Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I happened to be watching yesterday a documentary episode in a series by Michael Palin, one of the funniest characters of the legendary Monty Python team. He traveled to Turkey and he was reporting their life and hopes to enter the EU. After showing a ruthless Turkish pastime of watching male camels fight, Palin's travel brought him further to the East of Asia Minor, the Province of Cappadocia. Such a wonderful interplay of nature with rocks in menhir-like shapes standing from the ground up, like Easter Island sculptures. Palin met there a German anthropologist married to a local woman who dressed in traditional Muslim clothes of the region. Nevertheless, she admitted she wasn't too religious herself and she actually took Palin to her favorite place of sins. This was the house of a local 'medium' who could read somebody's 'future' by studying the bottom of the victim's coffee cup (Turkish coffee of course). The thick of the coffee forms different revealing shapes after turning the cup upside down and keep it in that position for a few more minutes.

This particular incident reminded me of my own youth as this was a habit among us Greeks as well; 'reading' mostly a girlie's future (say fortunes) in a cup of Greek coffee (yep, that's what we call the Turkish coffee in Greece). Well... go figure. Palin had a good laugh when the old woman told him that he was going to 'find' a rich and beautiful lady to be with... and the way to find her would be via... an Internet Chatroom! Blimey! In far and forgotten Cappadocia an old Turkish woman who makes a living by reading... coffee cups talks of rencontres dangereuses via Internet chatrooms! It's a blast!

88 years ago, to this day, my hometown of Alexandroupolis (Αλεξανδρούπολις) was liberated from the Othomans. After hundreds of years of living under the fear of expansion of the Othoman Empire into Europe, in the early years of the last century, the English forces, leading an alliance of European nations, helped the Greeks reclaim the territories of their forefathers. In that campaign, a more or less pathetic Greek army advanced bravely and kept on 'liberating' parts of Asia Minor until they almost reached Ankara. In the process, of course, they took their long awaited revenge and committed atrocities upon defenseless Turks of the worst kind... However, the allied nations eventually changed their position and the Turkish armies of Kemal Ataturk pushed back heavily and expelled from Asia Minor everything with Greek DNA in its cells. They burnt to the bone the city of Smyrna (present day Ismir) and massacred thousands of Greeks, men or women, old or young. My mother, who was actually born in the north Agean island of Lemnos four years later (1924), where her parents and oldest sister ended up during the exodus, lost five close relatives in the process... all young παλικάρια (Greek for lads) between 15 to 30 years of age. I remember my aunt Georgia, my mom's sister and 10 years older, describing the events to me 15 years ago (in 1993... aunt Georgia was almost 80 yrs then) about the exodus that she remembered to the last tragic detail. Amazing creature the human memory... to remember events at that level of detail since so long ago, emotionally carved into the brain cells of a frightened refugee 7 year old girl.

Anyways, the whole conflict eventually ended at the current frontiers between the two countries as can be found on Google maps. Greeks on one, and Turks on the other side; loving each other to death! God bless'em...

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