Madness and unlikely meetings

Sunset boat on the Bosphorus

Aside from the man at the tourist information booth where we left our bags, the first person who we met in Goreme was Harun: a 24 year old banker from Istanbul off on a vacation in Cappadocia with his friend for a few days. During our time there, we saw them constantly. We got onto a tour bus and there they were. We stepped into a restaurant or walked down a street and his distictiely dyed grey hair would appear.

This evening, my father and I took a ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadikoy on the Asian side. At a Red Crescent blood donation centre, my father met a huge and friendly officer in the Turkish naval special forces who gave us a tour of the area. We visited his favourite nut shop and had tea. Shortly after leaving him so that he could go to his Aikido practice, my father and I were astonished to see Harun. In a city of fifteen million, we ran into the same guy who we saw constantly in a small town 800km away.

We shared our astonishment, then got coffee in an area that could have been transplanted anywhere from Helsinki to Robson Street in Vancouver. There was a Starbucks that could have been shrink-wrapped and shipped from Seattle. In the coffee shop we visited, everything was equally familiar, barring the photo of Ataturk on the wall.

This morning, we took a much more thorough tour of the Topkapi Palace, former seat of the Ottoman Empire. One notable feature, in the harem, is “The Cage.” Hoping to avoid the need to commit fratricide, a sultan decided to simply imprison all relatives with a claim to the throne along with food, opium, and concubines. To prevent the generation of any additional claimants, any women impregnated by those in the cage would be swiftly drowned. Unfortunately, those who emerged after decades in the cage, after a previous sultan died, were often mad. One had the grand vizier executed after a complaint that the harem was too cold one day; he also had all 280 palace concubines drowned in the Bosphorus (though one did escape from her weighted sack and get taken to Paris by a passing French merchant vessel). I joked to my father that prime ministers in Westminster style democracies might see merit in such a cage for finance ministers.

Tomorrow may well involve an expedition across the Sea of Marmara, but that remains to be planned over a few glasses of apple tea.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “Madness and unlikely meetings”

  1. This kind of post is more fun to read than a straight chronological account.

  2. Hi Milan, It’s very interesting reading about your adventures in Turkey. I was there in May and June last year. I will return again this May. I am not really able to answer any of your questions regarding Turkish rap, as I am American, and not into rap. I do have friends you may be able to help, although Turkish does not translate so well especially with song meanings.
    I intend to read more of your blog as I find it very interesting. Cheers,
    Vickie in Texas

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