If you haven't seen this on the other website, here it is.
August 12, 2003
General observations on my trip to Turkey including Ankara, Bursa and Adapazari:
Ankara is huge. It seems 3 times larger now. They don’t call it Ankara on the roadside advertisements; they call it “Ankara Buyuk Sehir” , like we would say Orlando Metro or Greater LA. It seems like Ankara is annexing its county just like Jacksonville did. The former open fields and hills around town are all full of new housing and markets.
A dollar is worth 1.4 million TL now. When you ask the price and they say 21/2 “iki bucuk” it means 2 1/2 million, not a 21/2 lira coin.
Turkey is almost a free market. One can get almost anything legally-TVs electronics cell phones, electronics and even currency exchange are all no longer yasak (forbidden) or kachak (black market) There is a modern turnpike from Ankara to Istanbul now with modern rest stops including gas stations , souvenir shops, restaurants and fast food and modern WCs (if you don’t know what the last comment means, you don’t want to know!). Part of the turnpike was supposed to go through a tunnel, but that part was destabilized by the bad earthquakes they had 2 years ago; except for a detour around that site on the old road, one can get to Istanbul easily and in comfort.
Society has shown some divisions. There is a new upper middle class living in villas and town homes rather than in the “blok” apartments. A major fad is that these people like to have big dogs-Turkish sheep dogs, so they are living a noisy life since those dogs bark all the time at nothing! One of my friends lives in a Swiss chalet whose wooden parts are imported from Finland and assembled. The inside is like a sauna in looks, but it is cool and comfortable as the wood is a good insulator from the heat.
Another factor is the Islamic movement that wants to place Turkey under the “shariah” Islamic law. Now one can see women and girls
wearing scarves like the old French 40s a la moda autumn styles along with long coats even in summer. In Adapazari I even saw some girls wearing black “chadours” like the Kuwaitis and Emiratis do. One faction want to move Turkey to the “Euro” standard, while another wants to make it Islamic like Saudi and UAE. Adapazari is recovering from the bad earthquake; they are building a new city center to the west of the old downtown.
I got the impression that there is more personal freedom, but the army still runs the country. There were no checkpoints on the roads as in the past. Occasionally I would see soldiers guarding a building or a bridge. I found out that the government closed one of the cable channels because it was critical of the government officials. On Sunday there was a religious broadcast on one of the radio stations, which was interesting to say the least.
If you go to Turkey, be prepared to pay $100 for a visa. Twenty years ago it was free, but I guess the old agreements are breaking down.
Daily Travel Report : August 5:
I got some puzzle rings and I ate a hepatitis ring today. I also went to the new English Speaking university, Bilkent, and looked around but they gave me the run around so I am not gong to quit my day job. My Turkish brother has some WASTA for me through a friend of a friend and an inside director there, but the Brit I was able to talk to says that Bilkent had a lot of financial problems recently. Bilkent is its own city “Bilim Kenti” City of Knowledge with a shopping centers apartments and even a sporting club that resembles a YMCA.
Ankara has a metro now, so we rode the A-train from Emek to Kizilay. But Kizilay doesn’t have a red moon anymore. It has been replaced by a new building. The weather is still hot. There are a lot of new skyscrapers and high rises around. I will try to send pictures when I get back. The Balgat base is just a site now; most of it is a Turkish army post. JUSMAT is still here. A lot of people have cell phones and cable TV now. There are a multitude of channels from Turkey and abroad including a Turkish MTV channel.
We rode big red today along with big blue (a private bus co) and we took a dolmus, but now they use minibuses rather than Skoda cars. They also have a green double decker bus like in the UK. I went to Akmans and had a boza.(I am not sure what boza is, but it tastes good.)
I also found out that the school is still at the reduced base along with a small commissary which is more like a 7-11 that a real store.
We went to the man road in Bahcelievler, , which is completely different. Only the Mosque is the same. Gima is gone as well as the trolley line. The store is new and traffic is like Daytona Beach A-1-A during Spring break. Also there is a Burger King and MacDonald’s. We also went to a Galleria-like mall with upscale shopping and even a food court with a Dominoes along with the Bking and MacDonald’s . With all the good native food, I can’t see why they would like the western fast food, but I guess it is a novelty. They have a super Wal-Mart like store called Migros with groceries, electronics, carpets, furniture and all. I got some tea and dolma to bring back. Cankaya seems to run all the way up the mountain now. One can take a through road from there across to Balgat where the city has overtaken the village and farms.The village of little huts and cows and all is gone. It is another downtown just like Chankaya.. Somewhere along that road they are building New York’s Central Park with high-rise apartments around a green area. I tell you everything is really different. Everywhere you go, the streets are jammed with cars, especially little European bugs like Fiats and Peugots and even Toyotas now. One can now longer walk or play soccer in the street.
We ate a MacDonald’s in Bahce- a really different experience. Ankara has new skyscrapers and even a tower that looks somewhat like the Space Needle. There are yellow cabs all over the place just like New York except that they are little Fiats.
It is really hot. There is a big heat wave in Europe and part of it is here. It is quite dry and so far there haven’t been any of the usual summer showers to cool us off. The roads around Adapazari and Bursa were so hot that the tar was melting. At least in Bursa my friend has a swimming pool. Now that was an interesting visit. We cooked out the famous Turksih foods:shish kebab, shish kofte and sucuk (spicy sausage). His whole house is a disco, so he was playing all kinds of music all the time.
I go back to the States on Monday. I’ll have my pictures put on a disk and will try to send
September 1, 2003: Final observations and comments.
It still amazes me how much Turkey has changed. It seemed a lot like Beirut because of the higher standard of living (on the surface at least) and the wider availablility of consumer goods. The building activity is phenominal, the biggest project is the new subway in Ankara which will have several lines and will make getting around a lot easier. It uses electronic tickets like the Metro in Washington DC. High rises are everywhere; those who aren’t living in the new town home neighborhoods are in high rise condos like those found along the coast of Florida. Everywhere you go, you can see new housing projects going up, parking is something that has been added to the codos now since more people have cars. New neighborhoods exist where barren hills and farming villages once stood. Balgat village is now a new downtown with all the trendy things: cell phone stores, cafes, botiques and row after row of new condos. Consumer goods such as radios and TVs are priced about 20% higher than in the US; that may seem high but they used to be 100% or higher more expensive. There are so many cars that parking is a major issue almost everywhere since the older neighborhoods were laid out when 95% of the people walked or used public transportation. One can no longer play soccer (futbal) or volleyball in the streets, since instead of a car every 5 minutes, there is now a steady stream of cars.
The food is still great. I enjoyed the “ekmek” (sourdough bread) white cheese, vishne(sour cherry) jelly and Turkish tea along with boreks (pastry) shish and so on.
Great job getting us the latest facts Doug. I haven't been back since I was there, in the 60's, so my recollection is still the way it WAS. I don't know if that will ever change.
When we were there in '94, we watched CNN and learned that Bush had defeated Ann Richards for governor of Texas. Ruined our trip!
You are right Wray. For those that moved around alot, everything remains the same.
BTW Douglas, good job writing about your trip.
Thanks for the interesting write up.
(Maybe some day Los Angeles will get a good public transportation system too)
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