20 May 2007

A pilgrim at the Wall of Sugar Cubes

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A place that I often visit whenever I am in Istanbul is Büyükada (Prinkipo), the largest of the so-called Prince (or Prince's, or Princes') islands off Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. During my recent trip to Istanbul I spent a day on Büyükada with my friend Teri. We explored the southern end of the island, including, of all the places, the vicinity of the garbage dump, where we actually found quite a number of snails.

On our way back, we were on a dirt path heading towards the Monastery of Aya Yorgi (Ayios Yeoryios or Saint George) at the peak of the highest hill on the island. When it turned out that the trail wasn't going all the way up to the monastery but continuing along the western slopes of the hill, Teri decided that if we wanted to catch the next ferry boat back to Istanbul, we needed to leave the trail, climb up the hill and take a shortcut down from there. So we pushed our way thru the bushes and over and around the rocks.

When we reached the top, we found ourselves in front of a vertical cliff, blackened with soot and covered with little white objects. On close inspection, they turned out to be sugar cubes stuck to the rock with what appeared to be candle wax. Obviously, this was a rock frequented by the visitors to the monastery. Each cube was a votive offering, representing an expectation of a sweet miracle.

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Going around the cliff we reached the front of the Monastery.

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The place is a favorite destination on the island, despite the fact that it is at the end of a long steep climb. Infidel snail hunters visit the area looking for clues to the mysteries of evolution. Pious Greeks, and even devout Moslems, on the other hand, seek what they think is a deeper meaning.

Their yearnings remain behind in the form of sugar cubes. Until the next rain storm.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

My sacramental theologian hat got very excited about this...as did my 13 yr old (who has been enjoying the snail photos).