Thought it was about time for another door. This one appeared almost directly across the street as I set out for a morning walk on a cold foggy day in Safranbolu. The town, in northern Turkey, is perhaps the most comprehensive preserved example of traditional Ottoman architecture, with nearly all structures in the old part of town dating back 100-600 years, and many of the houses well restored.
Here’s a candid shot captured at the old citadel on the peak of the hill in the center of Ankara. Turkish tourists like the one balancing on this wall come from around the country to take pictures from the top of the city with their cell phones and video cameras. Foreign tourists are less common and more likely to stay off the top of the wall, especially given the wind and total lack of any device to prevent falling some 50 or 60 feet into the castle streets below. Maintenance workers like the guy at the bottom of the picture have pretty much seen it all before.
For an American like me, this is always one of the most remarkable aspects of living in Turkey: historic places or items are always around the corner, and people walk past them, sit on them or build with them as if they were nothing out of the ordinary at all. Wandering through a village, I once saw a house made of large stones found when clearing fields – unremarkable except for the cornerstone, a piece of marble expertly carved with four or five figures in Roman garb, accompanied by an inscription in Latin, upside down and without their heads, secured by straw and mud to the rest of the structure. The walls in this picture are probably only centuries old, but they are built on a site that dates back to well before Christ. To the sweeper picking his teeth in the picture, what difference does it make? When it comes right down to it, isn’t all the world as old as the hills?
Here’s another image from America, taken on a hurried personal photo walk through downtown Annapolis, Maryland, just before getting drenched by a thunderstorm. I like it because it has something Turkey doesn’t have – fractional house numbering. In Turkey, when new residences pop up in between old ones, they use the more direct method of coming around and renumbering all the houses. So when you go down a village street, you find doors with a couple of old numbers crossed out and the new one painted on, in a different color. The same thing regularly happens to street numbers, making it all the more impressive that parcel delivery men can ever do their job with the efficiency that they do.
Of course, it helps to remember that “historic” Annapolis is maybe 300 years old, while historic Ankara, for example, dates back at least a couple of millennia. Beauty, heritage and organization – all in the eye of the beholder.
Antakya is the modern Turkish name for the city St. Paul knew as “Antioch in Syria.” Today the town shares a lot of culture and even language with modern Syria, just across the border, but most symbols of the city’s history have been buried in earthquakes.
Found this scene on the street while walking through the market area to the east of the Orontes River.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/8, 1/250 sec.