Size does not matter.
Coming to this conclusion was slow.
Courage to explore beyond comfort zones required.
On the slippery surface of a map's laminate, fingers sliding across inflated points, their circumference stroked with a feathery light touch of finger tips; interest piqued, I decided.
Istanbul...Ankara... Konya... Eskisehir...Antalya...Izmir...Samsun.
These would be my favourite cities of Turkey in much the same way 'we' vehemently declare Shakespeare the best even before we know Marlowe.
Touted by many a travel connoisseur, the main feature in travel bloggers' "Top X Cities To See In Turkey" advisories, I believed. These cities, large in size and stature, would guarantee an experience of the sublime.
Maybe of the YOLO kind.
It is so funny how sometimes life can be so fluid in unexpected ways; we move from the 'if it ain't in a glossy magazine, it ain't in a glossy magazine' disingenuous to the bona fide, never even aware that there was always a dichotomy.
The big city lights and energy of the aforementioned cities had long mesmerised even the most expert of travelers. Obliged by certainty of their legitimacy, I believed. I believed that only these cities could afford me the genuine feel and taste of Turkey.
Sunrise but a whisper on the horizon, the crescents of the Anatolia mountain range made even more striking as the coach bus escaping Ankara rolls full throttle into the 76,000 person inhabited city of Çankırı, unimpeded.
Unknown then, was an unhindered, veritable encounter that is the very soul of Ottomanian Turkey awaiting me in one of Turkey's smallest cities if not the smallest.
In These Streets
Walking. Because there is no metro. Just mostly cobbled stoned streets and sidewalks. Mostly.
The dawn breeze is a crisp wind that is undeniably clean. The exhaust of Istanbul and its counterparts not taken in by Çankırı and regurgitated. Thank God.
Walking. Still. Against the tide. A stream flows out of the city.
With no tour book in hand, it is the beacon of the shining dome of a Mosque reflecting the intensity of the risen sun, that draws me nearer into the city's center.
by the slight streets, lined with trees- not succumbed to the chill of winter, I am grateful for life. The simplicity of it.
The modern with tradition mix well here. But. Tradition. Thick. Rises. To the top. To be savoured. Before the mundane of earthy grounds can be. Or should be.
Even in this city's center, where, usually, commercialism is often the main attraction in other ones, here it is subliminal to the sounds of children's laughter on the streets echoing through a ravine of apartment buildings. Hijabi mothers, with windows slightly ajar to poke their heads out lest there be trouble. But there is none. Just glimpses of their flowing hijabs as they rush to catch a glimpse of this passer-by.
Sunday morning rituals
Men arm in arm- a sign of friendship and trust between them.
Loaves and loaves of bread bought for the day's meals, toted in clear plastic bags by the early risers of families.
Husband and wife; boyfriend and girlfriend walking hand in hand.
I refrain from taking photos. Preferring to savour the memory of their felt moments; daring not to interrupt their moments with our feelings of awkwardness.
That life can be simple, unspoilt and felt, I am beginning to believe.
I am told you must go to the Castle to "see" the city.
Enroute, the 'old city' and a cemetery are passed uphill- a burial just finished. Navigating the small winding roads of the cemetery would be hard on a normal day for a manually driven taxi, but with a cortege of cars and people it was a balancing act.
Just two slight mounds of brick pillars of the Castle remain. Almost 2,000 years old and unnoticed, the harsh winds, winters and summers have not been kind. Yet, it stands hundreds of feet above the city.
It is beautiful.