During the half year that I have been living in Ankara, I had 3 rainy days and now an Indian summer. At home we call it old wives’ summer and here they say ‘Pastırma Yazı’, like the highly spiced air-dried cured beef of Anatolian origin. This is perfect weather for late summer peppers and a colorful walk in calm and quiet Ankara’s upper middle-class neighborhood; where my office is just around the corner at the end of the road. Apart from the guy that washes his cars 3-times a day, I only meet gardeners on my rounds to keep that body from rooting in my office chair. Their head-scarfed women of the land are cleaning inside and those Indians must be gathering wood for the harsh winter that is approaching with the evening air.
While walking uphill to the Ankara office under October’s Aesculus hippocastanum, I notice that as the trees become smaller, the fallen nuts loose their spines, and I start thinking of the thorny truth. When we become many escaping natural selection, then civilization is degeneration since ‘In wildness is the preservation of the world’ (H.D. Thoreau). So is rough natural man not more honest, naive and prone to telling the truth, even if it hurts? Then is civilized man not too smooth, always hiding intentions, deceiving while cloaked in lie, just to avoid friction? Or am I a hopeless romantic and is nature still our master and we’re its servants, deceiving us and others out of need just like the natural squirrel while hiding nuts in view of its fellows.
At the present day village of Sart, in the Turkish province of Izmir (Smyrna), are found the ruins of the temple of Artemis Of Sardis. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the wild animals, the twin-sister of Apollo, who is the god of the domesticated herds, siblings of Zeus and Leto. This holy place was part of the former capital of the Iron Age kingdom of Lydia, which last ruler was the proverbially rich Croesus, defeated by Cyrus the Great from Persia around 2500 years ago, after the Delphi oracle had ambiguously foretold that if he attacked the Persians, a great empire would be destroyed. Continue reading
If you cook for yourself in Ankara, you need to know where to shop, like friendly Mustafa who pointed out how to find Ulus Food Market. “There is no love sincerer than the love for food”, as George Bernard Shaw once said; and .I love my food fresh and at reasonable prices. That’s why I need ‘Ulus Hali’ in the old center of Ankara where even fish is abundant, shiny, with clear eyes and red gills. Get acquainted with the friendly fishmongers, butchers, grocers and bakers. Fill-up your bags with a nice assortment of fish and meat, fresh vegetables, dried spices, bread and cookies, likely paying a fraction less than you would normally do; leaving a bit for a bottle of wine to cook with or even add some to the food, as W.C. Fields used to do so reluctantly.
In the center of Turkey, in its capital, on a hill at Ankara Anitkabir, rests the national heart of Turkey. This is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of all Turks, born 1881 in Thessaloniki (Greece). A particularly brave soldier during World War I, he rebelled against allied forces on 23 April 1920, while establishing a new parliament (Grand National Assembly) in order to defend the remains of the Ottoman Empire against Greek and Armenian occupying forces advancing from the west and east. Emerging victorious as commander in chief of the Turkish army, he declared independence on 29 October 1923, and the Turkish Republic was born.
Below the road along the cliff between La Marsa and Sidi Bou Said (Tunisia), one finds the villas of La Marsa Corniche. Quiet is the beach because of rocky sea bottom and in the warm red-green underwater world of algae and seagrass, we spend lazy summer afternoons. when not sunbathing on hot sand or shade-reading against the cool wall along this Mediterranean sea-shore. Remembering the last vacation with my father, the beach is empty apart from fishermen returning home, certainly because of the early morning hour and maybe also a bit because of the Arab spring that brought refreshing wind with some uncertainty and a whiff of fear.
The question is, now that I am slowly petrifying, do I get closer to heaven or hell? As a young geologist it seemed simpler, when heaven was walking unknown wilderness, cooking on campfire and sleeping in a tent. Growing older meant moving to a room above a bar in a god-forsaken village, followed by a run-down three-star hotel from a glorious past in some provincial town. And now that I am Key Expert in Turkey chasing ministerial office tigers, I lay low along infinite buffets, wallow in four star luxury and while bathing in hot hydro-thermal fluids rising-up from deep realms, I really wonder whether I am getting closer to heaven or hell.