Saturday, February 12, 2011

Going Away Gathering in Eskisehir

Eskisehir is over 200km west of Ankara, but the cool thing is the "fast train" connecting it to Ankara, which will eventually be built all the way to Istanbul. The new train is swanky, and it's a cheap, quick weekend getaway. This past weekend, some eight friends and I headed there for an overnight, to celebrate our friend's heading out to begin a grad program in Australia. This was kind of a going away party. I went to Eskisehir for the day with Wowie last year and saw some of the sights; this trip was more about hanging out with everyone than seeing everything.

After a kofte feast, we walked around the old quarter of town, and though everything was closed because it was late in the day and Winter season, the pastel-colored, restored Ottoman houses were abound.

Within the old quarter, we came across the Anadolu (Anatolian) University World Education Cartoon Museum, which was open and full of warm heaters. There were some great political cartoons about Turkey as well as some laugh-out-loud cartoons commenting on human nature. Here are a few greeting card reproductions I purchased:

Since Eskisehir is home of Anadolu University, it's also a cool university town, and not too far from the Ottoman houses, there are going-out strips, and a cafe-lined river (in the spring you can pay for a pseudo-Italian gondola ride from a white-and-black-striped-shirt pseudo-Italian guy).

Once the sun went down on Saturday night, we hit the bar strip. And in between a bar and dinner, we were "accosted" by a street celebration, a sending off parade for a young man about to to his compulsory military duty. You come across these celebrations often at airports and bus stations, and they are complete with fireworks, drums, and traditional Turkish live music.

On Sunday morning, while the rest of the world was sleeping in, I ventured off by myself to wander the streets. The only sign of life on this sleepy sunny morning were the cats.

I did come across an interesting find in a small market that has been the hot topic of conversation at lunch this week. It was a small yellow-colored box bearing the picture of what looked to be a royal Ottoman woman. The back of the box had an English translation; the ingredients were a mix of spices and herbs, such as cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, cumin, etc.

The description of the product read:

"Mesir Paste which was made of 41 different kinds of herbs and spices by the period famous medical doctor Merkez Efendi who worked as an administrator in Sultan Mosque and its social complex was told the make Masir Paste in 1522 with the order of Ayse Hafsa Sultan who was Yavuz Sultan Selim's wife and Kamuni Sultan Suleyman's mother. Mesir Paste helped Hafsa Sultan get cured. Therefore, it was ordered to toss off the dome of the Sultan Mosque so that the public could benefit as well. Mesir Paste Tossing Ceremony which is held every year on Nawruz Day has come up to those days as a traditional celebration."

I wondered what exactly this paste cured, so I bought some to take home and ask my Turkish friends. Well, at lunch the other day, my question was met by laughs as I was told it is "Turkish viagra." That makes a lot of sense if the Sultan's mom and wife asked a doctor to design it. They wanted little Sultan babies. None of my Turkish male friends wanted to split some for the promise of a wild afternoon of teaching, for they all assured me they "didn't need it." But most of the ladies tried it. It's actually really tasty, though I didn't notice any new vivacity in my teaching that day.

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