When I was in my late teenage years and got a good report card from high school, my father used to keep his promise and allow me to travel alone to my grandfather’s home in Istanbul. On one of those occasions, he took me to the Gazanfer Bilge* Bus Terminal in Ulus, Ankara in the evening and sent me off.
After an 8-hour drive of nearly 500 km, the bus arrived at Harem Terminal on the Asian side of Istanbul in the morning. I took a ferry to Eminönü at European side where I caught a trolleybus to Karagümrük, the place my grandfather Ahmet lived with his wife Elif.
It was always exciting for me to visit my grandparents! I liked their house with fig trees in their backyard. I enjoyed having breakfast with my grandfather and my grandmother.
Then, in the afternoon, I went to Sultanahmet Square and walked around the ancient Byzantine time Hippodrome where I saw a Scandinavian tourist group first time in my life. I became confused when I asked them: “Are you from Helsinki?” The answer was: No, we are from Stockholm, The Kingdom of Sweden!
I visited the beautiful Blue Mosque which was built in the early 17th century during the Sultan Ahmet era. Then I walked to the six hundred years old Grand Bazaar is known to be the world’s largest covered bazaar with 60 streets and 4000 shops…
I bought myself a handmade silver necklace and walked uphill towards Grand Bazaar’s main gate in Bayazıt. I walked just a few hundred meters and found the Biofarma Medical Company where my oldest uncle worked.
Uncle Mehmet was surprised to see me, nevertheless, he was glad when I popped in without any prior notice. I kissed his hands and passed my father Hakkı’s greetings and best wishes. He invited me to dinner and asked if I could wait for him to finish his shift at work.
We went together Taşlıtarla by a minibus from Vezneciler. In the evening, we ate a delicious dinner prepared by my uncle’s friendly wife Fatma. We chatted with my cousins, Ismail Hakkı, Sedat, and Vedat till late hours. I stayed at Uncle Mehmet’s place overnight.
The next evening, I walked to uncle Niyazi and his pharmacist wife Servet’s home in Fatih. I passed them the greetings of my parents and stayed there for dinner. My aunt Servet’s dinner was delicious as always. I talked and played with my 8-year-old pretty cousin Emel until her sleeping time. When I left their home and walked towards grandpa’s house, somehow, I had a strange feeling that I would never see my cousin Emel again!
My grandfather used to buy two conservative daily newspapers: Tercüman and Son Havadis. But my favorite newspaper was Milliyet because it had the best sports news. My grandfather used to ask me to read commentaries of his favorite writers like Ahmet Kabaklı, Rauf Tamer, and Ergun Göze!
I was not someone interested in politics especially the conservative party politics at all! But I had to read some selected articles loudly to my grandpa. I remember it was quite annoying and boring for me!
Thirty years later I met Mr. Ahmet Göze (son of popular journalist Ergun Göze), who worked at THY Turkish Airlines Stockholm office in Sweden. I told him about my late grandfather and we became friends. My grandfather and uncle Ergun passed away, but I occasionally meet with his son and have lunch or a cup of coffee together.
* Note: Gazanfer Bilge (1924-2008) is Turkey’s one of the most famous wrestlers along with Yaşar Doğu and Celal Atik. Gazanfer Bilge won the gold medal in the Featherweight class of Men’s Freestyle Wrestling at the 1946 Stockholm and 1948 London Olympics.
He married the Finnish Tatar bride Yıldız, whom he met in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. In the sixties, he became a successful businessman and owned a bus company with tens of busses. In the late eighties had the honor of meeting Gazanfer and Yıldız Bilge at the Independence Day Reception at the Turkish Embassy in Helsinki.
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