Saturday, July 16, 2011

Contrasts and Comparisons

I'm writing this now from Murren, Switzerland, located in the Lauterbrunnen Valley a little southeast of Interlaken.
Our town, Murren, from a trail high above

We arrived here 2 days ago, having first spent 4 nights in Istanbul, Turkey.  It's been quite a lot of changes lately and all these places have their specific characteristics--and differences from each other.  Istanbul was wonderful; we were able to connect with daughter Chloe and boyfriend Camil for a night, which was great.  They were there for a little getaway; they live less than 500 miles away.
Istanbul in the evening, ferry in the foreground

We were able to see some gorgeous and unforgettable sights in Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Detail of ceilings in the Blue Mosque

We had lots of kabobs and really enjoyed the food.  Baklava was superb and the Turkish coffee was really interesting.  If we made that at church we'd think something was wrong with the coffee urn, LOL.

We loved the frequent calls to prayer from nearby and faraway mosques, just like we heard in Jerusalem.  There was a nice terrace on the top floor of our hotel, and we spent a few evenings up there, sitting and enjoying the view.  Nearby, of course, another minaret.
The view from our hotel's roof

Women wore everything from the burka (totally covered in black in that hot sun, yikes) to Western dress.  I did see one young woman totally subvert the burka.  She was indeed wearing one, but she had gorgeous eyes, made up to the hilt.

The freedom of style of dress for women is something quite wonderful about Turkey, which is a moderate Islamic country.  We met a guy from Iran while taking a ferry and he told me if I dressed like I was on the ferry in Iran, I'd be shot.  What was I wearing?  A 'modest' LLBean T-shirt, capri pants, socks and walking shoes.  Yikes.

One thing I really loved was attending a Sufi music concert and a session of worship of Sufi dancers--whom we might call "whirling dervishes."  Their ecstatic worship was lovely to watch and to become caught up in.  Their costumes were incredible and symbolic.  One thing that struck me was how the human body often wants to respond in times of worship when we are carried away by the divine--the arms raise up in worship.  We see this in the Sufis but also in Christian mystics whom we call Charismatics--tho the Charismatics don't whirl around!  (Not yet??!)

It's interesting being in this part of the world.  There is a culture of selling that we found uncomfortable to be within, and we encountered this both in Old Jerusalem and in Istanbul.
Istanbul's Spice Market in early morning

Walking from our hotel to any of the main attractions in the city of Istanbul we were likely to encounter a good 10 or so guys trying to sell us things--guidebooks, spinning tops, carpets, trinkets, even a hat with an umbrella built right in.  We are much more comfortable in the West where if we want to buy something we walk into a store and the salesclerk waits for us to make a purchase.  It isn't that way everywhere...

One huge contrast we are experiencing is the weather.  In Jerusalem it was intensely hot, mid 80's, and very dry.  We used to laugh about hand-washing our clothing and hanging it soaking wet on the clothes line on the roof at the college--in 2 hours or less it would be totally dry.  Istanbul was hot, mid 80's, but humid too, and that was really uncomfortable.  In both these cities the sun was so intense that you learned really fast to look for shade.  We used a ton of sunscreen.  Switzerland is another story entirely.  Highs around 70, sunny but really pleasant.  Out come the long pants and the hoodies again, not seen since Australia.  Tomorrow we are due for a ton of rain, but we also need to do laundry and rest, so maybe that won't be so bad.  And I will catch up with Week 10 of The Artist's Way, too.

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