Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ideas from the Turkey notebook


Those who have read From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina know I take a notebook with me on all my research trips.

Here are some of the ideas I jotted in my notebook this past week. I probably won’t use all of them, but some will definitely appear in The Prophet from Ephesus

Idea: As Flavia and her friends pass vineyards, they pull grapes right off the vine and eat them: sun-warmed and sweet, with a slight tannic tang.

Idea: Flavia gets an upset tummy from eating salad.

Idea: Jonathan eats cheese with little maggots in it.

Idea: Nubia is always feeding the feral cats even though Flavia warns her they are flea-bitten.

Idea: Lupus likes the salted yogurt drink you can get in Turkey.

Idea: one morning at the hospitium, everyone shares their dreams from the night before.

Idea: on entering a new city, the first thing Flavia does is ask for the public latrines.

Idea: Flavia and her friends eat traditional Turkish breakfast: olives, goat's cheese, hard-boiled egg, sour cherry jam on a sesame-seed ring and apple tea.

Nubia: ‘What is meander?’

Birds I saw: cinnamon-coloured collared doves, swallows, storks, sparrows, magpies, and a little wide-eyed owl on a column.

Plants I saw that would have been there in Roman times: vineyards, olives, carobs, palms, pines, figs, cypress, poplars, pomegranate, peach, ash, oak, birch, beech, white mulberry, plane trees, gorse, and grape arbours. Also white and pink-blossomed oleanders.

Things they have now that they might have had in Roman times: the hamam or Turkish Bath, hot thermal pools, shady colonnaded walkways, carpet workshops, pushy shopkeepers, sesame-seed-covered bread rings, salted yogurt drink, sour cherry juice, clay bird whistle, farmer with three-pronged hoe, worker with scythe, roadside charcoal-sellers, beehives, chickens pecking in dust, cocks crowing, donkeys, goats, sheep, horses, mongrels, feral cats, lizards, geckos, centipedes, snakes, grasshoppers, tortoise crossing the road, a farmer digging in his field...

In the Roman Mysteries Travel Guide, From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina, Detective Assignment IX is to find as many smells as possible while travelling in another country. Here are some of the smells I encountered in Turkey:
1. Spicy smell of hot pine trees
2. Sickly-sweet smell of latrines
3. Pungent incense in a church service
4. Steamy sulphur smell of thermal pool
5. Salty sea breeze
6. Banana scent of soapy oil used in the Cagaloglu Hammam
7. Fishy smell of grilled sea-bass served at lunch
8. Pleasant smell of apple peel tea
9. Heady aroma of jasmine
10. Sharp scent of Turkish lemon cologne

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