In his memoir, Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk. the Nobel Prize winning Turkish writer, speaks of hüzün, the melancholy of Istanbul. I realize I may have felt a bit of that yesterday. The gray smell of antiquity pervades the streets and cells of the city’s inhabitants. There’s a dankness around each corner, as if the entire metropolis is under the dome of past glories and history’s pressing gaze.

At the same time I believe I was feeling the beginning angst of my impending journey on the Sufi tour described by Phil Cousineau in his book “The Art of Pilgrimage”. Cousineau mentions how many people when they arrive at a travel destination often feel irritated, let down, an “is that all there is?” kind of attitude. Exactly how I felt yesterday. In fact I wondered if I had made a tremendous mistake in coming here. Realizing that the way I choose to see my surroundings is up to me, I decided to turn things around today.

What a difference. I met a lovely English couple at breakfast, had tea with a wonderfully warm young man who works at the Tulip Guesthouse, my hotel when I return to Istanbul after the tour, visited the magnificent glory of the Blue Mosque (right), even made peace with the fact that I bought a carpet from the first hawker who approached me yesterday. Oh, I think I forgot to mention that before. More about that later.

I opened to see the beautiful graciousness of the Turkish people. As an example I went to several stores looking for an adapter for my electrical appliances. Hard to translate that into Turkish. Finally I went into a pharmacy and one of the men understood what I meant. He asked me to  take a seat and he would be back. I thought he was going to find an address for me, but instead he came back with the adaptor! By the way, the lovely man here at the internet cafe just turned on the English keyboard so I’m zipping along now. “If I had only known to ask”, I sai. “There’s always an option,” he replied. So true.

Now, about that carpet. I won’t bore you with all the details of our bartering dance, but just know that I came to Turkey planning to buy a carpet, but only being willing to spend about $300 maximum. Visions of a bath rug whirled in my mind. Instead I was shown a miriad of carpets by Veysi Aslan of El Rincon de Fehmi. The 4′ x 6′ carpet I liked he could sell to me for the amazing price of$1,900 lira (about $1,400.) I told him I didn’t want to insult him, but I had no plans to buy a carpet today and I only had $500 in my budget. I knew that would get me out the door in no time. Well, leaving out many back and forths he showed me a similar carpet, about 3′ x 5′, and said he’d sell it to me for $480 lira (about $360 CDN, $330 USD).

First rule of buying in Turkey: they expect you to haggle. Second rule: if you offer a price and they meet that price, it is considered extremely rude to walk away from the deal. So, I now own an all wool, handmade Kurkish Kilim carpet which I love!  I’d include a picture, but it’s all wrapped up. Here is me instead enjoying my apple tea in Veysi’s shop.It will go in front of my couch, the place I write. Now I’ll always have a bit of Turkey at my feet for inspiration.

I’m off to dinner with my tour companions. Not sure when I’ll get to the computer again, but I’ll keep in touch with you when I can.

Bay bay!


~ by Tess (Piyadassi) on December 10, 2009.

4 Responses to “Pilgrimage”

  1. Hi beautiful lady!
    I’m glad to hear you’re there and finding adventure already. Dinner tonight with Julie and Miranda, and we’re all sending thoughts your way. There’s an empty place at the table waiting for your stories when you return. Stay skinny and have fun! By the way, the turkish delight was for you, not me. *wink*
    Love Jenny

  2. Beautiful writing, my dear. What a treat to follow you on your way. I couldn’t be more proud of and happy for you. Still think you could have pulled off the helmet and mirrors, though.

    Much love, Kevin

  3. So glad to see you turned your experience into a “magic carpet” ride. Don’t forget though, it’s the train ride that holds the key.
    Sending much more love than Kevin,

  4. December 18 2009 4:20pm CT (Cortes Time).
    News from Hollyhock:
    It’s the last day (well, the last few minutes) before we all head off for our 2 week Christmas vacation. We’ve gotten a bit of snow, but nothing to speak of, and it’s all melted by now. Yahoo, no more thinking of workshops and tuition fees for the next 14 days! Not quite what you are experiencing, but hey, we’ll take what we can get! Have a wonderful Christmas in a far off land.
    P.S. “In the world’s audience hall, the simple blade of grass sits on the same carpet with the sunbeams, and the stars of midnight.” (Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate 1913). May your carpet bring to you all of this, and more.

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