2012 m. lapkričio 25 d., sekmadienis

“I came to Turkey for one month in 2007, but I’m still here…”

Piero Castellano italian photographer and journalist in Ankara came to Turkey in 2007 and is staying here till nowadays. Of course he often goes back to Italy, but most of time Piero spends in capital of Turkey. He worked in Spain, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Poylenias, Chile and Venezeula. So what on earth he is here for?
Photographer Piero Castellano

Why did you decide to come to Turkey?
I came to Turkey by chance, for just one month. Of course, I knew about the beauty of the country, but still its variety surprised me. As I’ve been travelling around the country, I noticed so many diversities, such peculiar traditions and landscapes, that I realized that Turkey is a gold mine for a photographer. Soon I got to appreciate Turkish way of life, and the way they keep customs alive that once were common to the entire Mediterranean area, so I decided to settle down here.

Was it difficult to blend in at the beginning?
In spite of many cultural and daily life differences, I have to say “no, it wasn’t”. The only oddity was, and still is, how difficult is to be a single male in Turkey, being seen as a potential sexual predator by women, couples and male “competitors”: in many bars, men are not allowed without female company, and of course, this makes finding new friends very hard. On the other side, once inside of a circle of friends, it is like being a part of a family. But still a “yabanci”, a stranger more than a foreigner.

Istanbul, the owner of a makeshift shooting gallery recover his targets from the sea
You are living here from 2007. How did country change during this period?
It has changed a lot.
On one side, the quality of life has improved indeed. Prices have increased, and so, apparently consumption. But on the other side, polarization has also increased, not only between poor and rich, but also between different sections of the society. The press was much more outspoken about criticizing the government, now it looks self-restrained, and this is not surprising, considering many attacks on the Media, and the number of journalists in jail. Minorities were much more visible, until just a couple of years ago, now they are more discreet. For example, it was common to see the “sword of Ali”, an Alevi religious symbol, exhibited as jewelry or ornament. Now it has almost disappeared. Some topics like the right for abortion, and other women rights, that used to be taken for granted, now are widely debated. Also, the number of head scarved women visible in the streets has sharply increased, and if this can be seen as an effect of more tolerance towards religious people, it can also be seen as a turn to a more conservative society.
Ankara, kids go dancing toward the 1st May celebration concert

How did Turkey change you?
I am definitely more polite! Aside from personal habits, like meals time, food or entertainment preferences, the attitude towards both strangers and friends is affected by Turkish hospitality and politeness. But this can also include some level of cautiousness, lest I offend somebody with excessive confidence.

Have you faced any dangerous situations?
Traffic. Though used to drive in Naples, Turkey’s driving habits can be a tough test for European driver. Roads in bad conditions can also be a danger, especially in villages and in the East. And to take pictures of street kids in Istanbul, often under influence of substances, was a frightening experience. There was also a very sad accident, when a Turkish Air Force training jet crashed into the sea just dozens of meters from me: the two pilots did not eject to avoid crashing on the street killing people, that is to say, me.

Do you plan to stay here for long?
I don’t know yet, much will depend on how the country will change, and how I will feel here. For the moment, this would be my intention.

Do you think Turkey will ever become more European?
Turkey is already the European country. It has always been. Though this is difficult to accept for many people in Europe, and also for many Turks, the Republic of Turkey, and even the Ottoman Empire have always been a part of Europe bridging Christian and “Western” cultures with the East, and the Northern and Russian ones with the Mediterranean world. Some clear division existed only in both sides propaganda. The issue is about modernization, and as in every country that has undergone periods of forced and quick modernization (let’s think for example to Japan), conservative values become a shelter for many, especially in the family sphere. But in business, cultural and public life spheres, Turkey is more advanced than many “European” countries.
Ankara, masters of Shadow Theater perform a Karagoz&Hacivat show

What do you love and what do hate mostly about this country? How does religion influence this country?
I love almost everything about Turkey.
The food is excellent, people are friendly and polite, uniquely hospitable and everything is clean and well organized. Land and seascapes are marvelous, transportation is quite easy, the work ethics – very strong. Of course, I notice many problems, like widespread poverty and sadly, environmental issues. Though much is being done to alleviate poverty, and even the poorest can afford to live with some decorum, the environment protection is not considered a priority.

The only thing I really hate about Turkey is its bureaucracy. It is not worse than others, like the Italian one (possibly the worst in the world) but in Turkey it is actually the one thing that just does not work. While some rules are inexplicable, every department or directorate ignores what the others do, and even in the same department, especially in the Custom, different officers ask for different requirements or give different explanations. To meet English speaking personnel is a stroke of luck, even in the Foreigners Section of the Police. Remarkably, when I asked for information via email to the “Custom and Foreign Trade Office”, their answer was “Başvurular Türkçeyapılmalı.”, literally “Inquiries should be asked in Turkish.” The feeling of any foreigner forced to deal with bureaucracy is mostly of being bullied for no apparent reason. But most of the personnel are, at least, very kind.

Religion is one of the key values that keep the country together. In spite of recent, in my opinion unfortunate, developments, it does not influence too much the young Turks life or career choices, especially for the most educated ones. Unfortunately, repressions of the past have generated a revanchist spirit that pushes towards a commingling of religion with secular law, which is obviously incomprehensible to Western eyes, and inacceptable to any secularist in Turkey. Some statements also have an intimidating effect, especially with regard of alcohol consumption, becoming less acceptable in public, thus increasing in private, where it is less controlled and can bring serious problems.
Cappadocia, four Turkish women

What kind of pictures do you take here? What can we learn about Turkey from your pictures?
I mostly try to focus on traditions, folklore, craftsmanship, and street life. Archaeology, as the footprint of History, is also a common topic for me. I try to avoid controversial issues, but of course, demonstrations against the ban of abortion, or for rights of minorities, are a professional duty, and cannot be avoided.
I think my pictures show glimpses of a modern country, struggling to keep its peculiar identity, through the attachment to traditional events, arts or way of life and jealously proud of its History.

Do you think you found a key to Turkish culture? What is it?
If there is one key to understand modern Turkey’s culture, I think it’s through its history, and history teaches that Turkey is a mosaic of different customs: one people, made of many, many different cultures that blend into a unique mix. Some of the values keeping this people together are now in discussion, because of tragedies of the past, or the challenge of modernization. But people are strong, and I am optimist about the outcome of this challenge.

What do your parents think about your decision?
They are actually quite reassured that I settled down in one place. But most of my friends in Italy do not know a lot about Turkey and keep wondering how life can be in “such a different” country.

photos © 2012 Piero Castellano

2012 m. rugsėjo 9 d., sekmadienis

Antalya – heaven for the Russians

3 days in Antalya with a Turkish family. For you it may sound like a challenge, for me it was yet another experiment. When my friend Mısra invited me to come to Antalya, I decided that I really should do this. As always I was afraid of facing the traditions, but as far as I am familiar with it, I thought that my behaviour wouldn‘t be strayed too far from the Turkish path.

7 hours trip and I am enclosed in totally differnt surroundings than in Eskisehir – Mediterranean sea, palms and the mountains on the other side which finally looks so close.

Before you start to live in Turkey you should learn golden rule of this country – there are no rules, only traditions which lead every step in the daily life.

While entering the house you have always be careful where to leave shoes – outside or inside
the door. If you stumble, they may say nothing, but will start counting your negatives.
My trip started with huge Turkish breakfast which is always a challenge for me. I am used to grab yogurt or sereal and here it is like a long procession which lasts from 1 or 2 hours and sometimes becomes similar to lunch.
It was around 40 degrees in Antalya, so real life began only around 5 o‘clock. We ran thorugh Hadrian's Gate, Hıdırlık Tower, Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque, Konyaaltı Beach, The Atatürk Monument at Cumhuriyet Meydanı (Republic Square), Kaleiç, Atatürk parkı, Konyaaltı Avenue and other touristic spots.

Everywhere on the way you could meet Russian tourists, it’s like small Russian island in Turkey. Turks said that they didn’t like (I analyzed Natasha’s phenomenon before) them, because they behave really rude, don’t care for the others and may keep taking pictures of one touristic object for hours, but on the other hand they adore them, because these tourists spend a lot of money and are free to try everything.

This is the reason why Antalya is not cheap. “Turkey is cheap, but in Eskisehir it is enough to have a job for one person, in Antalya, both parents should work”, economy situation here explains Mısra’s mother Saliha.

Beach park – one of the most popular party streets left vague image. These days, on September only on the weekends the streets get crowded. Anyway, at night Turkish musicians are playing for audience of two or five listeners. Intimate enough, yeah?

Comparing to Lithuania we don’t have any mountains, so what I really love about Turkey is this amazing part of nature.
Geyik bayiri was great experience of trekking, springwater and smalls cafes down in the hill. Traditional food here is Gözleme pancakes. It is a fresh pastry rolled out, filled and sealed with spinaches, of course feta cheese, then cooked over a griddle.

But to be honest, my focal attention was dedicated to this family. They were really strict about orderliness at the home and keep regular daily hours. There are no rigorous distribution in family who is a householder but everybody has their own duties. Father pays the fees, goes to Pazar, but never cooks. “Teach me how to cook potatoes”, he asks his wife Saliha.
She gently looks at him and tells him with iron-bound facial expression: “This is my space where I can feel free, I won’t let you take a step in it.”

He looks with smile to her and changes the topic. “Antalyaspor is my favourite football team. What about yours?“ I got used to repeat here that in Lithuania second religion is basketball, while in football there is bigger mess and corruption than real competition.

I always thought that my family is sometimes too emotional and at some point we are out of Lithuanian context but visiting this family I realized that we are far more crazy people. “Don’t write that we’re crazy”, laughs all the family members. Their strength is that they know and live with this fact. But at some moments you don’t know how to behave because emotions change every half an hour.

Mısra is translating parents questions and observations, but at the same time she may begin argue with her mother or start crying. When you just want to run into the corner and wait until it ends and question “What he/she is saying?” just sticks in your throat.

“It’s a pitty that nobody was recording you”, laughs my yoga teacher Taner Tarım as I was telling him all abot my holiday adventures.

Actually you just need to wait and enjoy great view from balcony of Antalya or observe daily neighbours life – somebody is sleeping in the teracce, boys are crushing car in the street, teenagers are playing Okey and drinking Efes. Sounds idealistic?

But it‘s not the reality. One day while we‘re having another large lunch my dear friend announced that her friend from childhood was getting married. You should see how happy she was. But not her mother. I could see question in her eyes: “Why is it not my daughter? She is 24 years-old and just got bachelor degree in Economics.”

So, while Mısra was thinking what to wear for the celebration, her mother started nagging that it was time to go on a diet and complain that she didn’t no knows how to sit straight anymore. “Woman always has to be elegant and look pretty”, she adds.
However, soon all the fuzz settled and we engaged in fortune-telling. What we did was an attempt to get a sneak peek into our futures by using coffee grounds that would fall into mysterious shapes. For me it was a game but for them it looked like morsel of hope. Then Saliha saw in her daughter’s coffee cup shape similar to a man, she rapidly ran in the kitchen. I was sitting clueless. “After future-telling it is important to wash it up as fast as possible, when it may come true in a near future.”

“Yes, of course sitting and eating in the balcony, you will really meet the right guy”, my ironical voice started talking in my minds, but I was trying as hard as possible to shut it up. “Just be open, Agne”, I was telling to myself.

This family has a saying for everything that may happen not in a proper way: “Allah will help us”. They are not praying 5 times in a day and do not visit mosque often, but when the daughter started playing piano, mother told: “Wait, now Father is praying.”
My last hours in Antalya were mystique enough. I had an opportunity to visit ceremony held before weddings. Bride and groom rented a place where they invited only close relatives and friends. First of all they dance, then they go around with candles in the hands and paint hands with kna. No tables loaded with food as it is usual in my home town.
I already knew some basic phrases and I have learnt dances from the previous Turkish weddings I’ve been to, so everybody where asking whether I was a Turk. “You really assimilated”, happily whispered my friend. Actually, that’s true I don’t feel like a stranger or a tourist anymore.

While sitting in the bus back to Eskisehir I felt tired. First of all, in the bus station Mısra and Saliha started crying again, so it affected me really in a strange way. Even my family while saying goodbye never does that. Moreover, their lifestyle dropped me with fatigue. It was nice, but too slow motion. Of course, I understand that it is hot, but anyway, you can’t stay at home so much. Instead of planning and trying to know your future from the coffee grounds, you should go out and take it the way it is.

2012 m. rugsėjo 3 d., pirmadienis

Ankara vs. Istanbul

Take a high speed train from Eskisehir and you will be in Ankara just in an hour and a half. I have spent 24 hours here and actually many Turkish people would say that it is enough because there is not much to see and the part about Ankara is returning to Istanbul.

Several foreigners have asked me what was the capital of Turkey – Ankara or Istanbul. Firstly, I wondered how someone can even ask such question, but after some time I have realised that it makes sense. Ankara is a political centre, Istanbul has everything else, this is why it‘s called a second capital.

People tend to calculate and measure everything, starting with the number of mosques and finishing with the number of citizens. Numbers speak for themselves. 5 milion citizens in Ankara and 14 milion (oficially) in Istanbul.

A lot of foreigners or Turkish people are sure that the best place for making a career is Istanbul, also, it‘s full of historical and religious places. The only disadvantages they name – traffic and long distances.

Visiting museums and other touristy places will not let you get the real sense of the city. Anyway, you must visit Attaturk Mauzoliem, Atakule Tower, The Türkocağı Building and one the biggest streets – Aşgabat.

Ataturk Mauzoliem was built for Mustafa Kemal, he was given the surname Ataturk which means ‘Father of the Turks’ after becoming Turkey’s first president. He was a father of a lot of reforms and positive changes in Turkey. Well, he united Turkey after First World War when Turkey barely existed because the British, French, Russians and etc. who claimed much of the land after the Ottoman Empire collapsed. But Atatürk wasn't having any of that and took over these places to form the Turkey known today. In addition, Ataturk made the country more European – like and forced everything to be secular. So, all of the Turkish citizens feel respect for this politician and believe that if he wasn't alive, Turkey wouldn't exist today. As we were discussing with Lithuanians, who live here, he was idealist, and it was his strength. 

These days Ataturk is a mystical figure. His pictures are everywhere – shops, cafes, corners of the streets, of course in the universities or schools, too. Also, it‘s really fashionable to have a tatoo with his signature on the wrist (mostly boys, but yesterday saw one girl who had it too), or tracing on the car. I was trying to figure out maybe there is kind of authority in Lithuania, but there is really no single person throughout our history that I could compare to Ataturk.

Especially I am sure about this after seeing his tomb. He is buried about 25 feet below and in a mausoleum you can see video broadcast from this place.

Unfortunately, he died of the liver cirrhosis from drinking too much of rakı. It is really strong and sweet Turkish drink which should be mixed with water, otherwise it will be unbearable. All my Turkish friends highlight that this drink makes them sad and they start talking about and ringing to their ex boyfriends/girlfriends, crying or doing other crazy, immature stuff. 

Atakule Tower is 125 metres tall and over looks all of Ankara. If you want there is a possibility of taking food up here. But you should be prepared for some security condition (as always in Turkey), one side of the tower overlooks a military base and the president’s house so you’re not allowed to take pictures.

Definitely try to find friends on Couchsurfing.com, because most of citizens live in flats with huge terraces which are perfect to relax after all day walking and to view panorama of the city.

What really makes this town uncomfortable is that you have to call a taxi or use a tram if you want to go from one point of the city to the other. 

2012 m. rugsėjo 2 d., sekmadienis

Media Religion Culture

I had a possibility to attend the conference Media Religion Culture 2012 which was held in faculty of Communication Sciences, in Anadolu University on 8–12th of Julys. I will share some ideas presented in the conference.

Conference is initiated by the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture which serves as the global secretariat for the biennial international conferences on Media, Religion, and Culture. These series of meetings were initiated by an invitational meeting held in Uppsala, Sweden in 1994 and an international public meeting in 1996 in Boulder, Colorado, launched it as a regular series.

First of all I was surprised how strict with time Turks were in the conference. It was the first and actually the last time when Turkish people forced others to be faster, sometimes even interrupted the speakers because of not enough time left. I should have recorded those moments.

On the other hand, I was really disappointed by what I heard in one of the American professor‘s presentation. No matter what, I will always consider the USA open and steadily rising country in all the fields which have made impact on huge number of countries.
Anyway, presentation was called What is Islamophobia? and out of the blue (I don’t remember an exact question) a discussion started questioning where the education was better – in the East or the West. And the lecturer told us to look around, everybody is going to the USA, sometimes to the United Kingdom, it’s obvious that everybody wants to study here because it’s the best place for this. Woman who asked a question of course said that she disapproves of this and discussion was over: “I think we value education differently”.  It shows how sometimes even highly educated people are so narrow – minded and there is a need of these platforms for discussion.

Paradoxical, the presentation was catching enough. Islamophobia – indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotion directed to Islam or Muslims. This negative influence was formed by influence of the Hollywood. Formed situation is similar to ghettoiration – the limited representation of minorities in the Media.

To be sure that these stereotypes are alive you can watch films called Hope and a Little Sugar (2006), Kuda Kay Liye (2007), New York (2009), My name is Khan (2010), Five Minarets in New York (2010). The films offer an alternative view to the one that is repeatedly shown by Hollywood on Muslims, Islamophobia and 9/11 attacks. It is really hard to change point of view of a lot of people because they are sure that every Arab is a terrorist or Osama bin Laden relative. The protagonist of the  movie “My name is Khan” asserts “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist”.

Some insights from presentations:

·       You could feel impact of Facebook in a lot of presentations. Yes, at this moment we advertise ourselves on Social Media, but what will happen when we die? Our profile will still be open for visitors? It‘s like dream machine or line for the heaven?

·       Talking about computer games a lot them like Flower (2009), Journey (2012) are based on killing somebody in the church. So how it will affect children‘s unconsciousness who play it?

·        Presentation about the moustache and the beard from one young professor who made her presentation for the first time was kind of successful. They are symbols signifying masculinity and power of patriarchal men and traditional Turkish and Islamic society. This cultural sign has been taking different forms according to socio-political conditions of the time in every situation and circumstance and has been transformed into a political accessory reflecting various ideologies. For instance, during the period named the 1968 generation known as the student riots, the moustache became a sign to show political party people coming from different ranks of society support. Another important point is that every moustache style has been transformed into a political accessory reflecting various ideologies.

·       One most of the important discussions were about creating a link between advertising and religion. Advertising and religion have problematical dimensions. There are aspects which are anathema to religious ethics. One is whether God and religious symbols in general constitute effective means for selling and marketing mammon or products in the secular marketplace. Another is whether God should sell in other words how theology perceives the act of selling, marketing and advertising. Contemporary religions promote themselves through modern advertising and if so how they do it. Yet another question is whether religions relate positively or not to the advertisement and the act of advertising.

As the conference finished all those bits of insights and thoughts suddenly fell into one picture. It seems that the main source of discord is ignorance and political interests rather than religious or cultural differences.

If you are interested, you can find information and names of speakers on this website.


2012 m. rugpjūčio 31 d., penktadienis

The reasons why I decided to stay in Turkey

Every evening here may easily turn into a story. When I was invited to the Ramadan supper, I thought that it will be just a way to spend time. Well, it turned out really different. Turkish friends Gulse, Dilara and their parents were sitting by the table and next to them we, four orphans – Turkish boy, man from Holland, girl from Mongolia and me, Lithuanian. Even this family is strict with traditions, though they are really open. I can’t imagine this kind of evening at my home (of course, then I’ll be back my relatives will have to face up with some changes).

It is said that a journalist must be extrovert, of course everyone needs attention and likes when others adore your work and discuss it, but I would say – you should be in a middle – extrovert to attract attention, moderate discussion, know more than others, be open, but most of the time you have to be kind of introvert – you have to learn how to listen, react to the person opinion, encourage to speak more, pay attention to every detail or sometimes just look at everything from the distance. Otherwise, you won’t find any new original topics and of course you won’t meet personas of your stories.

As I read in Pierre Flener diary, who stayed in Turkey for five years,  people have a lot of stereotypes about Turkey. Nevertheless, this diary was written in 1993 – 1998, some kind of mystical images are still alive. They had the wildest prejudices about Turkey, imagining that I roasted in desert heat on some sand dunes, that I rode on camel back to my office, that I had trouble learning Arabic and reading/writing the arabic alphabet, and that all my woman students were fully veiled, Pierre was writing in his diary.

Just imagine if it was true, would people decide to live here? When you have to face up so many cultural differences, you feel the need to create your new comfort zone, too. On the other side if you really want, you can get used to anything.

While I was collecting information about people who decided to stay in Turkey longer, I was sure that there will certain opinions I will need to hush up just to avoid causing problems for people who decided to spend a major part of their life here. So, in some parts I won‘t use some names or if it coincide with my opinion, I will bring it as my observations.

Mongolian Undram Unur lives in Turkey for 5 years. She choosed this country because it‘s cheaper than study in other countries of Europe. Also, she received a scholarship and her parents let her go.  “I choose and create my path by myself. I’m really lucky that my parents are open – father lived for five years in Switzerland and mother has a lot of friends in Canada, Germany and other countries, so she travels a lot,” says Undram.

In her opinion Turkey is a lucky country – you can find everything here. However, the first year for Undram was difficult. She was learning Turkish, but still had to use a lot of body language because she couldn’t speak fluently and didn’t have any friends, so  was spending all her evenings at home. But after hard time, comes better.

After a year she started studying Industrial Engineering in Anadolu University and made a lot of Turkish friends: “They help me every time I’m in a trouble or can’t understand what lecturer is teaching.”

It was funny when I asked her what she is missing. “Asian food,” told Undram and started rehearsed what kind of meals she likes. I stopped her and asked: “What about parents?”

We started laughing. I totally understand her. When you come to another country, you create new life, make new friends, have different problems, you are not the same person anymore.

“I really miss them,” she corrects herself. Undram adds that another thing which she really misses is comfort – using trams and busses instead of getting a lift by a car sometimes irritates.

Talking about financial side she worked for a summertime as a bar tender in London, but to work in a bar in Turkey no worth powder – you get 20 TL (8.73 EUR) for 8 eight hours, so it’s better just concentrate on studies.

Undram is studying engineering, because nowadays it’s marketable, not as marketing, law or economics which study most of the students. Moreover, 30 percent of lectures are in English, so she will be able to make an international career too. Unfortunately, lessons which should be presented in English, are taught in Turkish – students can’t understand or don’t want to listen in another language. Anyway, exams are in English.

Girl sounds really enthuastic about her life here, but what about cultural differences?  “In Mongolia you can see working women everywhere. Here, mostly men. They are everywhere – in service, Pazar, shops. Also, it was strange for her that you can’t chew loudly – it’s rude in Turkey. But the worst thing is Turkish men who think that all foreign girls are easy ones. You can understand this from the way they are staring at me or shouting from the cars.

Despite these disadvantages she carefully says: “If I met the right guy, I would be able to live in Turkey forever – I really love this country, if not I’ll go to make a career back to Mongolia.”

Arne Mulder from the Netherlands knows Turkey only for 2 years. First contact with Turkey was in 2008 when he took his Turkish colleagues’ advice and decided to study in Anadolu University. “At that time it was a big step because it was the first time when I was leaving my home for 6 months.”

As he landed in Istambul the first impression was beyond the expectations. “I realized that I’’ll be surrounded with history and religion, so it was really a special moment.”

When he got to the city he had to study named Eskisehir – opinion hasn’t changed. It looked like a modern developed town.

Not surprisingly after six months he realized that it wasn’t enough to really get to know the foreign country. After some time he got back here for the internship and got a job offer which he accepted.

I was curious whether the real reason was not the beauty of the country, but a Turkish girl? “If you go somewhere for this reason, you will end up not happy,” asserted Arne.

There are bunch of other reasons to live here. “Turkish people always help you, if they can’t speak English, they will find a person who does. There will never occur anything like once in the Netherlands. Just imagine, a girl fell off her bike and nobody gave a hand to her. People were just staring and did nothing. It would never have happened in Turkey.

Of course, we all have our flaws. For instance, Turkish people are not very strict about the time. If the meeting is arranged for 10 o’clock, they can come at 11. But maybe it’s similar for all Mediterranean countries.”

Arne noticed that the country is growing and developing quickly. There are many economical changes, new taxes (for example, more expensive alcohol), so prices became quite comparable to the Netherlands.

If the job contract will be extended, he will definitely stay in Turkey for a long time. “If not Turkey, then I prefer Switzerland,”  he laughs.

Arne adds: “From the point of view of my family, maybe the decision to live in Turkey was a little bit selfish, but for me Turkey now is like a home.

The last day Americans were staying here, me, Caroline and Qianqian, were sitting on the bench in front of Porsuk river. Suddenly, out of the blue, one guy with bike came up and started talking with us. At first he looked nice and open. Oh, just take a look, American, Chinese, Italian and Lithuanian met each other in Turkey! But in the end it turned up too strange, he was paying attention only to me and finally asked my number. I didn’t like it, but I was thinking that it’d be interesting to interview him later, so we exchanged Facebook profiles.

As I foresaw he was a little bit crazy. He started attacking me with these banal phrases as you are charming girl, can we meet at the midnight, I am exempt from my passions and etc.

Fatally, I had several issues like this in Lithuania, but in hometown you know how to protect yourself. Here, you can’t be sure if it will work, so you have to choice who trust and who not, really carefully.

So what Italian guy is doing in Turkey? (To be honest I don’t know if eveything he told is true). Wid Green is a 28 years-old man, who studied Audio–Visual Arts. “I'm a young boy christian refugee, also, orphan because my family is dead. My father is a Tunisian – amazigh tien and my mother is Italian. When I was 15 my father decided to live in Tunisia.“

However, his life in Tunisia wasn‘t succesful. “In 2011 revolution broke out in Tunisia. Four prisons were broken and islamic prisoners were behaving like terrorists and were killing all Jews and Christian Tunisians.“
So, now he has no family and decided to stay in Turkey. He lives here from 2012 of April. Firstly, he tried out himself in Istambul, but at this moment Wid works as a cooker in Eskisehir.

In his Facebook profile he declares his special connection with God and states that he is not using any drugs, alcohol and doesn‘t smoke. But now he makes some excuses for himself: “I never find a good woman for that reason – then I free from my twelve hour work, I pray and the other time I drink wine to forget my weakness“.

Anyway, he sees his future only in Turkey: river in Eskisehir reminds him Venice, Turkish people respect foreigners and cultural differences are acceptable: “I can learn Turkish language very easy because I speak 6 languages: English, French, Italianian, German, Greek and Tunisian (amazightien – old tongue of carthage/tunis). I will adapt with bizantic/otmanique culture because Tunisia was old colonique Turkey.“

Talking with Undra, Arne and Wid gave me a feeling of what life should be like. As Mustafa Kemal Ataturk once said: “Peace at home. Peace in the world.” Wherever your home is. 

2012 m. rugpjūčio 26 d., sekmadienis

Luxury of relaxing in Ephesus

Sometimes you don’t need any words. It’s not enough to say or describe. It’s better just look from the distance, take a deep breath and try to remember as much as possible.

Being in Turkey I finally realized that the only person you can rely on is you. It may hurt but that’s truth. It was really ironic situation when I and my Chinese friend Qianqian were making jokes at someone, and one friend told: “You both will die alone, if you behave likes this”. I just smiled at him and thought: “Darling, we all do, no matter what”.

Then I came here I had a lot of situations when I started to think ‘why the hell I’m here?’, but the next thought I always had was whatever happens in the end it will be OK. And I have to say it’s working. Actually I noticed a saying on the web “If it’s not OK, it’s not the end”. Well, it sounds a bit trivial, but like my photographer teacher used to say every cliché comes from the real life.

While being here I realised that I won‘t have any more luxury likes this in the next year. So I am trying to experience, to try myself out as much as possible. In these two months I finally started to feel relaxed, full of energy and after two years again being myself. But like I said I came here not only for fun like everybody thinks if you tell them that you are Erasmus student. And it‘s not a cliché anymore when it‘s real.
Such thoughts are roaming my mind time after time, but everything comes together when you least expect it.

It was a dark night, we were swimming fully clothed and lying on the boards. Some people gone to night club and several of us stayed on the beach. Tired of playing, a little bit sleepy I went for a walk by myself and everything became much clearer.

Of course Ephesus is popular not only for the magical senses and ideal beaches but for ancient history too.

Library of Celsus, the Great Theatre Had, Stone carving of the goddess Nike – there would be no information about these buildings if not the few railroad workers who found the pieces of marble/granite this city may still be underground and lost forever or at least until someone else started to dig. Today, roughly only 25% of the ancient city has been unearthed and will take an estimated 100 years to unearth the rest.
If you are religious person you should go to Bulbul Mountain to the House of the Virgin Mary. This is the place where Saint John took the Virgin Mary to live (and eventually die) after Jesus’ death. It is believed that she is buried under the house and is one of the places of pilgrimage for Christians. Virgin Mary is a common link between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

I was greatly impressed by Turkish carpets representing. It was around 11 o‘clock in the morning and they tretated us with apple tea, wine, beer and coffee. They made show by represnting a huge variety of carpets and explayning why Turkish are better than Chinese, even made some carpets fly. Turkish people really have talent when it concens interaction with tourists.
Also, they told that the best way to clean one is with Ivory soap and cold water and that the average lifespan of a Turkish carpet is three generations. Carpets are made by old ladies working in that factory by hands or in families who still know how to make it. Then it‘s factory‘s choice to buy it or not. Before making carpets some designers use graphics, some just do it from their memory.

Guess what is the price of the most expensive carpet? 43 000 dollars, hah. Actually they are becoming more and more expensive each year because there are less and less people who can make them. And small secret: if you really want something and you think that you bargained and pay less it‘s not true. Turkish people see then you really want to buy something, so they just will make price bigger at first.
Şirince Wine Village is also worth visiting. The name Sirince means "pretty" but previously the city was called Cirkince meaning "ugly" in order to keep the inhabitants from being bothered by foreigners and sharing the village's beauty. You must try out wines here. Personally, they are too sweet, but it depends on your taste. For me it is to more like juice with alcohol.

What really made me an impression was place named Pamukkale. In Turkish it means “cotton castle” which is exactly what it looks like. The whole place is covered in white, calcium carbonate deposits which harden into travertine. Hierapolis means “Holy City” and is situated just above Pamukkale for its abundant supply of water and hot springs. After long day it‘s perfect to go through this water. Of course we tried to go to the forbidden area, so after some minutes police came. Good for us they thought that we were just a bunch of stupid and distracted tourists.
There is a legend about Pamukkale:„There was a young girl who was unmarried and ugly. As no one wanted to marry her, she decided to commit suicide and she threw herself off the travertine and fell into a natural pool but did not die. Because of the water in the natural pool she turned into a very beautiful girl and caught the attraction of the lord of Denizli while he was passing by. At that moment, the lord fell in love with this young and beautiful girl and they soon got married.

So, in addition to the curing effects of the water, people also believe in the beautifying power of the water. As the water is useful, this land has been a place people would visit periodically for beauty and health since the ancient times. So the reason for Pamukkale to be an attractive place is not only the natural travertine, but also the healing waters.
The mineral water of Pamukkale helps recovering the high blood pressure, kidney stones, stroke, rheumatism, nervous and physical exhaustion, eye and skin diseases, circulatory problems, digestive maladies, nutritional disorders and chronic disorders. Pamukkale became a spa resort today and the center of a pagan cult in antiquity.“

Thanks for the reading!

2012 m. rugpjūčio 18 d., šeštadienis

Turkish bath

What I love about my stay in Turkey is that each and every day I experience something new, sometimes even daunting. As I was feeling completely exhausted I decided to try out Turkish bath (hamam). How different it is?

Take a look. Firstly, you should know that in some hamams there are special days for men and women, whereas in the others women enjoy Turkish bath during the day, while men at night.

At the entrance you have to pay 6 TL (2.70 EUR) and leave your shoes. I didn’t like it because I had to wear slippers or sandshoes which didn’t look hygienic at all.

A Turkish bath is the variant of a steam bath, sauna or Russian bath, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam. It is similar to ancient Greek bathing traditions.

Firstly, a person relaxes in a room known as the warm room which is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and trying sauna, receiving a scrub and massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation or just take a cold shower.

There are two most popular ways of taking Turkish bath. Firstly, traditional style for experiencing traditional Turkish bath which contains scrub made of kese (a rough mitt for massage) which will take care of every square inch of your body. Suddenly you realise how much dirt was on your body.

After this you will get 15 minutes massage and will feel relaxed and clean. After this or before an attendant washes you with hot water and you can try sauna which it is extremely hot. At the beginning I couldn‘t put even my foot there but after some time I got used to it and even managed to try this out. Furthermore, after scrub and massage you will get cold shower.

All these procedures cost 12 TL (5.4 EUR). But the prices in all cities are different, so at the beginning ask to be sure how much you have to pay. I tried this in Eskisehir, Hamamyolu street which is known for its numerous hamams. Also, you can try traditional hamams in a hotel if you are lucky to stay in a more luxurious and more clean, but of course more expensive hotel.

Second type of Turkish bath is based on self-service, meaning that you bathe yourself and bring your own soap, shampoo and towel (actually I offer to take all this stuff if you take traditional bath too). This is obviously the cheapest option and will cost you less, but I wouldn’t recommend this for your first visit, because where will be no wow factor.

What else you should know? Women wear underwear, but mostly no bra. Some young girls are disgusted by old women’s bodies, but I think it’s more common for not mature persons. Of course, if you do not feel comfortable, you don’t have to undress. Also, I suggest taking swimsuit instead of underwear. Do not wear any make-up. Just relax, don‘t be afraid and let yourself experience new sensations.