Istanbul , 2010. The location is the Basilica Cisterns, the famous Byzantine underground water reservoir, dating back to 6th century AD. The stone head in the photo, which makes the foot of one of the large marble columns, is Medusa from Greek mythology. According to a popular version of the myth, Medusa was a beautiful Gorgon maiden, who fell for Poseidon and broke her vow of celibacy, for which she was severely punished by the goddess Athena. Athena turned Medusa into an ugly monster and replaced her hair with snakes. Everybody who looked at Medusa’s face turned into stone.
What a punishment! I did stare at this beautifully carved stone for very long when I was there and I did not turn to stone. Thank god!
If you are ever in Istanbul, do visit the Basilica Cisterns (www.yerebatan.com), one of the most evocative places I have been to. And do look at the big Medusa heads which stand upside down and sideways.
We go through different stages throghout our lives. In this photography, I tried to capture the wisdom, experience and maturity of old age against the energy and vitality of childhood.
My son, who is a six grader, has an English assignment for the Christmas holidays: Reading Charles Dickens’ famous novella A Christmas Carol. This has given me a good excuse to read Charles Dickens again, the creator of some of my favorite childhood characters: Pip, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.
Now that Christmas is only a few days away, reading A Christmas Carol with my son gives me an opportunity to reflect upon this tradition and the role it plays in my life.
Being born and raised in the non-Christian part of the world, Christmas has not really been a part of my childhood. Except for a one-year stay in New York, when I was six years old, I was not really exposed to this tradition. What I knew about Christmas, I had gained through films and cartoons, I watched and the books I read. It was in my early teens, when my family moved to Copenhagen, I had my first real Christmas experience.
My family participated in the Christmas parties and celebrations we were invited by school, work, our Danish friends and neighbors, but we did not celebrate it at our home. And the Christmas day was just another holiday for us. Being in an international community and studying in an international school, I did not feel, there was anything strange about not celebrating Christmas; I knew quite a few who did not. I remember, once at school, we were asked to talk to a couple of Danish students, who were writing a project about different Christmas traditions. They wanted to know, how we celebrated Christmas in our home country. I told them, of course, that we did not celebrate it in Turkey. The Danish students looked at me with incredulous eyes with pity in them, as if to say, How is that possible? Poor you. I remember clearly the embarrassment, I felt on that day. That was in 1989.
Since then, I have celebrated Christmas the authentic “Danish way” many times and am very enthusiastic about it, too. Even my family and friends lovingly tease me about my engagement. What I like most about Christmas is that it brings people together. As Danes say, Christmas is the Celebration of Hearts. I admit, I do sometimes feel the same way as grumpy old Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Christmas? Humbug! Spending tons of money on things, we do not need; eating and drinking far more than our bodies can bear; slaughtering trees and throwing them away a few days later.
Though, I don’t think I need a ghost to convince me that despite all that, Christmas brings a lot of joy, especially to children. Seeing the glee in my sons’ eyes on Christmas Eve is enough for me.
I will continue enjoying this great tradition, hopefully, many years to come.