Saturday, September 1, 2012

Treking the Island - Superstitions & Peace

 The Monastery - Superstition & Peace

We are nearing the foot of yet another hill.  This next path will take us to the highest point on the island... and the St. George Monastery.

I had done some research on this Monastery.  My guide book was limited in the scope of it's storytelling about the venerated spot.  According to DK's Istanbul.... many make the climb to the monastery barefoot, believing their prayers will be answered if they sacrifice in this way.  I had full intentions of doing so myself, as I had a couple of prayers in mind.  Another book informed me that for those who were not able to make the climb barefoot, they could tie a thread at the bottom of the hill and if they managed to string it all the way to the church unbroken, the prayers also would be answered.

 There were other tales too, not found in the guide books.  One of the women in our group told us that she had heard women flocked to this particular monastery because the priest was so handsome.  According to the legend, women would fall in love with him and on their way back down the mountain, inform women on the climb up that the priest was "not there", so they should turn around and go home.  Love it.  Also I am now further motivated to make the climb!

The trail head is a plethora of commerce.  The carriages deposit their human cargo here and wait for return passengers.  Sometimes the horses are unbridled to feed and drink and rest.  We noticed that many of these were quite reluctant to be re-hitched.  No wonder.  I didn't mention it before, but these guys sometimes get up that hill very fast!  I watched in amazement as many of them passed slower carts on the road.  I would guess, the quicker one makes the trip, the more money one can earn.

Speaking of money, there were many vendors present as well as a restaurant and drink stand.  I tried to buy a fan, because the days can be quite hot, and I had noticed my Spanish friends all had nice little hand fans that they would produce in stifling staff meetings.  I had been looking for a fan, so I asked in my best Turkish, how much?  20 TL!  No way.  I could see they were mass produced and most likely from China.  I offered 5 TL, and was roundly refused.  She came back at 15, and I responded by tching and lifting my head back (as I had been told to do to show displeasure and to indicate and unwillingness to pay such a price).  This offended her to no end and she walked away from me.  I will have to practice my skills a bit more.  I did not purchase the fan.

We had been forewarned that the trek was arduous and difficult to make.  We had already been walking for over an hour on the same route the carriages were taking.  "It can't be worse than Shorty Peak" I thought to myself.  Idaho residents will know the trail I am referring to.  It wasn't.  However, I did not have the courage to remove my shoes for the hike.  In the company of the expat group, it didn't seem appropriate, besides... prayers are answered without benefit of superstitious actions.  These may benefit the believer, but I do not think they necessarily boost a pure and honest petition to the GOD who made all things.  As we started up the steep cobbled incline, we noticed the threads lining the side of the trail.  So the stories were true about the threads at least.  Maybe I should take my shoes off...

The irony of this place can only be understood by reading it's history.  This is an excellent link to a most fascinating story about the origins of the church, and the anomaly it has become.  It explains the throngs of Muslims that I saw making the climb alongside us.  There were two lovely freshwater springs along the path.  I soaked my scarf in one and was grateful later.  Upon arriving at the top, dusty, thirsty, and out of breath... I looked back at the world below, commenting to the woman next to me about how fitting it was that a Christian church would be so high above the world.  Literally.  The sea of water and the sea of humanity stretched out below us.

They grounds were magnificent and I spotted an old woman and a young child just below the church, in a yard that was inaccessible to tourists.
I did not take pictures of the church itself, nor did I snap photos inside.  For me, the place seemed too holy to intrude with technology.  The faithful were inside praying, weeping in front of icons, lighting candles, depositing prayer requests, kneeling below magnificent portraits of Christ Jesus.  I sat for a while and worshiped and I too cried for a world that for the most part... still doesn't understand how much it is loved.

I had brought along a small split of Turkish wine, and departed the church with a small group of new found acquaintances.  We sipped and talked on the way down, and met up with everyone back near the carriage stop.  The organizers of the trip had arranged for us to dine al fresco at a lovely country hotel just a short walk away from the hubub of the trail head.  We were handsomely rewarded for all our walking, with a most delightful meal of mezes and shish's and wine and beer and tea and conversation and a view that took my breath away.

I did not want to leave.  I saw myself owning the hotel and creating the meals and serving travelers on that island.  Nice dream, and for a few moments, I simply sat and listened and breathed, and prayed in gratitude.
But ...  all good things come full circle and it was time to depart the island.  Now here is another funny little serendipitous irony ... one of many that have taken me by surprise since arriving here.
On our way back to the ferry docks, I kept thinking... oh I wish I could share this with my friends.  I wish....... were here, and ........ , and .........  and ......... would just love this.  You know how it goes.  We round a corner and a woman steps across our path, walking her St. Bernard.  One of my very best friends seemed to suddenly be there... not really, but it seemed so, and I snapped the shot just for her.  To show her that anyone can be a part of Turkey and Turkey can be a part of anyone.

So you see... all things are possible.  Here I am in a world I have only dreamed of.  Safe and at peace.  I did not need to walk barefoot.  I was not required to string any threads over a long distance.  I was too shy to procure the bells (see the web link) though I did light some candles and say some intentional prayers.
I will let you know how those are answered.

GOD is good.
Turkey is lovely.
Eat, Drink, Pray has been done already, I am just expanding on the concepts.  Further on up... Further on in!

1 comment:

  1. I'm enjoying your posts, Connie. It's fun to travel through someone else's eyes. Keep up the good work.