Into The Levantine Light

Old Town: BursaThe last several days have been busy, but not a job-minded busy, just an interesting, peripatetic busy. My days seem to be growing more and more interesting and I already know I will miss Turkey when I leave on the June 1. But, by then it will be time to move on. I imagine I’ll be taking an overnight train to Sophia, Bulgaria or Belgrade, Serbia. I haven’t planned that far ahead yet. Probably a short stop in Budapest and then the long ride up to Denmark. No Crimea this time around. I’ll save that for another trip. I’m sitting on a cafe terrace right now, looking down into the Bursa Valley. It’s a nice sight. Not as epic as Eastern Anatolia, nor as wild. But it has a strong Mediterranean flavor, very Levatine. The sun is shining but huge semi-random globules of rain drop. It’s nice to be in a liberal city again. I loved it out East, all the raw wildness of the place. But it was conservative. And I don’t really like it when eight of ten women are covered. Bursa has a very open, lively feel.

I woke early, Saturday in Sivas, paid the hotel bill and caught the 1100am bus to Ankara. It was about 75* in Sivas, but the harsh glare of the sun made it feel 90*. I crawled onto the bus, plugged in my iPod and settled down for a long, boring drive. From Sivas to Ankara is not terribly inspiring and although there are plenty of craggy hillocks to break up the swathes of farm and pasture land, the landscape resembled the steady rise and fall of swells in the North Atlantic. Wheat, barley, shepherds and small plots of vegetables cover the countryside. Broken up only by large creeks lined with Cypress trees, surrounded by Oxbow lakes and small congregations of tents: itinerant farmers–the last vestiges of Turkish pastoral nomadism in Anatolia.

The scenery we drove through brought to mind an image of Byzantine Anatolia, as I considered that this is much how Anatolia must have looked before the Cataclysm of Manzikert in 1071 ushered in 300 years of nomadic chaos and agricultural disruption, as the vanguard Seljuks and their successors the Danishmendid, Akkoyunlu, Mengucid and Karakoyyunlu poured into Anatolia from the wastes of Central Asia. It wasn’t until the Osmanlis–the Ottomans, as we call them–settle down to build a state in the early 15th century that these Turks began to put down roots.

I arrived in Ankara about 615pm, grabbed a tavuk doner–chicken sandwich–wandered around the pantagruel-like bus station, bought an onward ticket to Bursa, climbed aboard at 700pm and accepted the fact of another long ride. About 30 kilometers West of Ankara we crossed a broad, flat plain where in 1402 the great army of Sultan Beyazit Yildirim–the Lightingbolt–met the last great Mongol warlord to irrupt into Anatolia from Central Asia: Timur the Lame, or as we know him, Tamerlane. Timur was a Mongols’ Mongol, leaving behind him the smoking hulks of wasted cities with piles of skulls at the city gates to warn all not to return. Or the Emir Timur would!

Sultan Bayezit was confident. He had recently defeated the combined armies of Western and Eastern Europe at Nicoplis on the Danube in the last Crusade worthy of its name. And while not as bloodthirsty as Timur, he was a wily one. He drew up his ‘janisarries’ and looked out on the Mongol host from a low rising hill where a cell tower now transmits bits and bytes and gave the order to attack.

His army was shattered. He was captured alive by Timur, thrust into a gilded cage on wheels and taken back to Samarkand (in Uzbekistan). Along the way Bayezit did the only honorable thing left to him and dashed his brains out on the bars of his cage. It was left to one of his sons to pick up the pieces and consolidate the new Ottoman state.

The sun turned my thoughts from history as it set behind a wall of hills, the last rays of light weaving gold and orange behind a fan of high cirrus clouds. The bus sped on through the empty darkness. Two hours later the bus ran down a long hill and the golden lights of Eskeshehir rained out on the plain below, as if the skies and stars had changed places.

I slept fitfully for an hour or so, looked at the time and wondered dreamily what a friend of mine was doing at an archeological dig out in the Californian desert. The bus arrived at 200am. I dragged myself uphill through the hot and humid–quite a change from the aridity of Anatolia–Bithynian night, to a hotel where I was greeted by a far too cheerful Turkish lass. I snatched the key from her hands, plodded upstairs, opened the door and let my backpack crash to the floor. I collapsed fully clothed onto the bed and slept.

I awoke at 800am feeling like the bus had run over me, made the cardinal mistake of eating before a shower, returned to my room and fell into a food coma. I woke at 1pm feeling worse. Took a shower and finally opened the thick hotel drapes. Showers are wonderful for rejuvenation but the view was better.

Warm Levatine light dripped in like honey and before me, like the Jolly Green Giant, was the forested eminence of Ulu Dag.

“Not bad,” I thought to myself, “not bad at all.”

3 Responses to “Into The Levantine Light”

  1. Into The Levantine Light | Real Rumors

    [...] Into The Levantine Light 18.05.2009 | Posted in Computer World The last several days have been busy, but not a job-minded busy, just an interesting, parapatetic busy. My days seem to be growing more and more interesting and I already know I will miss Turkey when I leave on the June 1. But, by then it will be time to move on. I imagine I’ll be taking an overnight train to Sophia, Bulgaria or Belgrade, Serbia. I haven’t planned that far ahead yet. Probably a short stop in Budapest and then the long ride up to Denmark. No Crimea this time around. I’ll save tha Read the original here: Into The Levantine Light [...]

  2. onur

    Hi,

    You had some good time in Turkey and these are some nice articles. Other travellers will enjoy too. I am trying to put up a website about people’s experience in Turkey.
    http://www.iwasinturkey.com/
    Would you be interested in publishing some of your articles on my site with a referral back to your site. Let me know what you think. You can reach me at info@iwasinturkey.com

    thanks

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