Playing around the Mosque

I like the sounds of Turkey (which reminds me of another song ‘Wyoming’, rather less well known).I like the adhaan (the call to prayer – even if it is not sung by the mezuin anymore but just straight off the cd). I like the musical way the bus station touts shout out the names of the places they sell tickets too. (Not that I can understand a word either they or the mezuin says).

And I like the way there are six million children running around, whose words I can sometimes understand. For they seem to take a great joy in running up saying ‘hello, my name is [insert turkish child name here], what is your name? goodbye’, and then running away. In groups. I guess this is year 1 of English at Turkish primary schools.

I also like the look of Turkey. At least in the north-west (at the border with Greece) it is lush and green. The roads are bordered with trees. The sun is out. The first thing you spot of a new town in the distance is a minaret (or five, in the case of Edirne).

The people seem genuinely (even bizarrely) friendly and helpful too.

Although not as friendly as the most friendly border guard I have ever met (who was on the Greek side). He told us (I was travelling with a German guy who took the same route) that we could not walk across the border to Turkey. It was a stupid rule, but that was the rule. He suggested that we could either try to hitch a lift, or he could call us a taxi. Would you carry some total stranger across the border in your car? So he called us a taxi. Then he came back and said it would cost at least 6 Euros, and did we still want it. And we said we did. And he came out to talk to us a little. And the taxi came. And that was the friendly border guard.

This morning was a strange kind of frustration. On the Greek side of the border the train dropped us off at Pythion. A small town in the middle of nowhere whose only distinction is that there is a train every day to Istanbul at ten past three. From there you can look east and see Turkey, across the river.

But it is not so easy to get there. It is 50km north to the town of Kastanies, wherein the friendly border guard. There were no trains for hours, so we figured we would hitch to Kastanies, walk the border and bus into Turkey. I was headed for Gallipoli. My companion to Istanbul.

As it turned out, things did not quite go to plan. No one was that keen to give us a lift (we ended up getting halfway there in three hours and then catching the train), we could not walk across the border (see above), and I got to spend the afternoon in Edirne waiting for a bus (my German friend spent no time in transit).

So here I am waiting in Edirne. Things could be worse. The cafe is pleasant. The sun is shining. The happy children are running around. The coffee is cheap, if Turkish. The mosque just over there is amazing with a capital A.

And I like the way life is centred on the mosque in Edirne. How much better is it for your kids to be playing around outside the mosque than to be hanging out at the mall?

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