Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Stone Street in Anatolia

It's early Thursday here. At home in Texas my folks are just now eating Wednesday night's dinner. My body is in Istanbul but my internal clock is not. I'm too awake and far too tired to sleep. So I thought I'd show you a little place I wandered to today.

First off, the lady in black. This Muslim woman passed me as I was fiddling with my camera and waiting for a friend on an ancient stone street in Anatolia. Her steps were deliberate and heavy, almost as if she'd made those exact steps every day of her life and - if separated from her legs -her feet would somehow continue to set out on that path the very next day. There was something about her... something about the quiet way she walked... that intrigued me. I snapped her picture and followed.

I wanted to look up and take note of all the scenery - of street names and each passersby - but I didn't. One of the first things I was told when I arrived here was to be discreet. Don't stand out and don't be glaringly American, I was told. And don't look men in the eye. And NEVER smile at them.

What? I asked. Why in the world not?

They get movies and
The O.C. over here, my friend said. The men watch it and think all American women are cheap and openly promiscuous. They'll take your eye contact and smiling as an invitation. They could follow you.

Right. Got it.

So I followed the woman, keeping my eyes down lest I should inadvertently nod and smile like I did at that guy on the boat on the Bosphorus Strait Tuesday. I kept my head down and followed the woman.

Eventually she turned a corner and left me standing in front of the most delicious thing I'd ever seen:

A Turkish bakery. I went in. It was warm and immaculate and bread and pastry lay stacked in every corner and basket and case. Golden loaves. Studded cookies. Crusty baguettes. Chewy rolls.

I couldn't keep from being in awe of the tiny shop on a twisting stone street high above the sea. Here it was, for hundreds of years, all tucked away and waiting for women in black and nosey Americans with rapidly-clicking cameras.

They had a bread slicer on the floor of the shop. It had long, sharp teeth that chewed clean lines through the bread without mushing it. It fascinated me. The whole bakery did. You saw the dough rising. You saw it go into and come out of the oven. You saw it stacked into baskets and onto wooden shelves. And you picked your loaf and handed it to a young man to slice and wrap in paper and hand back to you.

I wanted to take pictures of it all but was afraid to... was afraid I'd catch the bread slicer's eye and smile and look flushed by the warmth and steam of the bakery and have a real live Turkish problem on my hands.

So I didn't. I looked at trays of carbs instead.

But I did stay for a few minutes, breathing in the essence of the place and discreetly watching the baker roll puffy, risen dough into snakes of skinny baguettes before shoving them in the oven.

Oh, the oven!, I exclaimed to my friend later.

Yep, came the reply. Makes the story of Hansel and Gretel tricking that witch into climbing in the oven make a little more sense, doesn't it?

It does. It did. I think that's what I like the most about Istanbul. It's like you've read about this place your whole life - without even realizing it - and suddenly all the palaces and boats and kings and moats loom before you. And you can touch them. You can roam the castles and sail the water while the tales of your childhood come to life in front of your averted yet curious eyes.

And, of course, I partly have the woman in black to thank for that. She and her quiet, purposeful steps that called me out on that stone street in Anatolia. I know I'll always see her picture and remember this day....

(Edit: I re-read this post and suddenly remembered I became equally fascinated with a similar figure in a very different city last year. Istanbul's Lady in Black, meet the Monterrey Man.)


betty r said...

Oh my that die for! Brin, I'm hoping you threw caution to the winds and bought something of everything to try! I'm suddenly in the mood for some fresh crusty bread!!

Linda Z said...

This post is making me very hungry!! I bet is smelled absolutely divine in that shop!!

minnesota kathie said...'s soooo wonderful to hear from you. Once upon a time in American there were small hometown bakeries just like the one you were in around every corner, now we settle for the grocery store bakeries for convenience don't we. Your words bring me back to a childhood that seems so long ago, what an incredible writer you are :).

I somehow find it difficult to picture you as keeping your head down and not smiling to anyone, you've always seemed you'd be the one I'd meet on the street and there'd you'd be with your big, fat smile greeting everyone you pass by :).

It's wonderful to hear from you and your pictures almost tell a story in themselves, are you sure you don't want to become a correspondent again?

Big hugs, be safe and you're in my prayers!

Kathi :)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! Bakeries outside of our own in the US always have so much more old world allur. Wish we still had old-world bakeries here! You're making my mouth water! :D

Kat @ The Burb Blog said...

I ♥ Bread! What a great place to visit. I am so glad you found it. Isn't it awful to not be able to be yourself and smile or look at people?

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

What a wonderful post and commentary on Istanbul. Now I'm wondering if Turkish delight really is Turkish. LOL!

It would be extremely difficult for me to look down and not smile at people. I imagine that that is your big challenge right now, too.

Beautiful bakery, beautiful breads...did they taste as wonderful as they look?

Heather said...

I've been lurking for some time, but I have to comment on your beautiful post. I LOVE that you followed the lady in black. What an adventure.

Mayberry Magpie said...

All I can say is . . . oh my!

I'm so grateful you're taking all of us on your trip with you. I may even wear eyelashes next time I pop over -- in honor of this amazing journey.

Mayberry Magpie

Mrs. Pauls said...

That was beautiful! Thankyou so much for sharing.

Adrienne said...

I could almost smell the bakery! Your pictures took us there, nearly. What did you buy there? Thank you for letting us have a peek of the amazing place you travelled to see. ~Adrienne~

Liz said...

Wow. What a fabulous place to visit. Here it's just after noon, I'm eating a Lean Quisine and blog surfing for lunch. I've got a pile of paperwork on the edge of the desk, ready to fall into the floor. But thank you! I needed a little mini-vacation to a foreign country. Hope you continue to have fun, be safe.

Pamela said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rox said...

Wow! that was soooo cool. I could just about smell it... and Bread? Well bread is one of my most favorite things. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. Please enjoy yourself and post when you can. I am loving the pictures!
Be careful