I didn’t like Ankara at first. It’s a new city that’s been engineered to work, so it does. Wide roads, housing, good services, devoid of personality. Just like Budapest is the Paris of the East, (and isn’t there a Venice of the East?), Ankara is really the Milton Keynes of the East, without the roundabouts.
And actually it doesn’t work all that well. Because the road network is so new, it encourages personal car use which in turn leads to gridlock and an unsupported and non-integrated public transport network. There are only 2 underground train lines in a city of 5m people.
But an hour sitting in a cafe in a wealthy part of town watching the confidence with which people stride and go about their business was enough to warm me to the city. There is some character here, but it’s a working town so it’s not presented on a plate for the visitor. It’s bloody expensive too.
I’ve developed a bit of a habit of camping in wealthy parts of town, more by accident than design. There’s no real advantage, other than they are quieter and maybe safer, but the big down side is there are no hidden corners to take a midnight piss. The Turks aren’t really ones of alfresco peeing, especially not in Ankara. Thanks god for the Separett toilet in the bus.
I’ve seen loads of low energy bulbs in use, which surprised me, so I haven’t been giving away the ones I’ve brought with to offset my emissions. No point if they are already widespread.
I was taken out by Ergun and Nagihan last night from a local biodiesel producer to a lovely restaurant in the old part of town. Anywhere else it would be a tourist only trap, but here it was Turks with visiting business men. Nagihan is a Chemist and explained the problem they have with Trans Fatty Acids despite a lack of English, and she also read my future in the remains of my Turkish coffee (doesn’t look good for Pakistan, but I must choose the difficult path to find happiness - wooooh).
I ask Nagihan about equality for women in Turkey. She lifts her glass of red wine, “I am drinking with the men” she answers. She almost chokes when I ask her if she ever wears a headscarf. Ergun tells me some organisations discriminate against women that wear the headscarf, while others discriminate in favour of them.
This morning I am at Buyuk Kolej. I’m involved in a press event (or perhaps I am the press event – it’s still unclear to me) to promote the use of biofuels and lobby the government to release the tax stranglehold on Biodiesel. Students of the College (Kolej) were supposed to be involved but all schools here are closed for a week because of H5N1. There are people walking around the streets in face masks.
So far I have learnt about 3 words of Turkish, but my German is improving in leaps and bounds. Everyone speaks to me in German. There was a big emigration to Germany for their worker programme during the 70’s (the Auf Viedersien Pet years) and as a legacy many Turks have close German connections.
There are lots of French words in use (merci, chauffeur, college...). I can’t understand where the influence dates from, and I’m confused by the quantity of Renault 9’s, 11’s, J9’s, all from the darkest years (early 80s) of the French motor industry’s output, Why were the French selling so many cars here then? What was the geo-political link? But I think the language was influenced before Ataturk. Or maybe it’s the French that took on these Ottoman words (like Kamis/Chemise).
Most of my previous trips have been in countries where I can speak one of the languages, and I’m only appreciating what a luxury that is, now that I am guessing at what’s happening most of the time. I need to make more of an effort with numbers, left, right, thank you, hello, water, veg oil.