|Rick shares a laugh with his new Turkish friends.|
Turkey is a land of ceremonies. Rather than relying on a list of festivals, travel with sharp eyes, flexibility, and some knowledge of the folk culture. Wandering into a small crafts shop somewhere in central Turkey, I met an 85-year-old white-bearded woodcarver who bragged that his work decorated prayer niches in mosques all over Iran. As he sized up just the right chunk of wood, he held his chisel to the sky and said with a twinkle in his eye, "This...is the greatest factory in the world." A few minutes and a pile of wood shavings later, the man gave me a carved floral decoration with his signature in swirling Arabic. When I offered to pay, he refused. At his age, he explained, if I appreciated his art, that was pay enough.
Outside, a gaggle of men wearing grays, blacks, and browns were shuffling quietly down the street. A casket nearly floated over them as each man jostled to the front to pay his respects by "giving it a shoulder."
Local life here is punctuated with colorful, meaningful events. As the dust from the funeral procession clears, you may see a proud eight-year-old boy dressed like a prince or a sultan. He's celebrating his circumcision, a rite of passage that some claim is an echo from the days of matriarchal Amazon rule, when entry into the priesthood required c-c-c-castration. This is a great day for the boy and his family. Turks call it the "happiest wedding" — because there are no in-laws.