"Birds of prey! Yes I kid you not, there were birds of prey perched on a rail erected on the wall of the Kahve (Turkish tea house)" my foreign teacher friend didn't believe me. I'd had to take a few paces back to take another look and sure enough, there were two or three what turned out to be hawks sitting on the perch no doubt inhaling a fair amount of the tobacco smoke rising from the small tables below.
I returned a few months later when I had a little more time to see if they were still there. Alas they were not but the white stains on the wall where the birds had been suggested that I had not been hallucinating. The irrepressible inquisitiveness and hospitality of the clientele sitting around sipping tea and smoking lead to me to sit down and share a chay and a conversation.
"So where are the birds?" I asked. Three middle aged men excitedly told me about the traditional sport of hawking that existed up on the Black Sea. All these men were from that part of the country. Just to prove that the smart phone is now ubiquitous in all walks and generations of Turkish society they produced their samsungs and started to skim through scores of photographs of their hawking antics back in the "köy" (their home villages in the lush green mountains of the Black Sea).
We spent a good hour or so chatting, laughing and learning from one another. They were all retired but looked barely over fifty to me. One had been a 'gemici' (sailor), typical of his generation he'd sailed the world and seen it from the side that makes 'Lonely Planet' look beourgeois.
There's travelling, and then there's discovering culture. The two are different and the latter so much more interesting. The exploration of human lives and their twists and turns is a journey that never fails to surprise and delight.
Oil can in Delhi - watercolour on paper