While traveling through Turkey, I met some fascinating people. One of the guides and I spent some time talking. On breaks, at night around town, we got to know each other a bit. One day we were standing by some ancient ruins in Ephesus and he asked me, “Why is it you are so interested in Islam? Most people I guide from the West only want to tell me about their religion, and rarely ask about mine?” I told him I had read a few books about Mohammed and his faith. I found it familiar in many ways, especially being Catholic, their view of the virgin Mary was intriguing. He said she was considered one of the most important persons in history. “She is the only woman in the Quran who has an entire book named after her.” It taught me how important it is to be curious, to stay curious, to keep learning. We’ve stayed in touch. I got a message today that he and his wife had their first child. Peace be upon them.
One of the most intriguing places in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque. No matter how many times I walked or drove past, it demanded my attention. The stone wall in this photo is from ancient times, back when it was called Constantinople. Istanbul is an amazing city with an even more amazing story. From Crucifix’s to the Crescent Moon, so much of who we are today plays well with how this city became what it has become.
One night I was walking near the Blue Mosque and smelled a familiar scent. It was latakia. I walked toward where I thought it was coming from but never saw anyone smoking a pipe. I did notice many cigarette smokers. I kept walking and came upon some Bavarian tourist. They were waiting in line for coffee. I decided to have a cup of this very strong muddy liquid so unlike Starbucks. By the time I left Turkey I had grown very fond of it. After a bit of small talk over our steaming brew, I pulled out a pipe and loaded it with my recently acquired Balkan Sobranie, Joseph, from Bavaria, asked to smell the tobacco. “Ahhh, this is very much like what my grandpa smoked.” I lit up and they all lit up their cigarettes. If I recall correctly, they were smoking Dunhill Reds. A young Turkish man walked by smoking a hand rolled cigarette and it hit me why I was smelling Latakia, it was in the Turkish mans cigarette. At least, it smelled very much like it.
We finished our coffee and they invited me to join them for dinner. We had a wonderful time eating Lamb Kabob, drinking Raki, and smoking the Hookah.
I always travel with several pipes. On my journey to Istanbul I took two J.Davis’s, one Julius Vesz Zulu, a Lars Ivarsson, a Peterson Emerald rustic, and a Mastro De Paja two tone sandblast. I didn’t take any tobacco. I usually wait to see what I can find where I’m traveling. This is an adventure for sure. The other reason I don’t take any is the bizarre ever changing rules about carrying tobacco on flights to certain places. It seems odd that one can take a baseball bat and not a 2 ounce pouch of tobacco.
Istanbul is a mesmerizing city. Bordering Asia and Europe, the only city in the world to do so, it has exotic sounds, smells, and brilliant architecture. I spent any time I had alone walking the narrow cobble stoned streets of the old city. The Bizarre, their version of a mall, is enormous! Surely I could find some pipe tobacco here. As I walked the maze of shops I stumbled upon a vast array of Hookah pipes. So beautiful in color and design. Oriental rugs covered the ground in many shops, hung from ropes, hundreds of them. Near the rugs was a coffee shop with small round wooden tables . I sat down and ordered. As I was waited I read from Leonard Cohen’s book of poetry, “Book of Longing”. I had found an English version in a book shop near the Blue Mosque the day before. Suddenly I smelled it. Latakia! I looked around and saw a tall blonde haired man smoking a Meerschaum. He was approaching my location and as he passed I asked him where he bought his tobacco. He was German, from Frankfort, and was very happy to meet another pipe smoker. He spoke very good English and I asked him to sit down. I ordered him a coffee and found out he and his family holiday often in Istanbul, as do many Germans. He reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out a very well worn leather pouch. He offered and I accepted. We smoked and drank coffee like two old friends. He directed me to a very ancient smoke shop not far from the Bizarre. Don’t you just love the pipe smoking fraternity?
I found the shop. Part cigar shop, Hookah shop, and a small but encouraging pipe tobacco selection. I was floored to see they had some old 2 ounce Balkan Sobranie!! I bought the two boxes they had and felt good about life. I walked back to the Bizarre hoping to see my new German friend to share some of my spoils. Sadly, he was gone.
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