Sunday, November 21, 2010


I've got in the habit of putting my photos on facebitch, but that's evil, and means that not all of my potential audience gets properly bludgened about the face with photos of me looking pissed/pissed off in a succession of bus garages and restaurants, SO I thought I'd wop a few on here. Muwah ha haa haaaa. Plus I've got not a lot of note to write about, and am feeling marginally embarrassed about the last minute-of-silence post, so thought I'd de-bump it or whatever the terminology is with some photo bulk.

All of the below are from the trip I went on for last week's mega bank-holiday-a-thon. This time (to get in my obligatory bit of didactic spiel on things you aren't actually interested in) it was for Kurban Bayram─▒ as it's known in Turkey, or Eid al-Adha to most of the world; either way that's Feast of the Sacrifice in English. (Or Islam's Festival of Death to the less charitable and/or animal rights conscious bloggers out's a whole big live sacrifice thang.)

Anyhow, it was 4 1/2 bank holiday days off work, which because it fell Monday pm to Friday this year happily meant that most employers including mine couldn't be arsed with the half day Monday, so everyone got the full week off work with the weekends either side. Reeeesult. So this was enough time to justify the journey to the other side of Turkey, specifically Trabzon, S's home town on the north east black sea coast of the country. So. Are you sitting comfortably?

^ Setting off

^ On the coach to Trabzon. Bit of a way by bus, 2pm til 6am I think it was, but then turkish coaches are aces. They are constantly giving you free coffee and juice and cake, and stuff like tvs in the back of the chair are pretty standard. I was particularly enamoured of the fact that this bus had a channel for a camera pointed out the front at the road, so you could get an unimpaired view of the lunatic turkish driving. (I am not being an uncharitable blogger here, they are lunatic. You know that phenomenon whereby as traffic builds it also slows and soon enough you end up with a traffic jam? Well, here it just doesn't happen. Everyone keeps going merrily along at 90kph, just with a vanishingly small gap before the car in front.)

^ Shortly after arrival, maybe 8am - the view from one of S's hangouts - a cafe by the sea where she'd drink with her buddies...sort of Crooked Billet equivalent I guess.

Aya Sofya, Trabzon version. Which was nice and all, but you know, you've seen one Byzantian church...but this one did have one particularly cool feature. Because for a long time most of the people coming to Trabzon were Greek sailors for whom it was the end or start of a long and dangerous journey, this church was where they'd go and pray thanks for, or to ask for, a safe journey. And consequently hidden round the back of the church are walls and walls of inscriptions/graffiti that these sailors have carved into the stonework - pictures of their boats, and writing, which I guess read something along the lines of Panagiotis woz 'ere, 1400.

Me with kebab. Of course.

Trabzon and sea with haze:

Inland, black sea mountains with sunset (and camera flare)

Actually you know sod it I've got loads of fairly dodgy photos of the boootiful countryside, but frankly you're not interested and if you were just image google Trabzon, you're bound to see better. Instead look at these weird wooden things below. There's some tenuous fossil connection in the area where these were taken and so I think these are meant to be dinosaurs. I *think* they are intended to look like they do, but you can't discount the possibility that this is a genuine best attempt at accurate representational sculpture...

and my personal favourite - the sign is 'Welcome'

Lovely. And this gurning wooden baffoon is looking at this view:

You'd think he'd have a bit of decorum, wouldn't you?

Anyway. That's it I think. Once again I can't think of a suitable way to sign off. So here are some Turks for you, on a rock. On a rock, on a rock, got them sitting on a rock.

That was blatantly more dodgy landscape photos wasn't it? Ah well. It was very nice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10th November, 9.05am

I am also enjoying living according to a different set of rhythms. The sort of cultural backdrop that you are barely even aware of because it's always there. Thinking about back home, well I remember starting with the New Year hangover, then there's nothing much until the Easter and seasonal general rebirth vibe; then you've got the Boat Race, London Marathon, and the Grand National to take you through spring into summer, where it's Test Cricket, Wimbledon, the summer bank and school holidays; then back to school time, then it's Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, next thing you know Christmas hype is gearing up again and it's a bipolar acceleration of enforced jollity and worsening weather, til you're through the whole year again in blearing familiarity.

It is dead interesting, and really rather pleasant, to be inside a whole different set of routines. The bank holiday rota is of course different, and then there are the religious holidays which I guess culturally are the Christmas equivalents - we've got a week long one next week and the grins and letting off steam in the office is definitely gathering pace.

And then today was a moment straight out of left-field that was really rather wonderful.

Atat├╝rk, Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, and the object of no small amount of hero-worship by all colour of turks, died on the 10th of November, at 9.05am. Today shortly before this time I was in my office, which is a 3rd floor building with just the coast main road and a set of ferry terminals between us and the Bosphorus. I was settling into my normal morning routine of coffee and emails, when one of my colleagues said, hey come to the window for a bit, you ought to see this.

What?, I thought. Normal day, rush hour traffic, taxis buses and cars locked in their usual battle of death for the extra metre on the road and the 3 seconds it saves them, commuters running late jumping off the boats, flooding through to the tram for the next stage in their hurry to work.

And then the sound started. Ferry horns, that low fog horn doooooooth sound I'd recognise anywhere. Then some other notes joining them from all sides, I'm not sure where, maybe the mosques' tannoy systems or a broadcast from elsewhere, then within seconds the cars had picked up on it and started sounding their horns, and then in complete synchrony they all slowed, stopped, the drivers got out of their cars and stood motionless by their open doors.

Commuters who had been walking shoving jostling along all stopped, stood, bowed their heads, cigarettes ignored and allowed to burn down. The noise, which had built up to the sort of noise you imagine a cathedral organ making with a sack of spuds on the pedals, then died down again. Boats in the Bosphoros cut their engines and drifted.

Nothing moved.

And then, with as much consensus as with which it had stopped, everything started again. We all took a breath, a colleague wiped the start of a tear away, and we all went back to our desks, and started work.

(I apologise if that aimed at overly poetic and ended up with trite, but was quite something.)