Well, where was I? Ah yes, Ankara! The day after my arrival our appointments could only be scheduled for the afternoon, so my Man in Turkey, called Ridvan, and I had some time for sightseeing – nice to start a biz trip this way!
We headed for Anitkabir – the mausoleum built for AtatÃ¼rk on a hill in the middle of the city. Now normally mausolea are places are to be avoided, pretentious memorials to obscure long-dead personalities. But Anitkabir is grandiose whilst at the same time restrained, a granite and marble edifice in a simple design, set amongst beautifully landscaped gardens. And Atatürk is no obscurity – the founder of modern Turkey, who dragged the country out of the Ottoman period. The tomb itself within the building is simple and unadorned. A small museum nearby houses his personal effects – collections of everyday items and three black Lincoln staff cars that used to carry him around on his visits, strangely without windscreen wipers!
Then off to the Citadel, the heart of the small village Ankara was before AtatÃ¼rk came along. A collection of old houses around a defensive fort. The houses are, strangely enough, Fachwerkhäuser as you see in the German countryside. We perused the small pazar (bazaar) which is still in the old style: lots of tiny shops selling (and making on the premises) an incredible variety of objects: scissors, scales, hayforks, spices, drums, mousetraps – you name it, someone has got it. Such bazaars used to be commonplace all over Turkey, but they are now disappearing as modern shopping centres take over. Istanbul has none left.
Lunch in an open air café in the industrial area – Izgara Köfte (grilled meatballs), Arabic bread, tomato and onion salad. Ayran (yogurt and water) to drink. Splendidly simple stuff! A bargain for hard-currency earners at 10 DM for two.
After our meetings in the afternoon, we head off to Istanbul, 450 km away. It’s boiling hot, good that Ridvan has a Mercedes Vito (a sort of upmarket Tranny van) with a powerful A/C. The motorway snakes through the Anatolian plain full of wheat fields, rises up to the mountains dividing it from the Black Sea and then ceases for about 40 km. They were building a tunnel through the mountains until they had to suspend work after the 1999 earthquake. More earthquake damage appears as we get nearer Istanbul, much of the population still lives in prefab shelters.
It was late when we arrived in Istanbul, but a glorious sight awaited us – the view of the city when driving on the Bosphorus suspension bridge. Illuminated palaces, mosques, minarets, all framed by the green banks of the Bosphorus and the many boats plying on it. This is one of my personal “top ten scenic views”.
More meetings Thursday and Friday. With Turkey being in deep economic shit, the everyday topic of conversation is the exchange rate. I am not surprised. On the day of my arrival the TRL dropped 20%, then recovered 15% the next day. Something to do with ministerial reshuffles and the IMF. With such a yo-yo currency, economic planning is impossible, all business prices are denominated in DM or greenbacks. Turkish stuff is ridiculously cheap – I bought a load of towels (Turkish cotton being one of the worlds finest) at a quarter of the Italian price.
Speaking of meals, here are my gastro recommendations for Istanbul:
Gelik – Sahil Yolu, Ataköy (just next to the Crowne Plaza)
Kasibeyaz – Senlikköy, Catal Sokak 10, Florya (near the airport)
Gelik is an “Et lokantasi”, a meat restaurant, and Kasibeyaz is a “Kebapcici”, a Kebab restaurant. Hard for me to tell the difference, I seem to have kebap in both! Both feature the great Turkish cuisine: an avalanche of starters (aubergines, hummus, raw pressed meat and garlic, salads etc) then kebap of every type: lamb skewers, minced lamb, lamb meatballs all with the excellent local bread. Gelik has an side dish consisting of Baked rice with mushrooms and dill. To finish: I love künefe – a sort of shredded wheat with honey and soft cheese, served hot.
To drink: Bira (self explanatory) and raki (aka ouzo in Greece).