Reading this article yesterday (December 29, 2011) in the op-ed section of the NY Post opened a festering wound from my trip to Istanbul. My contact with that world was limited to the few friends, students and colleagues of that faith. I have tried to understand that religion by reading the Koran in its entirety and by discussing what I read. I have compared fanatics of all religions and I have seen no difference in their intolerance to others. What I had not experienced was what I was not able to appreciate in Istanbul. I enjoy visiting sites of worship, not for their prayer services, but to see the architecture and their believers. I had just visited the Sultanahmet Mosque (better known as the “Blue Mosque”) and I was ignorant of its history, but I was awed by its beauty.
In the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would be even better than the Hagia Sophia, and the mosque named for him is the result. The two great architectural achievements now stand next to each other in Istanbul’s main square, and it is up to visitors to decide which is more impressive.
It was easy seeing which one was more impressive. One had been allowed to decay while the other one was still flourishing. The entrance fee to the mosque was free while the “church” now operating as a museum was charging an exorbitant fee to enter it. I normally do not pay to enter houses of worship but I made an exception since this would probably be my last trip to this country.
While I toured this museum, my anger at how this site had been desecrated was evident in the lack of enthusiasm in type of photographs I was taking. My brother-in-law was surprised at my reaction. I’m not known for being the religious one in the family and my displeasure at the lack of respect for this edifice by the government of Turkey was even surprising to me.
The following day we went in search of a comparatively humble building in Fener, Istanbul, the Patriarchal Cathedral Church of St. George (Aya Yorgi) which houses the worldwide headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church.
There were no signs leading tourists to its location. This did not surprise me. I had seen a report on 60 Minutes about the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is recognized as the “first among equals” of all Orthodox spiritual leaders. St. George had been part of a monastery before it welcomed the Orthodox Patriarchate. Over the centuries, it has been periodically damaged, the last time during the fire in 1941.
It is no longer a monastery and its head has to be born in Turkey. This church is an endangered site that is protected under the guise of Turkish authorities.
Before those visits I was surprised to see a church surrounded by 10 ft. walls. I didn’t think much of this at that time but I did find it vexing that the doors to this church were not open.
Normally while traveling, I meet a local who I befriend. This is a city where I didn’t find anyone besides the people at the hotel, restaurants and shops, especially the carpet salesmen, who have an interest in the name of customer service to be nice to its guests. I did meet a couple at a Starbucks Cafe who were enjoying their honeymoon in Istanbul. They’re from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina a place where I’ve been invited to visit and look forward one day to see them again. For now we’re friends on Facebook and keep in touch intermittently.
Would I recommend visiting Istanbul? Yes, but don’t waste your time trying to see anything that represent the Christian religions.
- One of the World’s Oldest Churches May Become a Mosque Again (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
It‘s instructive to remember that one of Christendom’s greatest cathedrals, Saint Sophia in Constantinople, was converted into the principal mosque of Istanbul in 1453; since 1935, it’s been a museum.
So where’s the international outrage? Where are the international agencies, which are so quick to protest the most tenuous slight to “human rights” in the West? Most of all, where’s the United Nations? Instead of sending its blue-helmeted troops around the world on futile peacekeeping missions, why doesn’t it throw a cordon sanitaire around sites of historical import. If that offends certain sensibilities, so what? The planet’s cultural patrimony belongs to everyone.
my last post or perhaps you haven’t noticed my absence. Just in case you were wondering I ’ll give you a quick update of what I’ve been up to. I’ll start with the trip to Texas that included a high school playoff game between Southlake Carroll and Dallas Skyline High School. A game that turned around in the final 2 minutes and 7 seconds with a victory for Southlake Carroll.
I spent some time trying to fix a problem with the Honda Accord. I’m still not convinced that I didn’t purchase a lemon from the Honda Corporation.
On Saturday I could have traveled to Texas, but I was really too tired to fly 4 hours. I was going to settle in and watch it on cable. But alas, this year the game wasn’t being transmitted on Time Warner Cable in New York.
After looking for a while online and with an assist from Twitter, I found an internet radio station from Houston, TX that was doing the play-by-play live. They were rooting for the team from Fort Bend and that made it more interesting to me. Needless to say the quarterback lead the Dragons to a 36-29 victory over Fort Bend Hightower that Saturday in the Class 5A Division I championship at Cowboys Stadium.
Like almost everyone else I went to work on Tuesday. There’s nothing interesting to tell about my work that week. Maybe one day I’ll relate a good story about my work life.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about the trip to Harlem where I met my friends from Denmark and Germany, to eat soul food at Amy Ruth’s and then a quick bus ride to 125th to visit the Lenox Lounge, a historic Jazz Club to have some drinks. One of the waitresses confused me with one of the performers when I asked her for the key. She had seen me in the Zebra Room walking around and assumed I was a jazz artist asking for the keys to the dressing room. All I wanted was the keys to the bathroom. She told me to use the ladies since it was empty but I told her I didn’t want to mess it up for the ladies. “Are you kidding?” she said. “The lady’s room is messier than the men’s room at all times,” she continued. “Really?” I replied incredulously. I guess their aim isn’t as good as the men’s.
Today, I have been in New York for 3 hours since my trip back from visiting paradise. I had my hair cut by the first chair barber who still uses a blade to shave the back of the neck. My hair had grown so much since the last haircut in Forest Hills, NY that waitresses were confusing me for an artist. I do play the trumpet but not anymore in any band.
Tomorrow I have an appointment with Hillside Honda where they will tell me nothing is wrong with the car. They will tell me to drive this lemon more often so that it doesn’t die. I’ve never owned a vehicle that has had that many battery replacements. While I kill time writing this, I have been watching Milla Jovaovich in UltraViolet, The Blood War is On, (Unrated Extended Cut). Right now I have paused the movie because I haven’t been paying too much attention to it while I talk to you.
Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask why do so many people still find Anthony Weiner’s penis and Lady Gaga’s nipples so interesting. That seems to be the post that has generated the most views in 2011. Perhaps if I started to post celebrities in distress or undress might this website/blog go viral?
O.K. so much for this diatribe, I will return later with a re-blog of a funny post I found in Tumblr. I know I’ve seen this one before but I haven’t ever posted it online for my guests to see.
Now I will pay more attention to Torrey, a tuxedo who keeps interrupting this post. He’s back again.
I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/13462/uncensor
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