Expecting the unexpected in Cumalıkızık
WILCO VAN HERPENExpecting the unexpected is a beautiful saying, but I never knew what to do with it. How can you expect something while you are not aware at all that something suddenly might happen?
A while ago I was in Cumalıkızık, a small and very nostalgic village near Bursa. Cumalıkızık is one of those places that still breathes the Ottoman feeling, at least in the sense of its architecture. It is a popular place for people to spend one or two days during the weekend and especially amateur photographers love to wander around here. The first time I visited Cumalıkızık I was struck by the beauty of this village and before noon, I found myself without films for my camera.
During the weekend, the playground of the local school becomes a parking lot and sometimes it is difficult to find a place to park your car. Just before you enter the village the asphalt road changes into a cobblestone road, just a slight appetizer of the things you will experience once walking around in Cumalıkızık. The walk around in the village starts at the square where old authentic Ottoman houses stand side by side. The square is occupied by local women who sell their goods at uncountable stalls.
Home-made jams, knitted clothing, salça (home-made tomato paste), cheese; you can find everything here and it tastes great. But… the women have been exposed to so many tourists who make thousands of snapshots and for that reason some of those women react a bit rude. Some of them turn around others give you an angry look and a couple of them shout: “Don’t take my picture.” In a way I can understand them; many of the people who visit Cumalıkızık make pictures without asking or buying something from them. That is quite rude. Still, at the same time, I think it is also the consequence of being a popular place. I did not see this kind of attitude in places like Safranbolu, Beypazarı or Şirince, but here the ladies are clearly bothered by it.
The thing is that I know a lot of villagers in villages who would love to have this amount of visitors and do everything to get more attention. Your photograph being taken is one of the things that make a visit to such a place an unforgettable experience. But please do not be discouraged by what I write because there are also a lot of very nice and sweet people in the village. If you plan to visit Cumalıkızık please do not have your breakfast in the morning. Go with an empty stomach because there are so many beautiful places where they serve a perfect breakfast; it would be a pity if you will not be able to try their gözleme (a kind of filled pancake) or their homemade marmalades.
One day when I was there and while having an interview with the muhtar (head of the village) I suddenly was distracted by a lot of noise that came from the street. I could not see what was happening but because of the noise, had to stop filming. Then suddenly I saw a little boy sitting on a horse surrounded by at least 70 men. They were all excited, shouting and trying to get as close to the horse as possible. When I asked the muhtar what was happening, he told me that there was a circumcision of that boy this day in the village. For many people in Turkey, circumcision is a big happening that is as important as a wedding. Special food is prepared, presents are bought for the boy (even gold), and they dress the boy up in beautiful, blue and silver, shiny clothing, a cape, a hat and sometimes a kind of scepter. This boy, sitting high on his horse, wore a red vest and cape on top of a white pair of trousers. The combination was quite chic.
Curious about the circumcision here in Cumalıkızık, I walked toward the crowd and took some pictures. A man, walking next to the horse, started shouting at me (he had to because of some musicians who were walking in front of the group and made such an incredible noise that it was impossible to hear what one was telling another one without shouting). He shouted to me, “If you want to see a real Turkish circumcision, then you have to follow me.” I looked at my cameraman and we decided that we would follow the procession. The muhtar could wait; this was happening now, and the muhtar could be filmed tomorrow if necessary.
The crowd went to a house and halted in front of the main entrance to the house. The little boy looked around with proud eyes. This was his party and all those people were there because of him. Once he climbed down from the horse, of course with a little help from his father, he suddenly looked much smaller. The father of the boy told us to go to the first floor of the house; he and his boy would come later. We walked up and waited in a room that was transformed into a small-improvised amateur operation room. A green operation sheet on the floor and some scissors and other attributes necessary for the “operation” were in a little suitcase on the floor. A guy, the man who was going to do the circumcision, looked at us and told us the best place to sit was at the other side against the wall of the room. About 10 minutes later the patient and his father entered the room. In the wake all the relatives and friends entered the small room and my God, I was happy that I had listened to the “doctor.”
The boy stood in the middle of the room looked around. Proud eyes all of a sudden changed into the scared eyes of a little boy who knew what was going to happen. You could see the questions rushing through his mind: Will this take long? Will this hurt? How much are they going to cut from me? All of a sudden his eyes changed again. They were strong, determined eyes that wondered: “What will I get from all those people” and “soon I will be a man.” Then again the fear took over and an uncle shouted in his ear: “You will be a man soon and men don’t cry. Be strong, show that you are a member of our family.” Before the boy could change his thoughts the “doctor” took the syringe, checked if the content was okay and stuck the needle in the little penis of the boy. The boy shouted but then, all of a sudden, became quiet. The local anesthesia was working. The penis of the boy was disinfected and then there was a shiny scissors. Before I realized the “doctor” cut a tiny piece of the foreskin of the boy and with an enormous applause of the crowd the boy looked at his penis. He smiled nervously and then lay down; it was all too much for him.
Happy to have encountered a circumcision (and even film it) we left the happy family behind. It was time to concentrate on the rest of the interviews for my program and… I wanted to do some shopping.
But this episode was going to be a good one and, satisfied, I walked toward the center of the village.