Monday, June 2, 2008
Turkey Monday June 2
It’s been nine days since my last post, and much has happened. The good news is that in that period, we’ve been able to experience even more of the beauty of Turkey. We’ve spent a couple of days in Ankara, the country’s capital. The time we spent there, and in the coastal resort of Antalya, revealed different cultural perspectives. But, more about that later. The good news continues by including our relaxing four days on a gullet sailing the cool green waters of the Mediterranean southwest of Antalya.
The bad news is that you’ll all have to wait a bit longer for any photos of the experiences. At breakfast last Sunday, I draped my camera strap over the back of my chair. I didn’t notice that I had left it there until I was getting out of the car of our driver (Natalie) on the dock, and about to retrieve the bag we packed from her trunk. Oops. Hoping I had simply packed it up in the bag, we looked as Natalie drove the three hours back to the hotel to query the staff. The sad truth was clear when she met us again yesterday morning at our last stop on the cruise. But just to reinforce how remarkable this trip is, I can report that several of our friends from the boat have volunteered to provide me with copies of their photos, and seem eager to follow the blog and our continued adventures. So, stay tuned. We may eventually get to see what the gullet experience was. In the meantime, I know you won’t be disappointed to read that I’ll be borrowing from Pat’s journal to recap some of the week’s adventures. She says her narratives aren’t as good as earlier, and I’ll be adding some comments of my own.
This is our “travel day” to Ankara. We wake up to a leisurely breakfast – only to find most of our mates have the same idea. We identify each other’s flight and travel plans while sharing the last tour meal, and genuinely try to ensure we stay connected. We go back to our room, and pack a week’s worth of clothes, etc. into one bag. With some effort, it was done, and we dropped it off at the Golden Crown. Then, trudged up to the tram stop. For $2, we took the tram and the Metro to the Airport.
Our 45-minute flight on Turkish Air included a sandwich and a beverage! A Havas bus and a cab gets us to the SAS Radisson Hotel and a great top floor view. Gregory says it’s our sixteenth hotel room, and I think it’s the best yet. It’s early in the evening, and we decide to take a walk through the area.
Walking in the urban areas of Turkey is a real challenge. The pedestrian plight is pretty bad in the cities. People literally weave their way across streets between speeding cars – it’s really a blood sport. We notice that cars do not stop or even slow down for walkers. A horn is used to warn them to get out of the way, while they bare down on you. If there are any secrets to staying alive, it is probably to find a family with children or elderly. They are both better at timing the run, and gather some apparent sympathy from the drivers.
We walk by a large park and find it in great disrepair with rubble where structures have been, and trash everywhere. Later, we learn that it was the site of a musical concert, and cleanup proceeds the next morning. We look all around for a restaurant, and the few we find are closed. On the way back to our hotel in the rain, we find a café and have a disappointing pizza and chicken burger
We have a great sleep in our cushy hotel, and a pretty swank breakfast. We learn that the Anatolian Cultural Museum is open so we head out on foot. It lies on a hillside behind us in an older part of town (Ulus), and the roads to get there are quite indirect. We go through a market stall area, some windy back alleys, and emerge onto a busy market street. We go up a street lined with “fancy dress” (ball gowns, wedding dress, and the over-the-top boy’s circumcision outfits – Gregory calls them drum major-like). Then off to one more side street and we are in a hillside park that contains the museum.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is a gem! In many rooms, the different ages build on each other well. Starting with early tools from Paleolithic sites in southern Turkey, moving to a Neolithic site (Catalhoyuk) where a reconstructed house displays large bull heads on the walls. The variety of eras demonstrate clear devotions to prominent mother goddesses (Cybele, Kubaba) in their statues, frescoes, and wall paintings. They are shown seated with animals are their sides, and also feature bulls, ducks, and deer.
The Chalcolithic Age (copper) has fine pottery with strong geometric designs in both red, black, and white. In the bronze age, bull and stag statuettes abound, but still several goddesses. Gold appears as well, and the pottery just gets better with etchings human-figured pots.
Then Assyrian colonization with cuneiform tablets including a will, a divorce proclamation, and an unopened “envelope”. Still better pots with face reliefs, and animal figurines attached to handles and lots of shapes with intricate inlaid wooden tables and pottery with charming characters of lions, rams, stags, and goose-shaped pots. Gregory is going crazy taking pictures, and we bought a book by the museum describing the collection.
We wanted to visit this museum because in so many ruin sites, our guides would indicate that some important piece of work we weren’t seeing – was in a museum in Ankara. What wasn’t taken to Berlin by the German railroad companies in the 1870’s, or the British in the 1890’s, is now here in this museum.
Outside the museum, we followed a road up the hill to a section called “old town” with more charming old streets and ancient brick and plaster homes and shops. Eventually, e got to the Citadel – a fort-like structure at the top of the hill overlooking the town with great views. We found a small courtyard restaurant, and had a great lamb “stew” with chiles and tomatoes and tender lamb. That, and the veggie plate and a beer was just what was needed.
We wake to a sunny, clear day in Ankara, and walk to the Ethnographic Museum only 15 minutes away. It’s on a small hill in a marble-clad grand house. There are examples of fine embroidered Ottoman-era clothing. Also, fine examples of wood carving and calligraphy. But the collection is small, and we are out of there in 30 minutes. Next door, we go to an even finer grand mansion which houses the art museum. There are at least 20 young uniformed folk who sit around drinking tea. Another half dozen are serving as cleaners or groundskeepers. We seem to be the only visitors, and are certainly being served well. The mostly oil paintings begin in the 1800’s, and are pretty second rate compared to the European masters, but I did like Celli.
From the front of the mansions, we see Ataturk’s memorial atop a nearby hill. I think the Ethnographic served as the site for Atatuk’s lying-in-state, as there are photos of a funeral procession inside, and a large roped off area with a wreath.
Around 11am, we pack up our bag and walk it back along the streets to the central Havas bus station which provide service between downtown and the airport. When the bus is full of passengers, it leaves for the one-hour trip to the airport. Once there, we pass through to the gate and wait for our plane to arrive. It’s an unusual experience waiting for a plane to come to the gate. In the two hours before we finally boarded, I think we saw five planes land. In one of the most beautiful and sophisticated airports in the world, it felt like a ghost town. It may have been because it was Sunday, but I got the feeling that Ankara may not be the most popular place of travel lately.
Arriving in Antalya was the opposite. It’s definitely the place those wanting to vacation in the sun are going. More about that in the next few days.