.
In sign language, I explained: walking far, cold, tired, need a place to sleep.
The security man said a word or two to the man who had reported us, then told me to follow him. He led me to a room above the tea house, turned on the heater, and welcomed us to stay for the night. The room had the appearance of a very small doctor´s office; the only stipulation the security man made was that we could not sleep on the examination table.
As it turned out, the security man was also the owner of the tea house, and for all we knew he could have been the village doctor as well. He treated us to tea, then later in the evening three teenaged boys came up to treat me to tea (as Inge had gone to bed) and ask me lots of questions with very few words. The next morning we were treated to more tea and böreks to eat before continuing on our way.

How Excessive Pride Led to The Keys to the City of Saray

Inge is one of the toughest women I have ever met, though the average stranger might not believe it because of her charm. That toughness will get her through Iran, through all the "Stans", through China and beyond, but it has also ruffled my feathers and tested my (ahem) equanimity on occasion. On one such occasion it was suggested to me that we should not stop at every tea house just because someone offered us tea, and that we had better move along if we were ever going to get to Istanbul. I took this as a challenge, and decided to show Inge a thing or two by stomping at double time without a break for something like four hours. Unfortunately, soon after I had made this decision it began to rain, and though common sense dictated that we take cover, at least for the worst of it, pride demanded that I teach Inge a lesson on how to get down the road. Once we had reached the small city of Saray, however, exhaustion and a good soaking had me ducking right back into a tea house. Inge followed and went straight to the wood stove. I sat outside, smoking, and wondering how I could fix the mess I had got us into. Keep in mind, all we had was a tent to look forward to at the end of the day, which would be as soaking wet as we were.
After a coffee, I appealed to the gentlemen around me, in sign language: walking far, cold, tired, need a place to sleep. Also soaking wet. My shivering was also sign language, though unintended.
Before long the men were debating among themselves on how to help, and after ten minutes or so a man named Jamal beckoned us to follow him through Saray´s streets to its city hall.
After being directed from one office to another, Jamal took us straight to the top, to the mayor´s office. Without hesitation, the mayor brought us to an office full of public servants, one of whom translated the details of our journeys. A decision was quickly made; we were to be Saray´s guests.As a  man led us away to a restaurant, Jamal was jubilant for having been able to help us out. We were told to order what we liked. We did so, and we ate, smiling like children at a pizza joint. Then we were led to the hotel where the city was putting us up.
So the moral to the story is: when you are challenged, accept the challenge to teach the challenger a lesson. But when you have invariably been taught the lesson instead, swallow your pride and hope people as hospitable as the City of Saray are there to fıx things for you.

Next: Challenge not Accepted; The 0630 Wakeup Call; It´s Destiny, but What Does it Mean?The Rousing Speech that Became a Whimper; Camping in the Suburbs; So What Now?


  1. What good are signs when a man is too blind to hear them.

    1. Indeed, you may be right anonymous friend, I have to regain my vision.