In 1912 Otakar Batlicka is sailing on a British vessel. His crew are sailing off for another comfortable crossing from the island of Creta towards the Russian Black Sea shores. It does not take long and they are sailing towards Bospor.
He happens to be on duty. He is waiting for beautiful moments with excitement, he is looking forward to thousands mysterious noises the attractiveness of which penetrates down to the marrow of one’s bones. The second officer also wants to cheer himself with a beautiful view. He is leaving for the little bridge and here it is. Istanbul glistening with oriental magic has invited us into its arms.
Into the distance a square of houses is running slightly uphill on both sides of the vessel. In between them the Islamic mosques are shining as if they were colourful half circles.
Out of the mosques one can hear sharp voices of the Islamic priests calling on to Turkish people for a prayer. Allah Akbar! Ashkadoo ana…Allah il Allah….
The followers of Koran have laid their little carpets on the quay and are bowing in the south eastern direction towards Mecca.
Allah il Allah. Otakar can hear right on top of him..He looks up and can see one of their seamen.
Akbar, Akbar! The man is tossing himself high up in the guard’s basket and is calling from his full strength.Allah il Allah! Allah!
This scene truly makes your head laugh off. High up in the guard’s basket of an English boat the seaman is copying religious Islamic prayers. He is spreading his arms open, he is swaying his body and is shouting in a way that would make a real Turk very jealous.
The sailors have gathered and they are laughing their heads off. The seaman’s name was John Road.
The second officer is rushing by and with a megaphone in front of his face he is calling up to the mast calling John to climb down immediately.
John Road has not even touched the deck when a Turkish guard boat is sailing towards the English vessel. The leader wishes to talk to the captain.
An insult to a feeling, which is sacred to each Turkish citizen. Unforgivable! He is emphasizing that the offender ought to be handed over.
The captain is apologising, protesting but nothing doing.The boat is withdrawing from our boat and joker Road is sitting contritedly between Turkish bayonets. Otakar tried to save him and went to Austrian consul to try and put a word for him but he was not very successful. He was told that no country meddles with the religious affairs and that the Turks would not cut Road’s head off but rather teach him a lesson.
A few months after the end of the war Otakar was looking for a job in Honolulu in Hawaian islands. By then he was no longer a sailor’s novice. In his pocket he was holding a Certificate from exams for steersmen and papers from the boats active service.
After being rejected by several captains his offer is finally welcomed on a Turkish boat. He was asked to wait for the captain who would return any moment from mainland.
Otakar was sitting down in the study of the first officer. As it is customary on ocean liners a good party of international crew gathered here. The first officer is Turkish, second is Argentinian, the first steerman Norwegian, the top seaman a German.
And the birds, if he was not present at the measuring he would never have believed it. The penguins were diving, can you imagine, into the depth of 500 metres ……
“ I know, the penguins are drinking,” the German makes fun out of the story of the Norwegian. Or is he taking him seriously? I do not know!.. they are drinking salty seawater. A fat penguin is going to blow away with his nose and is going to spit salt. What a good arrangement, don’t you say?
Why not? says the Turkish officer. Funny things can happen. How do you think that our patron acquired his rank of a captain? Don’t you know? He has been sailing in the service of our government for 5 years on boats of all possible nationalities. Most often British. And he was supplying very important messages to the Turkish authorities. For example about the new English cruisers, about Gibraltar fortification and so on. Finding out was easy, but to deliver the messages – that was a problem. The captain did it in many different ways. For example once on Bospor….
Otakar feels as if the mast was falling on his head.
For example once on Bospor he was invoking Allah under the encouragement of English crew in the guard’s basket. The Turkish guards have arrested him and he handed them over photographs of British war fortifications.
At that very moment a servant is announcing from the door captain Safir Allah Benderes.
Slightly older, elegantly dressed John Road is entering the room.