Once there, and after a few exploratory drives in the countryside around Istanbul, we decided to limit all of our free time to discovering Turkey, rather than to fly off to Italy, Greece or other European destinations that we hadn't yet seen. It was the best decision we could have made.
We were able to join several local groups who had tours that were much more detailed than the usual tourist tours. One of the tour groups was made up of the wives of Consular employees, and I was often invited to go along with them. It was on one such tour, to the Black Sea Coast, that I took this picture.
The Black Sea coastal area is lush and humid and totally unlike any other area in Turkey. All the towns are fairly small, and there are many, many little villages scattered over the hillsides and in the valleys. It also is a place were both tea and hazelnuts are grown.
On one of our day's jaunts, we headed up into the hills in our small tour bus and quite unintentially ended up in the front yard of this family. The men in this family were all down the hill in the town of Tonya where they had their jobs. The women were most interested to see who was coming to visit. Our guide explained to them that we were some American ladies who lived in Istanbul and were visiting the Black Sea area. At one point he turned to us and said, "They don't know what America is. They do not have televisions or newspapers."
In this picture, the old bent-over lady is 90 and her sister next to her 87. The 87 year old's daughter is holding a scarf. She has a daughter of her own standing next to her and the 4th and 5th generation - the young woman and her baby - are at her side. The aprons they are wearing are traditional for this area and are woven locally.
Shortly the oldest woman went in the house and sat at an open window to watch what we were doing. Soon this lady beckoned me to come to her, which I did and she began talking to me in Turkish. I looked for the guide to translate for me but of course he wasn't to be found, so all I could do was listen. When she finished, I took hold of her hand through the open window and said in essence that I was sorry I couldn't understand what she was saying but I knew that she and I would always have something to say to each other because we were wives and mothers and sisters and there was a common bond between us transcended the need for a common language. I told her that I would always remember this wonderful and touching time with her, and I kissed her hand. Tears rolled down her face and they rolled down mine as well.
After we left and got on the bus, the guide came up to me and said the little lady called him over and told me she had a nice talk with you and sends you her love. This is the kind of friendship we found at every point in Turkey, and it validated our desire to focus on this most unusual and special of near-east Countries.