Ankara, Turkey, April 2012
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It happened by chance. We were heading towards the house of Taha, a friend in Ankara. I looked to my right and there it was, the nicest shoe store that I have ever seen. The small room was decorated with Ataturk memorabilia together with shoe boxes from his own brand Bale Kundura, shoes from his design along with historic gadgets that he may have inherited from his, also shoe make father. His name: Nurettin Cebeci a legend in the shoe making business in Ankara. I had to take a picture of it.
The Famous Turkish Shoemaker
Cebeci gave me the permission to take some pictures and then invited us inside his shop. He offered us Turkish Tea and sat down with us. When he opened his shelf we could see some books and albums in a perfect order. He took an old but elegant and well-preserved photo album and started showing us black and white pictures of what we could deduce were movie stars. He pridefully pointed at his chest and said “Ben onları biliyorum” – That is me, I know all those people. Apparently his clients have been renowned figures in Ankara and Turkey. He took out another album. Carefully he flipped the pages, pointed at the pictures and told the name and profession of the famous person that was shown together with him. When we reached an article about him in the local newspaper he handed us a copy and smiled at us. We do not need the same language to make friends, his warm personality made us feel happy to have had the chance to spend time with him and listen to his stories. He pointed his finger again to the article in the newspaper. I read: Deniz Baykal, Genelkurmay Eski Baş kanlari, Rauf Denktaş , Zeki Müren … a long list of the names of his famous clients.
Before I realized the shop had other visitors. Three college girls had been standing outside watching through the window and our host spontaneously invited them as well. So the six of us filled the chairs and the small bank in the little shop and it got cozy. Fortunately two of the girls spoke a little English. I was getting tired of only saying “çok güzel” (very nice) to everything he said.
We have learned a few words of Turkish and he knew a few words of Italian. Apart we used our hands to symbolize things and pen and paper to paint and write numbers. Still I cannot say that we could really understand each other. But we tried. “It is my problem I don’t speak Turkish” I said to myself.
Three days later we came back to his store and he invited us for lunch. With signs and signal we told him about our adventure on bike. He then heard the word Trabzon (a city in the Northeast) and figured that we were going to pass there. He gave us an address and said: ”Ailem oradayaşıyor. Orada uyuyabilir“ – You can stay there with my family – while he acted the action of sleeping with his hands and head. When we left his shop we shook hands with great honor.
Several days later a friend translated me the article he kindly shared with us. It seems as this very elegant man, with a shine of its own, was indeed a legend. His shoes are worn by many of the political figures in Ankara and abroad. He is also a promoter of shoe making traditions and has traveled quite a lot to Italy and other European countries. But now he faces a new threat. In Turkey this kind of profession is passed on from father to son. In the article he says that he has not found yet a disciple he could teach. I hope he finds one soon, because class, elegance, manners and hospitality like the one he taught me in a few hours can be suitable for any young man from wherever he might come.