Posts Tagged Turkey
In World Premiere of “Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War“, at CityLights Theater in San Jose, through telling of the story of the historic event that occurred in December 1914, both the mindlessness of war and the mindfulness of peace, become abundantly evident. Playwrights Jeffrey Bracco and Kit Wilder have made this historic story personal, by telling it through four main characters, George Krieger (Max Tachis), the German patriotic soldier, fighting for honor, glory, and fatherland; Anna Friedmann (Cailin Papp), the German nurse who questions the wisdom of war; Tommy Williams (Drew Benjamin) English poet who is compelled to go to war by parental pressure and also pulled to write and pulled by his love for his young wife and by his friendship with Krieger; and Maggie Williams (Allison Meneley), young wife of Tommy who encourages him to write and waits for his return from war.
A little piece of history along with the events in the play
This history was also expertly and succinctly narrated at the beginning of the play. The world was polarized and battle lines were drawn, long before the actual event that ignited the region, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, in Sarajevo in June, 1014. As Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia (Serbian ally) mobilized its military. Like a game of dominoes, one by one the countries were pressured or pulled into the war, as Germany declared war on Russia, France, and Belgium; Britain declared war on Germany; soon thereafter, Japan, Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire entered the fight; and ultimately US entered the war in 1917. Ultimately, 70 million military personnel were mobilized.
While the obsession of the generals is with moving the pushpins on a map, war has an entirely different impact on the soldiers, in the trenches. As the characters recount, it was widely believed by common people that the “Great War” would be over within a period of months, if not sooner. Everyone expected their loved ones to be home by Christmas. Then Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary halt in fighting for the celebration of Christmas, in December 1914, but the warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire. In fact, the generals declared penalties for what they considered amounted to fraternizing with the enemies.
During the four years that the world was at war, several deadly battles were fought. Nearly 27,000 French troops were killed in a single day, in the Battle of the Frontiers, in August, 1914. In the battle of Verdun in 1916, over one million soldiers were wounded or killed. In the end, more than 9 million soldiers and over 7 million civilians died, as a result of this “Great War”, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history. It is then all the more remarkable that in the midst of the most deadly period of fighting, there was a brief period of calm, friendship, and camaraderie, moments of hope, reflection, and humanity.
This was a one time event. All future attempts to halt the fighting were squashed by generals’ threats of disciplinary action. It is even more astonishing that this period of calm emerged spontaneously, in the trenches. Those who were there, not to reason why, but to do and die, disobeyed orders, and for a brief shining period in history, humanity prevailed. The soldiers declared their own truce; they began singing Christmas carols to each other across the enemy lines. Entirely a different domino effect was observed, as soldiers in various places, crossed the no man’s land, and shook hands with the enemy soldiers and exchanged presents of cigarettes, plum puddings and beef jerkey and sang carols. Some soldiers even used this short period of “truce” to retrieve bodies of their comrades, from the no man’s land, between the enemy battle lines.
It is the brilliance of Jeffrey Bracco and Kit Wilder, in how this remarkable historical event is captured and reproduced on stage, in “Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War”. After deep research and from various documents and anecdotes, Bracco and Wilder put together the script. Ron Gasparinetti created the scenic design to conjure up images of the long ago war, Jane Lambert provided the costume design and Nick Kumamoto provided lighting and video projection to keep the time and place real. George Psarras composed music from popular WWI songs. (One popular song “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” was one of the biggest hits of the Great War time).
This is truly a must-watch play of this theater season, and it beautifully captures the spirit of the holiday season. Truce will be running at CityLights Theater in San Jose, through December 21, 2014. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .
In the aftermath of the #FergusonDecision, this respite is exactly what we need. Let us call “truce” and renew commitment to create conditions of
For this tour, we boarded ship at Piraeus, suburb of Athens, Greece, on Holland America Cruise Line. First stop was Istanbul, Turkey, then Greek island of Lesbos, Mitheline, then Turkish island Kusadasi, then Greek island Mykonos, and then Greek island Iraklion, Crete.
Athens has a lot of history and while there is much to see, the Acropolis or hill on which the most famous Parthnon is situated, is historical and wonderful site. Around 490 BC Pericles began construction of the buildings on the acropolis. Many buildings were damaged in 1687, during siege by the Venetians and during other wars. Some have been restored. Most famous one is a temple dedicated to Athena Nike (Nike means victory and Athena means wisdom). Vying for power, Athena won the battle against Poseidon, God of the sea and the temple was therefore dedicated to Athena. While Poseidon offered water, Athena offered olive tree as a sign of peace and was declared the winner. To the right of the entrance, the Propylaea is also beautiful.
To preserve the impact of the Acropolis, there is a restriction on the height of the buildings in Athens, so the Parthenon remains the highest building. Athens is full of olive trees and beautiful buildings, marred by unimaginable amount of graffiti, perhaps indicative of the economic troubles. Similar to Spain, nearly everyone smokes in Greece. The Constitutional Plaza or Syntagma Square, opposite the Parliament is a great hub of activity. We walked around there, ate peanuts, offered some to the pigeons (who were immediately sitting on our hands and head for food), and watched the change of guards, at the entrance of the parliament, with big pomp and circumstance.
Istanbul, Turkey was the fist stop on the cruise ship that we boarded at Piraeus, Greece. Istanbul is a gorgeous city adorned with many mosques, blaring every now and then with a lyrical calls to prayers. Istanbul is a crowded city, humming with activity. We visited the Ayasofya Mosque, also called Hagia Sophia (meaning holy wisdom in Greek) mosque and museum. It was a former Greek Church, later converted to Imperial Museum, and in 1935 was opened as a museum by the Republic of Turkey. It is absolutely spell binding. We also visited Sultanahmet Camii or the Blue Mosque, so called because of blue tiles surrounding the walls. It is a historical but functioning mosque. You need to go there modestly dressed, with a scarf, (if you do not have one then it would be provided). The walls outside are inscribed with beautiful writings from the Quran.
The Basilica Cistern, the largest cistern, built in 6 century BC (apparently by 7000 slaves), lie beneath Istanbul, and provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and later to the Topkapi Palace. It is about 105,000 square feet in area and is one of the most memorable sites, I saw. At one end, there are columns with visage of Medusa (blocks oriented sideways and inverted to negate the power of her gaze). The cistern was the location of 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love”.
Topkapi Palace museum consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. After entering the gate of salutation or bab-us-selam, you enter Divan Meydani, a gathering place for courtiers. Several building inside house the extensive imperial treasury, the arms collection, clock collection, royal home of the emperor, home of the queen mother, courtyard of the eunuchs, and more. We could have spent days there but only had couple of hours.
Later we walked in the park, shopped for Turkish candies topped with nuts, had Turkish desert filled with pistachios, almonds, and hazel nuts, looked at the range of turkish spices, took picture of the man making pomegranate juice and then savored the delicious, tart-sweet juice, with corn on the cob, sesame bread, and roasted chestnuts.
Mytilini, Lesbos, Greece
Mytilini is the capital of Lesobs, a tiny island in northeastern Aegean sea. The island is covered with olive and fruit trees, has a petrified forest (which we did not get to see) and has a huge Molyvos castle. Walking around on the grounds of the Mediterranean’s largest fortress with over 200,000 square meters was an incredible experience. The views from every angle are simply amazing. This was not a guided tour but everywhere there are boards with explanation in English and we wandered at our own pace and took tons and tons of pictures. Lesbos is well known for Ouzo, the traditional distilled Greek drink that tastes very much like Sambuca. I saw a sign for Ouzo and went in the distillery and asked the man what exactly was Ouzo and he promptly showed his distillery where it was made and brought out some ouzo for us to try.
Kusadasi, the coastal town of Turkey is known for the ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus, once a port, was an important commercial center, on account of its strategic location. It is located in fertile valley with delicious fruit trees all around. In ancient times it was also religious center of early Christianity. There is temple of Artemis (fertility goddess) built in 356 BC, which was one of the seven wonders, at one time. The city continued to expand and built by successive rulers but new rulers in AD 262 sacked it and the city was abandoned when the harbor silted up. It has since been rediscovered and is a great tourist attraction. The ruins give a great insight into the lives of the people. We had a leisurely drive to Ephesus, to see the ruins. And then we visited the house where Virgin Mary is believed to have spent her last days. I took the opportunity to tack a prayer to Virgin Mary. Among million other prayers, will she get to mine?
As you land on the shore of this tiny beautiful island, you are greeted by the small Paraportiani church. This tiny town of has some 70 little churches. Votive offerings is an old tradition. As per one tradition, the residents enshrine the bones of their dead in the walls of the shrines. As you walk a little further, you come to the enormous seven 16th century windmills that were used to store grains. These windmills are now the trade mark of Mykonos. On the other side, is little Venice with colorful balconies hanging above the sea. There are many beaches, and we visited one, though we did not venture out in the ocean, to swim.
I Loved this small, beautiful Greek island, east of Turkey. It is absolute clean with all the houses pained white and doors and windows painted in bright hues of all diverse colors. We had a leisurely walk through the island, a short trip to the beach, and then a lazy walk through the long market street. We broke and ate pieces from the loaf of bread that we got from a local bakery as we strolled through the market street, buying little knickknacks.
The final highlight was meeting the respected Pelican, Petros. The ancestor of this Pelican came to the island around 1954, after a storm. He was welcomed and since then he and his descendants have lived on the island and all are called Petros or Pedros. Petros is official mascot of Mykonos. As we were walking through the market street, Petros regally strolled in and as we all reverently made way, Petros simply strolled through the town.
Heraklion, Creete – Island of Greece
The Palace of Knossos is the primary tourist site in Heraklion. It was built during the Bronze age (ceremonial and political center of the Minoan civilization) and was discovered in 1878. The palace was excavated and partially restored in early 20th century.