Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on Ankara

We stayed in a pretty busy part of town, within walking distance of many shops and cafes. One thing to note about hotels in Turkey, they are serious about saving power. The halls had motion sensing lights. It was weird, because at times you felt like you were moving through an abandoned hotel because there were no lights on in the hotel hallways. Plus, they did not heat the lobby or breakfast area. And it was cold in Ankara. I don’t think it got out of the thirties the whole time we were there. At night the temps climbed into the single digits.
We found out (later) that the OK sign in Turkey is somewhat offensive and maybe suggestive. That may explain the busy boy’s confusion when my roommate gave him a five dollar tip with the OK sign.
There are statues, posters and images of Atatürk everywhere. He is basically the founder of the Republic of Turkey and the mastermind of the battle to secure their independence after WWI (in which they sided with the Germans). Atatürk is so revered that it is illegal to make fun of him or his image (which was a shame because I had a whole series of Atatürk jokes that I could not issue). It is like the law and sin; I had not desire to tell any Atatürk jokes, until the law said not to.
Ankara is the capital of the nation, but it is not looked on too favorably by most Turks. I spoke with a girl who needed to go to visit friends but she would look for any excuse to get out of going. I really enjoyed the visit there. We met some wonderful friends there that I will cherish. I look to go back to visit them someday. Not a lot of English speakers in Ankara. And the language is so different from English. It was hard to pick out words and phrases. In France, Spain/Mexico and even Germany you can see a lot of cognate words, but not in Turkish. You really felt like you stuck out. We dressed differently, we looked differently and acted differently.
I was reminded of the importance of prayer walking in Ankara, some of my most focused times of prayer. We visited the largest mosque in Ankara, the Kocatepe Camii. It has the largest chandelier in Turkey. Very pretty mosque. We went during Friday prayer service. It was very crowded, but the people were tolerant of us being there and it was an interesting experience. Take your shoes off before stepping on the carpet! It was interesting seeing people hawking goods outside of the mosque after the service. Weird stuff too, like a marionette duck and a comic hot water bottle.
In a later post, I will tell you about our visit to the restaurant of the Turkish Don Quixote (Don Kișot).

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