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.
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.