We arrived in Ankara in the late evening of the 19th. We were met at the bus terminal by Yavuz Ozturk, a friend of Dad's whom he met at the University of Pennsylvania. Yavuz spent time doing research at U Penn and will return there for his postdoc when he receives his PhD this spring. He had very kindly offered to show us around Ankara, even arranging a place for us to stay in the guest house of Middle East Technical University. We stayed for two nights, and Yavuz drove us everywhere.
Our first stop at the morning of the 20th was Ataturk's Maosoleum, an enormous temple in the center of Ankara dedicated to the life and reforms of the founder of the Turkish Republic. The Mausoleum is adorned with statues and art created by many of Turkey's artists. A detailed museum and gallery also tell the story, from both a romantic and documentary perspective, of how Ataturk eliminated the decadent Ottoman Sultanate, and reformed a weak society and faltering military into a power force that challenged invading powers trying to establish spheres of influence in Antatolia.
The ceremonial guard patrol the grounds while hundreds of people, both Turks and foreigners, toured the site early on Sunday morning.
Everything about Ataturk is incredibly hagiographic, but his accomplishments are staggerings. Ataturk is hands down one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, inspiring not just the leadership of the modern Turkish elite but also politicians in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the non-Arab Muslim world. He abolished the Sultanate and the Caliphate, separating church and state (or is that mosque and state?). The whole written language was reformed, replacing the Arabic script with Latin letters. He gave women the vote and equal rights under the law. He legalized alcohol, abolished Madrasa religious schools, established compulsory public education, and banned the veil. And in a country where the inhabitants were not only Turkish but Greek, Bulgarian, Armenian, Kurdish, Romanian, and Arab, he redefined the national identity, demanding only that the people speak Turkish. Combined, these reforms remade the former Ottoman Empire into a republic.
After a lunch, Yavuz brought us to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, with a fascinating collection of relics from the many civilizations that settled in Anatolic: the Hittite, the Persian, the Medians, the Lydians, the Greek, and other civilizations from the dawn of civilization until the dawn of modern history. In the evening we dined at a delightful local watering hole and feasted on kebabs and the original Turkish liquor, Raki.
The next day we visited the Ethnographic Museum, above on the left, with a statue of Ataturk riding a horse out front. To the right, Yavuz with his three American guests. Below, on the right, is a view of Ankara's main mosque from the Ethnographic Museum. On the right is a wooden niche from a mosque. The purpose of the Niche is to indicate where Mecca is located so that the devout know in which direction they should pray. The intricate carvings indicate its Seljuk origins.
We left Ankara after a quick lunch at the bus station and bid farewell to Yavuz. It was five hours to Istanbul -- here is a picture from the bus as we cross the Bosphorus from Asia into Europe.
By no means did we ever get sick of Turkish food. It's very, very good -- lamb, onions, salads, beef, rice, soup, bread, chicken, pita, casserole, yogurt, and much more. Nonetheless, on our final night together we stopped in at the local McDonalds to try the "McTurko" (that is not a joke.) It was spicy, and OK. (Followed, of course, by a beer at a local bar.)
Dad and I left on the morning of the 22nd; Andy stayed on another day and left on the 23rd. It was a memorable adventure, and I look forward to traveling to other interesting locations with Dad and Andy in the future.
|c. 2005 Christopher Gunson|