Anatolian Days and Nights:
A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints

by Joy E. Stocke & Angie Brenner

Wild River Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-983-91880-6.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 11/05/2012

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure

Women "do" friendship differently than men. This is no surprise. In Anatolian Days and Nights, the loveliness and dedication of a friendship between two women who share the same travel interests is elegantly depicted. Joy and Angie first met at a hotel on coastal Turkey. That serendipitous meeting spawned a lifelong friendship and an exploration of the mysteries and cultures of Turkey that resonates with them both today.

The reader of this travel memoir is treated to a close-up and enthusiastic perspective of this friendship and the small nation called Turkey. The history of the Sufi Dervishes carries them to central Turkey, for the Whirling Dervishes Festival. This ceremonial festival, steeped in ancient history and imbued with religious meaning, touches the intrepid travelers, and gives them a sense of timelessness and oneness. Watching the Dervishes chant to themselves as they twirl, "We take from God and give to man, spreading grace to earth," the connection between the Dervishes and God is evident, and glorious.

Other explorations in Turkey take our intrepid travelers to a Turkish bathhouse, where the ritual bathing becomes a way to join women of different cultures and faiths. They learn to appreciate and honor the beauty of their own bodies as they participate in the ceremonial bath. "A wrinkle here, cellulite there, a mole on your hipbone, it all looks elegant in an envelope of steam."

The chapters alternate voice, between Joy and Angie, and as the reader travels alongside the wanderers, we come to appreciate their similarities and differences. Each chapter begins with a quotation that embodies the nature of that chapter and the character of the writer, with a wide variety of Turkish proverbs ("A good companion shortens the longest road.") and timeless poetry from Rumi, ("Listen to the reed as it tells a tale...") We see through their eyes the day to day experiences of women traveling alone, the pushy gigolos, the dedicated restaurateurs and shopkeepers, each with an agenda and a determination to be heard. Joy and Angie toy with the idea of buying a summer home in Turkey, only to be dismayed by the slow, drifting pace of Turkish life (and real estate.)

Touching bases with friends who are expatriates to Turkey, hearing various forms of Turkish music (including "harabat" which could be called the Turkish Blues), trying to understand the complications of Turkish politics, and learning to deal with their own yearnings to live in both worlds, the authors continue to struggle to bridge the cultural gap, with visits to Ephesus—said to be the final resting place of Meryemana, the blessed Virgin Mary, a place of worship and peace—and Yali, a Turkish bar in Kalkan, loud with insistent music and laughter.

In their explorations, and with quiet times for introspection, they discover they can embrace all the facets of the people, religion and culture of Turkey. Angie and Joy not only study the beauty and dark depths of Turkey and her people, but they realize that these qualities are present within them as well. Although they live on different coasts and embrace different lifestyles, the bond they formed in Turkey has lasted. Joining them on this journey, we can see how truly small the world is, and how events in the ancient world have echoes in our own daily lives. We, too, are enriched.

Angie Brenner is an avid traveler and illustrator, and has spent 25 years searching the remote corners of Turkey. A former travel-bookstore owner and freelance writer, she is the West Coast Editor for the online magazine Wild River Review. She lives in CA.

Joy E. Stocke has been traveling to, and writing about, Turkey and the eastern Aegean since 1982. She is the founder and editor in chief of Wild River Review. She serves on the board of the Princeton Middle East Society, and lives in New Jersey.

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