2012 m. liepos 8 d., sekmadienis

Odunpazari – place to feel connection with Eskişehir

When I decided to go to Turkey for three months everybody was saying that I was crazy. But that’s true – I wouldn’t choose to be a journalist though. Well, I can speak English, Russian, a little bit of German and Spanish. So what? Wouldn’t I survive?

I heard a stereotype that here in Turkey people are afraid to speak in English or they just don’t know this language. Actually, it is not true or maybe I’m lucky?

Every day I combine English words with body language, some words from Turkish dictionary and a lot of smiling. It works surprisingly well.

But sometimes you have to make more research. Going to Odunpazari was a great lesson for me. Despite the security I managed to get on the tram without a ticket. I thought I can buy it inside. Before entering a tram I met two women who hardly spoke English, but it was enough for me to learn that I boarded illegally and where I should get off. These two ladies also spoke Russian, because they emigrated from Kazakhstan. They were amazed that I was here alone (not for a first time). After a small talk, I got a ticket and soon I was relieved. No more journeys like this.

I got out at Ataturk Lisesi bus stop and then I understood that my only friend is a map, otherwise I should find a native guide.

Odunpazari is famous for narrow streets, twisty paths, nice houses and museums. It is the first area of Turkish settlement in Eskisehir. Firewood (“odun” in Turkish) was sold in an area close to Yediler Park, and that is why the district was called Odunpazari (Bazaar of firewood). This historical district makes you feel spirit of the past and the DNA of the city. And I succeeded at this. These authentic streets made me feel so special. But it was not all about the museums I visited, but the people I met.

Sometimes you don’t even need words, you just feel connection. As I was standing near the Odunpazari Mosque looking at the entrance door, trying to take in the environment, suddenly a bunch of men came and started gossiping while looking at me. I thought I almost got used to this kind of attention here, but this situation really made me feel uncomfortable. I was not entering the mosque, so what did they want from me?

They started to speak with me, so I repeated the word “English” several times. There was a man who could speak in French and then from nowhere came my new friend Mustafa (quite common name in Turkey). He gave me a scarf, long skirt because women show bear skin in minimum in the temples and sacred places and we finally started talking about the old town. Mustafa knew a little bit of Russian and English so our dialogue was an ingenious mix. He said that he had been staying in Ukraine for three years. I can’t imagine how he managed to survive there for such a long time with this kind of Russian skills.

Nevertheless, we made a lot of touring. We visited glass museum, a complex of buildings (kursunlu kulliyesi), Alaeddin mosque, Atlihan bazaar of handicrafts (a place of gathering for local people to discuss all social, political and economic agenda as well as a hostel to accommodate tourists). We saw a lot of authentic works. Here you can see or buy many products made from white stone called luletasi.

As we were wandering around the narrow paths of bazzar Mustafa’s look suddenly changed and he started asking me whether I had a boyfriend in Turkey. I was open (you have to be if you want to know yourself and other people better), but I didn’t like that smile which appeared on his face. “And in Lithuania?”, he asked. Well, this time I haven’t made the same mistake second time and said that I’m here waiting for him, but Mustafa still wanted to show places. I had no choice but to say that I wanted to wander around only by myself. On the other hand, this was true.

As I saw him disappearing in the crowded old town streets dotted with the houses adjacent to each other and surrounded by the lush gardens, I could breathe the sultry air and finally make my way into this maze of Odunpazari life.

The houses in the old town mostly face the street and are adjacent to each other, and the gardens. The front sides facing the street have bay windows and consoles. The houses generally comprise of a sofa (hall) and other rooms surrounding it. There are 17 neighborhoods. Now the Odunpazari houses are like the district full of a new living space with varying food and accommodation alternatives.

When I got tired, I’ve chosen a small blue house with a café and a hostel. I tasted ciborek. It’s special food originating from the Crimean Turkish cuisine associated with Eskisehir. It looks similar to patty, but it’s filled with meat. It’s really popular on the Baltic Sea beaches, but here in Turkey ciborek is much tastier and not so fatty. Here you can feel that you are getting authentic product because you can watch how they are making it. As in all Turkish meals you are getting a lot of peppers for sure.

What I mostly loved about the old town was that you can actually see people making food, outfit, ebru paintings, jewellery from glass and different stones just in the streets. For example, a woman was knitting sweater and next to her sitting a husband was just chilling.
You can choose two ways to get back home to Eskişehir (if you are staying near Espark) – to get a tram or walk through the street named Hamam yolu where a huge variety of clothes, shoes shops and cafes of course.

Maybe dogs resting all over the town in the shade, tiny streets radiating authenticity or old men playing Okey and inviting for a cay (tea) but after a while it make you think it’s life.

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