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to tokyo and kyoto and…

JAPAN | Sunday, 12 April 2009 | Views [570]

jap-flag It isn't so long ago that I went to Istanbul, and although—to enhance my experience—I read Orhan Pamuk ahead of my departure and Pierre Loti while in Istanbul, the memories of the time spent there are fading, leaving behind static images of this and that. From the half-day spent in a gray Balat, for instance, I remember most the two skinned heads of lamb (their eyes intact in their sockets) that stared at my white walking shoes from behind the glass on the bottom shelf while I tried to get directions from the butcher. He had no English, I had no Turkish.

I went to the palaces of the dead great; and called on them where they are interred. I saw objects that belonged to men greater than the great: The beard of the prophet, the tooth of the prophet, the sword and the bow and the tunic of the prophet, the gleaming staff of Moses, the sword of David, the skull and one arm of John. I’m surprised they didn’t awe me when I saw them; now they are a dull memory. The palace, the harem, the chambers of the princes, the peacock throne, the tiles—the Topkapi took all of one day, but the memories are lifting off my mind.

I gazed at the living Istanbullus from behind cafe windows. They have coalesced into a blur.

Why go far to see things most of which I’ll forget? No more reason than that I feel good while I’m there. People are suddenly more interesting and I catch myself staring at them and I don’t feel guilt from it; history ceases to be boring; I notice better the smells and the breeze and the sway of the trees and the course of the moon. Coffee tastes good. I read better.

Joy happens during the experience. In a week I’ll go to Japan for two good weeks of walking.

Tags: istanbul, japan, kyoto, tokyo

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