I’m in Bursa, the end of the Silk Road, and the bag I brought to bring loot home in is full now, so either I get a bigger bag in Crete, or I limit my Crete souvenirs to photos and stories.

I headed out pretty early (6:30) this AM as it was really hot yesterday, and hit the old market area where the silk warehouses were and where the up-scale and silk markets are today.

The Great Mosque

But I was there before most of the merchants were there, and only a very few were only starting to set up, so I visited the recently restored big old mosque (Ulu Camii).

The twelve columns are all painted with draperies in a tromp-l’oile manner, along with the incredibly lovely Arabic calligraphy on them and on big (really big—flag sized, if that helps) on the walls

They left one of the columns un-cleaned to show what it was like before the restoration.

There were some other interesting details to report as well.

Here’s a magic-marker notice in the place, and what interested me as the English Teacher and social observer was that “Allah” was in red (just like the believers at home capitalize “he” and “him” and “his” when referring to you know who.

But all the punctuation was in red, too— the carets over the letters, for example.

I can understand the Allah part being in red, but not the punctuation.

This is the mihrab, in the center of the wall that faces Mecca, which we always think of as east, but that’s only from our point of view.

In northern India, of course, the mihrab faces west, and here in Turkey, I’d guess it’s mostly ESE or so.

I prowled around some more, and shot a little around the mosque before I came back to the hotel about 9 for breakfast— about as meager a breakfast as I’ve been provided.

A hard-boiled egg (standard over here) some (actually only about 8) olives, a big basket of bread, no sliced tomatoes or cucumber (also normally part of breakfast) and some little Denny’s Strawberry jam-sized packets of a local cheese spread.

Normally the breakfasts in hotels are buffets, so you can snag some good stuff and I can get enough extra for maybe half the brunch I eat about 11, but not today.


I saw lots of (I’m guessing) feral cats all around the mosque this AM near the butchers’ souk and the butchers put out little scraps from their trimming and all that, so the cats eat pretty well.

They might have had a better breakfast than I had. . . .

Once More into the Breach, Dear Lads

Then I went back out about 11 to hit the big sites at the east end of the old city where I’m staying.

On the way, I spotted this guy reading the paper, and was struck by his squatting up on the wall (now that I’m old, I think of knees a lot— when I was younger, I just realized, upon reflection, I also thought of knees a lot, but they were almost never mine)

but obviously, this works for him.

If that were me up there, you’d need a tow-truck with a cable to lift me up from there and an ambulance to take me to the hotel. . . .

And in the middle of a city of 1.8 million people with traffic and shops and very urbane city life flowing all around me, there were dozens of guys pushing carts like this (selling cherries, mostly or plums [think Granny Smith plums maybe 2/3 the size of a golf ball]).

And up by the mosque, later,

The first afternoon place was the Green Mosque and the other was the Ethnographic Museum.

The third, the Green Tomb, almost the size of a mosque, was close for a complete restoration.

On the way back, I snuck of shot of this woman in the severest of all the traditional Muslim wear I normally see over here.

As I passed her, I could hear she was on her cell phone.

And there are little silk shops near all the big tourist places, of course.

And moms with kids, too.

Mosque Architecture

They are really good at integrating circles and squares over here as they build mosques, and I thought I’d try to explain it so you can get a feel for what they are like inside.

Think of a 9X9 Pyrex cake pan— and a mixing bowl about 12 inches or so across.

Double the height of the side walls on the cake pan to about 5 inches or so, and double them again to 10 inches, then enlarge the area so it’s about 24 by 24 inches with 10-inch high outside walls.

Turn the mixing bowl upside down and center it over the cake pan.

Now imagine putting four equally spaced columns in the cake pan to hold up the bowl.

Then add 8 up-side down coffee cups around the center bowl (all but the center square of a tic-tac-toe game) and add some more columns to support them. They aren’t usually as tall as the center dome (mixing bowl).

You’ve just made a mosque.

This mosque was about 180 feet square, had twelve columns almost ten feet thick and 60 feet high, and there were 16 domes—the center one had a big window at the top to let in lots of light.

I just real?zed I have not expla?ned the t?tle of th?s, or about the knee repa?r goop I tr?ed out later, but I´m ?n an ?nternet cafe (no w?-f? ?n the hotel) and there are 31 letter keys and all k?nds of other surpr?ses, so I´ll ?nclude that later.

Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey

posts by Robert