How I Spent My Labor Day

Yesterday was labor day. As it is in all of Europe, May first is the holiday that America likes to celebrate on the first Monday in September. Unlike America, Labor Day in Europe actually means something besides a day off, some barbecues, and maybe the last camping trip of the year. I was given a hot tip that if I wanted to get some good photos, and something to write about, I should head over to Taksim Square. So yesterday morning, I got up and headed over to Uskudar with every intention of finding myself in the thick of things.

Instead, on a whim, I decided I would go to somewhere in the city I haven’t been yet. Instead of crossing into Besiktas and heading up to the Square, I got on a different boat that shot way up the Golden horn. It is a good thing I changed course because I avoided seeing this:mayday-celebrations-turn-violent-in-istanbul-body-image-1430510305


Meet this:


And become this:

In Photos_ Turkish Police Clash With May Day Protesters in Istanbul _ VICE News-page-001

I might find myself at things like this in the future, but since I still am here on a tourist visa and am waiting for my Residence Visa appointment, it is best not to push my luck. Instead, I headed to Kosmídion. Well, it used to be called Kosmídion, today it goes by a different name: Eyüp. Because of its location, this town is thought to be at least as old as when Byzantium was first renamed Constantinople. The town was originally named after two Christian martyrs who were also what is called “Unmercenary Physicians”. What that means is that they were doctors without pay. They chose the profession and lived it not for the benefits that a doctor’s salary would bring but rather because of their love for God.

kismidionAs with many things, the town had its name changed when the Ottomans took down Constantinople and raised up Istanbul in its stead. Why they chose Eyüp actually goes back nearly eight hundred years before this date. When Muhammad first entered into Medina after his forced exile from Mecca, he stayed at the house of Abu Ayyub Al Ansari. The two men became friends to the point that Ayyub (Eyüp) was Muhammad’s bannerman in pretty much every following battle Muhammad fought.

Eyup mosqueEyüp actually became legendary in his zeal for Islamic conquest and it is said the only time he ever missed a battle was because he was at some other battle being fought at the same time. The last of those battles that Eyüp was at was the first siege of Constantinople in the year 669. As he was dying his last request was that his body be buried here, near Constantinople. In the fifteenth century, Ak Şemsettin, a mentor of the conquering Mehmet II “found” Eyüp’s tomb and a mosque was built on that place.

Eyup squareThis became a favorite burial place for future important Muslims over the next few hundred years. The Mosque and old cemetery are now a common place for people to make pilgrimages to and that, on a Friday that was also a holiday, is where I found myself. The place was packed. (Ignore the lady in the bottom right picking her nose.)

tespihBesides all the old buildings and monuments, what there was also an abundance of was small vendors selling carnival type foods, books, trinkets, and tespih (shown). In a way it almost reminded me of what you might see at a Renaissance fair or Jamestown or something but with much stronger religious overtones. There even was a couple older guys dressed up in traditional Ottoman outfits right outside the Mosque. In all, it was interesting but I really need to come back again when I better understand the history, the culture, and most importantly the language. I just wish I could just plug into the Matrix and have Tank download it into my brain. Barring that, I guess I just have to keep plugging away, a few hours a day, until I can start dreaming in Turkish.

McDonalds in TurkeyOne last note, since I have now been here for a month, I decided it was time to quit holding out and see what McDonalds food is like on this side of the pond. As anticipated, I was very not impressed. I guess McDonalds locations are going to serve McDonalds quality food no matter in the world you are.


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