I will admit that when my wife was offered a job in Turkey, my first reaction was "how little I know about that country." My sharpest cultural memory of it was the horror movie, "Midnight Express," about a 19-year-old American who was caught with drugs in Turkey in 1970 and sent away to Turkish prison until he escaped in 1975.
The movie, I learn, was quite inaccurate in its portrayal of Turks, and the young man who was imprisoned, Billy Hayes, actually has a positive impression of Turks and escaped with the help of Turks.
By Alex Buie, age 12 (written with Dad's assistance)
Dad and Mom tell me that this school year, "the world is going to be my learning lab." They are going to teach me instead of sending me to Turkish school where I am unlikely to understand much of anything. One of my regular assignments is going to be to write about what I'm seeing and doing.
The first thing I noticed when we got to Istanbul is that the Turks don't speak English. That presented a challenge to us. Thankfully, we had a Turkish phrase book, and we communicate with our hands and by acting things out like, "Where can I get something to eat?" For dinner the first night on the Istaklal Cadessi, we found a cafeteria and ordered rice, mash potatoes, beef stew, tomato soup with meatballs, some kind of noodle pie, and a flan or custard. I like the Turkish food.
Luckily, enough people speak English that we can usually find someone who understands us.
The next day, Wednesday, while Dad tried to sleep off his jetlag, Mom and I went to the Basilican Cistern, also known as the "Sunken Palace." It reminded me of a scene from the second Harry Potter, the Chamber of Secrets, because the dark ceiling reflected off the water at the bottom of the cistern. It was built in the sixth century by an emperor named Justinian.
Justinian also built the Chora Church, which Mom visited before we arrived. She thought it was stunning. She also visited the Turkish and Islamic Art, or Carpet Museum and the Turkish Archaeological Museums. I was EXTREMELY SAD to miss those, especially the Carpet Museum (NOT). Why would anyone want to spend time staring at carpets or rocks?
But I really liked the Sunken Palace. The pillars that support the cistern were taken from ruined/abandoned temples and palaces and were backlit among the dark, and the water below us glinted with orange and grey carp. Two of the pillars had two huge heads of the evil gorgon Medusa, one head upside down and the other one sideways. More images of the Basilican Sistern.
Dad and Mom were James Bond fans when they were my age, and they were interested to learn that Istanbul was the setting for James Bond's "From Russia With Love." I hope to see that movie sometime. Dad remembered the scene from the movie racing in the ancient underground waterways of Istanbul. The other James Bond movie filmed partly in Turkey was "The World is Not Enough."
Here's one scene Youtube.com captured "From Russia With Love." There are many others on YouTube.com.
This is a great, very funny film about Turks who immigrated to Germany in the 1960s. I highly recommend it. Helps you understand & appreciate cultural differences, the new global economy, immigration, as well as Turkey and Germany.
I saw it on the flight from USA to Abu Dhabi. But hopefully it is available for download in your country, at a foreign film festival near you, or perhaps soon on Netflix.