Gratitude to the Turks

8 May

Color photo of the Turkish flag in the wind.

I write this as I cruise at 32,000 feet for over 10 hours.  This is my last Turkey post for a little while; though I’m certain I’ll revisit some other stories of these adventures in future writings.  Where to begin?  The past 10 days have brought forth such wonderful and rich experiences.  Turkey really is the most culturally vibrant culture and land in all of Europe.  I’ve seen; touched; tasted; smelled; and felt a lot of what Turkey’s Antalya region has to offer.  I also had a highly productive and motivating week working with some of the most prolific thinkers in my field.  So many relationships formed that opened doors for collaboration and partnership with individuals and institutions around the world.  So let me start by saying that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to live this experience, to fully live these days of my life.

Color photo of a hillside castle on a small island.

The conference I participated in this week involved one-full day that was dedicated to a technical tour.  Turkey holds some of the most ancient history of humanity on our planet.  This means it has also witnessed the rise and fall of many great civilizations – Greeks, Rhodesians, Romans, and beyond.  Yet, so much remains unknown about their successes and failures that ultimately resulted in their demise.  It is a land where ancient mythology, fables, fairytales, and a pinch of fact are all tossed together.  And when you are within this mysterious and breathtaking landscape you can’t help but ask the question, what secrets and lessons would the people from these ancient civilizations want us to know?  Our world is experiencing a tremendous boom in conflict and in change, taking on so many different forms.  Violent wars, drought & famine, loud voices echoed millions demanding freedom & human rights, and violently oppressive regimes resisting justice – and a surge in some of the perilous natural disasters we have experienced in modern history.  I simply can’t go on writing without raising the question to all of us – What can we learn from our ancient ancestors that can allow our humanity to rise out of this complex & pervasive turmoil?  What wisdom can be learn from them that will prevent our modern civilization from falling?

I don’t know if any one of us can fully answer these difficult questions.  But as a community we must begin to tackle them for our own survival – and to nurture a better world for future generations.  So what does this have to do with Turkey?  Well, I’d like to share the story of one place that we visited on the technical tour, the sunken city of Kekova.  Nestled along the edge of a coastal island that pours into the Mediterranean Sea is the City of Kekova.  Much remains unknown about the history of the people and this island city.  It is an ancient Roman city that likely had pre-Roman origins.  However so much of the city is sunken beneath the turquoise blue Mediterranean Sea, artifacts and architecture corroded by the salty sea water, that much of its history remains a mystery.  What is known is that Kekova experienced an earthquake at some point during the Roman era, and half of the city literally fell in the ocean.  The edge of the island is characterized by old stone walls and stairs leading into the Sea.  Under the water you can see ancient building structures – columns, walls, archways.  The structure of the stone walls and placement of the stairs suggests that these are the remnants of homes to people long forgotten.  The earthquake that occurred in the city of Kekova essentially brought about the end of one large Roman city.  I try but I can’t quite hear the spirits of these lost people.

Color photo of the Mediterranean Sea and a grouping of islands

Continuing on we also visited another island that illustrates layers upon layers of history.  It is home to a vast area of ancient sarcophaguses, a castle from both the Roman era & Middle Ages that was later used by the Ottomans, and a modern island village.  I spent a few hours wandering around this island experiencing the old and new with a couple of my colleagues.  One of them was a Turk with deep knowledge of Turkey’s ancient history and mythology.  We entered the village by foot, walking up narrow staircase from the sea, as there are no roads in these little island villages.  As we reached the summit ridge of the island we found ourselves amongst a vast panorama of ancient sarcophaguses from the Hellenistic and Roman eras.  There they were, still standing above the earth along the summit ridge, reaching for the heavens.  These sarcophaguses are stone containers that the ancient civilizations built to place the remains of the deceased.  An intriguing little legend I learned along the way is that these ancient containers were carefully designed to look like upside down boats.  Legend has it that these civilizations believed that the apocalypse would come in some distant time in the form of a major flood.  And when it came, the sarcophaguses would simply sail out into the Sea where they would be protected in the stone encasings and still be close to God.  Little did the people know that pirates would come later and break through the stone containers that protected the spirits of their deceased, searching for jewelry and other valuable objects.

Color photo of ancient Roman ruins

What a fascinating legend!  As I walked on I came across one incredible sarcophagus near to a large boulder.  On the boulder there was a brown land tortoise basking in the warm sun.  Could it be the reincarnate spirit of whoever was once ‘buried’ in this ancient boat-like stone container?  I will never know, but I did enjoy a few moments sharing a seat with the tortoise as we both admired a breathtaking panorama of Kekova and beyond.

Color photo of the land tortoise overlooking a Sea view

I am so grateful for having had met and talked with people willing to share with me the ancient legends of this rich land.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived these days here.   So many questions.  So many possibilities.  My time in Turkey has come to an end.  And I am ready to go home to my family and my work.  This provocative landscape will forever be in heart.  It has brought me a deeper perspective of the challenges that I have dedicated by life to addressing.  And beyond these challenges, it has breathed a little bit of a new life and culture into my soul.  I am grateful for all Turkey has taught me – it’s wonderful people, history, spirituality, myth & legend, fresh & clean cuisine, and powerful new ideas.  Teşekkür ederim!

One Response to “Gratitude to the Turks”

  1. toemailer May 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    I love the shot with the turtle!

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