Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Visiting Ankara

I spent last week in lovely Ankara, Turkey. Weather was perfect, high 70s every day with little humidity. Rainstorms last 30-45 minutes and clear the dust from the air just enough each day. Flowers in bloom everywhere, beautiful place. Very impressed with the ease of navigating the city compared to Istanbul and the relative ease and modernity of the public transport. While I was primarily there looking for a job, I took some time to hit some tourist spots which were conveniently located near my hotel. Here are some pictures from my site-seeing (I didn't carry my camera many places and didn't utilize my cellphone cam as much as I should have).

Here are the Roman baths.
There were a lot of columns and gravestones there circa 200 AD. One that caught my eye because I think it basically says "I'm a Christian":

When you're buried, will you be known throughout the ages as a "slave of God" (1 Cor. 7:22)?
A few blocks north of my hotel, the Ankara castle overlooks the city from its highest hill.

None of my pictures do justice to the fact that at any given moment, thousands of people are out and about in Ankara. It's not clear to me what everyone does besides going somewhere. Energy and excitement.
Once you climb the steep hills leading to the castle, and hike up its many steps, you see the exterior walls. You can see how old Turkish houses just inside and along the walls have been restored and are occupied just as they would have been in the 16th century.
The above is a view of the city from that point. Basically next door to the castle is an old indoor bazaar that has been restored as the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Remains of civilizations from as far back as 8,000 B.C. are present in the museum, and you get a great sense of the various peoples that invaded, conquered, occupied, and then were themselves destroyed-- all in the millennia B.C. The museum doesn't cover any modern era. The courtyard of the museum is filled with statues and ruins from an excavated Roman theater and other locations. Probably the most fascinating to me were ones dating back to 5,000 B.C. from the Çatalhöyük civilization. This is where you start to see people building, farming, worshiping, and creating artwork, as shown below (two lionesses fighting).
This piece is from the Alacahöyük people of the succeeding millenia, made of ivory and fine stones where you get the idea of trade routes being developed.
This is a later (bronze age) Hittite monument:

This bronze tablet is in Akkadian script and is apparently a correspondence between the Queen of the Hittites and the Queen of Egypt, the world's oldest peace treaty (circa 1235 BC). Along one wall were some ancient reliefs depicting the epic of Gilgamesh, who would have reigned in what is now southern Turkey.

I also have pictures from the Ankamall in Ankara, which is the biggest shopping mall I've ever been to. Not as big as the Mall of America, but it's 4 stories filled with many fancy stores, and multiple copies of some stores--including Starbucks, which there are several of in Istanbul, including in the lobby of the business school of Bilkent University.

I also happened to be there during election season, and this was fascinating. The news every night was filled with images from the various political rallies around the country, packed with thousands of each party's supporters. The AK party, which is the incumbent majority, dominates the scene with billboards outnumbering opposition parties 5 to 1 (my estimate). They also play this very nice commercial just about every 5 minutes. It promotes the unity of Turks, (whether actual or not). Political advertising on TV is only recently legal in Turkey. The parties rent buses with very large speakers on them that drive around the city and blast their music and campaign slogans all day in an ear-splitting cacophony.

I enjoyed my stay there and made many new friends, and found some potential opportunities for the future. I would very much like to move my family there. The food by itself makes it worth it.

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