Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Istanbul diary


An episodic travel diary of my current adventures in and around Istanbul, the peerless city that spans two continents and more than two worlds.

Friday, September 27.

Time to cross from Europe into Asia, which you can do by ferry in the time it takes to drink a glass of the tea they offer on board. Three lira buys me a jeton, or turnstile token, for the boat to Kadıköy, the Chalcedon of the Greeks. I have dreamed of Chalcedon, though not - as I recall - of modern  Kadıköy. 
    I admire the old train station, called the Gar, at the water's edge, evoking an age of elegant travel on the rails. A walk up the hill through the market. 
    I must pause to inhale the gleaming, slippery sights and smells of fresh-caught fish
displayed in boxes of ice at a fishmonger’s that is also a restaurant. Choose your fish, and they'll fry it up right away and serve it with salad and bread. I choose the sardines and the istavrit, or horse mackerel, when told we are inside the two-week window when they are at their best. The fish are delicious but fingers are required to keep the tiny bones out of the throat.. A calico cat, one of the countless strays prowling or napping everywhere in the vast world city, gets one of the istavrit.

I dined tonight at a table right on the Bosphorus, at the House Hotel in Ortaköy, looking from Europe at the lights of Asia. The passing ferries were an amazing light show. From time to time orange lights whizzed across the sky. These were paper lanterns sent aloft to carry wishes, a custom probably borrowed by the Turks from China. My favorite boat was a tiny fishing vessel with one man at the wheel and another at the prow, fishing with a little hand-held net that he swept back and forth as the boat bobbed and turned circles. This seemed like a good metaphor for human consciousness struggling to catch some of what goes on in the multidimensional universe.

Saturday, September 28

I am trying on new clothes. The long camel-colored coat has a double row of buttons. The fit is not right at all. There seems to be far too much fabric, and this garment seems to shaped for a body that is fuller in certain places, and narrower in others, than my man's body. I do not like the floral decoration on the collar - or was that on the headscarf that overhung it, and when did I put that on? No, this is not for me. I hand the coat to an assistant to put back on the rack.
    Waking, I smiled as I realized I had been trying on a pardesü, the distinctive long coat worn by many Muslim women in Turkey. Some of the styles are quite elegant. 

The names of the first Turks to introduce themselves in the adventure I led today mean (in English): Magic, Universe, Reality, Joy, Nile. How could we go wrong? No one is wearing a pardesü
     They were not only willing to share lively dream reports in front of the whole circle but to turn them into theater, the pinnacle of improv and wonderful fun. We acted out a dream in which the dreamer freed people who had been held captive in a dark sterile cave by guards resembling the Imperial Startroopers in "Star Wars", with the aid of a great rainbow bird.
    Then we used the dream as the portal for a group shamanic journey to see what we needed to release from a place of confinement in our own lives, and to claim the power of the heaven bird. This became a deeply healing and empowering experience for all, with many mutually confirming travel reports of the kind that produce confirmation of the objective reality of experiences in nonordinary reality. It gave our group the model for many shared journeys through the portals of personal images over the rest of the weekend.

Sunday, September 29

We can put our questions to the world, and we can let the world put question to us. During a break from my workshop, when I took a seat on the terrace of a coffee house near Taksim Square, the universe asked permission to ask me a question. Evren (whose name means "Universe" in Turkish) a lively and spirited member of our circle, was seeking guidance on how to use a dream to use as a portal for a healing journey. It is a grand thing when the universe puts a question to us - and then insists on paying for the coffee.

Monday, September 30

I made a long descent to the Underworld, going down through many levels and a steep tunnel. I paid a coin to the boatman. I came to a Moon Gate whose name was the same as the one I entered when I died once before, on the sea of an ancient poet shaman who was famous for being able to die and come back. I had a heavenly time on the other side of the Moon Gate on the Sea of Marmara. On my way back, at a neighboring island, I saw the sign for a restaurant with a most improbable name: Terk-i Dunya, Leaving the World. The question, of course, became: which world am I in now? The fuller story is here.

Tuesday, October 1

Go down five levels, then take the tunnel to the lowest level of this underground. Don't go the Door of Compassion. Go to the Rude Stone, by the ferry port, but don't cross by water today. Take the tram to the House of Roses. You will pass the House of Cannon Balls, the Black Village and the Vinegar Makers. The tram will be crowded. You will have to fight your way to the doors but don't miss the moment or you will come to the Stone of Iron Rings.
    If you are looking to create a geography of afterlife transits, names from the Istanbul mass transit system are an optional feature. All those I use here are translations of names that featured in my travels by subway and street car today, on my way from Pera to the Archaeological Museum.

  The museum has fierce gatekeepers, Medusa heads on the modern gates, Hittite lions flanking the steps to the Near Eastern collections, and an immense number of sarcophagi and tombstones. I wondered about what kind of afterlife was being projected by those who had pitched battles and savage hunts depicted on the marble and limestone vaults that would hold their bones. 
     I did like the rather fetching sphinxes on a Lykian sarcophagus. The Lykians liked a good checkout. I recalled the story in the Odyssey of how Sarpedon, a Lykian prince who fought on the Trojan side, was instantly transported to his homeland by Zeus when the god was not permitted - under divine treaty - to save this favorite.

In the evening, I was deeply moved and impressed by the whirling dervishes in the Mevlevi sema ceremony I attended at a restored Ottoman bath house. The audience was touristy; the Sufis were not. Turning always counter-clockwise on one leg, opening space for divine power to come down, right hand up to receive, left down to diffuse into the world. "The secret turning in us makes the universe turn." (Rumi) Tonight, this was no secret.

all photos (c) Robert Moss

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