In Ankara and Edirne

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
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Trip End Sep 11, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Monday, November 17, 2008

This entry, though posted from Canakkale, really recapitulates--very slightly--some highlights in  the weeks before. In those weeks I visited Ankara three times. I met and traveled with my sister from Istanbul to Canakkale (Gallipoli) to Bursa, back to Istanbul; then returned to Ankara, passed some time, then back through Istanbul to Edirne. After renewing my visitor's visa from out of Edirne I returned to the environs of Canakkale, which picks up in the next entry.

As Willie intimated, it was good to get "on the road" again. After pulling out of Bursa, after living there for around five months, I returned to Ankara to spend some time with my friend and her son before going to meet my sister in Istanbul. Then, after a short bit of time with my sister I returned to Ankara.

More Soap Opera in Ankara

On my second day in Ankara, lodging with a mother and her son, I realized that the boy, sleeping the whole while, was not eating or hydrating. He had just been sleeping. I stayed at home on that second day. He had refused offers to take in water. Meanwhile, I watched the repetitious BBC and CNN programming.

Finally, late in the afternoon, he came ambling down the hall to the WC. Naked. Not a pretty sight: he is large and looks something like a sumo wrestler. When he emerged from the WC I lept up and steered him into the kitchen. I tried to induce him to take some of two kinds of soup on the stove. He refused. Mind, I can't talk to him as my Turkish is limited to single commands like, eat or drink. He opened the refrigerator and took out a plastic litre of Coke. Well, I wanted him to hydrate, but not on Coke. In taking it from his weak and trembling hand it fell to the floor and spilled and foamed. With one hand I held the boy back from stepping in it, and with the other tried to wipe up the spill.

When I poured the remainder of the coke out in the sink he looked as if he were to cry. But he continued to refuse soup or water. He stood there in a stupor, knees trembling. It was pretty scary.

I got him back into bed. Next to his bed were some untouched fruits his mother had left out. I put sections of tangerine to his lips, and these he took in and chewed. Figuring he now had some liquid, and was breathing normally, I left him at that. In hindsight I regret not calling his mother.

However, she arrived home from work shortly, took one look at him, called a cab, and off they went to the hospital. He was there for about four days. There was some issue with his kidneys. But I could never speak with a doctor in English, so could never get a full explanation of the issue. Personally, I believe it was the result of conflicting psychotropic medications.

Some of that time I spent spelling his mother, who had to take a break, and/or to meet with colleagues on job-related issues. In Turkish hospitals families attend to many of the care functions that in the U.S., at least, is the purview of nurses. The mother, except when relieved, stood by her son 24/7, even sleeping on a roll-out from beneath his bed. It was the same for a parent or family member of each of the other three children (one girl and two boys) in the very unprivate room. (At some point the very large 16-year old boy won in his stubborness in his resistance to walk to the restroom. Therefore when my duty came I inherited the obligation to hold a bottle to him.That he sprinkled me a little provided him with some little amusement,
which only reenforced my singular appreciation for his rational side. (That kind of action in a room shared with three other patients and
family attendees does give one practice in a public display of equanimity).

The boy was discharged and more or less back to normal (his particular normal) by the time of his 17th birthday a few days later.

The next day, October 10th I went to the Anitkabir in Ankara. The Anitkabir is the Mausoleum/Museum of Kemal Ataturk. Every October 10th, at 9:05 am, there is a minute of silence (except for the wail of a siren) marking the moment of Ataturk's death in 1938.

As I approached the Anitkabir I saw a long line of military personnel queuing up to enter the grounds. Civilians were mixed in, so I joined in too. Ah, but at the gate I was shunted aside. On the other side of the entry street were a mob of civilians, many of them teachers and students. Many of them were permitted in, most of the rest of us were not. I actually was inside the gate, but not able to pass a plain clothed policeman to get on up to the ceremonial activities. A Turkish woman from Istanbul was next to me, and in the same predicament. Visiting from Istanbul, a tour guide, she spoke some English. When I took my leave after the memorial time I tried to at least express my thoughts about Ataturk, but actually got a little choked up. She said, "Yes, without him we wouldn't be here."

After taking a mini bus out of Ankara, and visiting a school for mentally handicapped that is a part of an unfinished quest of mine, I returned to Ankara and caught a bus for Bolu, a small college town about half-way to Istanbul. There I stayed the night in the brand new student apartment of a fellow I had become acquainted with during the Bursa summer art camp. On the evening Samet and his roommate and I went into the town center and made the rounds of three of the numerous student hangouts. Coffee in a couple, beers in another.

The next morning I was up early to get a bus to Istanbul, and there to transfer to another to continue on for a second visit to Edirne. It was time for another crossing of the border into Greece, only to turn around and return to Turkey, obtaining a new 90-day visitor's visa--cost to U.S. citizens, 15 euros. This time I came back with euros.

A Good Border Day at Edirne

This time I was much better prepared by my previous experience. Once in Edirne I could walk directly to the intended hotel--the Tuna Hotel, if you will. There was time for a dinner and some wireless internet surfing in the hotel before sleep.

With continuing experience, the next morning I was able to catch a mini-bus practically at the hotel's front door, and for US$ 0.92 get a ride right to the Turkish border crossing station. On the way out of town I took note of the on-going, fresh street construction that had progressed quite markedly during my three month absence.

Again, at the border as I had learned from experience, things went quite well. The pictures are not too exciting. But I sought permission to photograph them from each of the Turkish and Greek border guard soldiers. Well, when a soldier in fatigues, flack jacket and helmet, and a big black gun, says "No," you say "Oookaayyee!"  (And don't try and get cute about it on down the road).

It was a beautiful autumn day. I went into the Greek town of Kastanies with the notion of having a nice Greek coffee. But alas, only Nescafe was to be had. The the clean streets (and even vacant lots) and flowers were nice, however--including the most perfectly beautiful rose.

I left the Turkish border station not knowing when the mini-bus would be again making its rounds, so started to walk the 5km back to Edirne, or hitch if I could. A cab pulled up with a passenger. Assured that my ride would be fareless (even though I mispronounced the Turkish word, so probably was not directly understood), I accepted the ride. From the little Turkish that I heard between the driver and his fare, I took it that the Turkish fellow's car had broken down in Greece--or something.

Back in Edirne I headed for some of the historical sites I had not seen on my previous visit. Walking along the river levee I passed some folks (gypsies, perhaps) who had harvested river cane and were treating it and making basketry.

My objective was the Beyazit IInd (Second) Complex, otherwise known as the Museum of Health. It is basically a museum of Ottoman (and latter day) health and medical practices. The museum won the 2004 Council of Europe Museum Prize. I don't have any particular interest in medical history, but I was enthralled by this museum, so well was it presented. All signs and notes are in Turkish and English. I'll let my pictures and sounds carry the rest of my enthusiasm.

Alas, that, though, took the nowadays quickly finishing afternoon. I had only time to walk back to the city before dark, chilliness and retreat to the hotel room.
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