Tombs, Tablets and Turkish Delights
Trip Start Sep 07, 2006
9Trip End Sep 17, 2006
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Now this breakfast, although potentially plaque-forming in the wrong hands, had plenty of delicious healthy options. In other words, very mediterranean. The first thing I noticed was a tray of cheeses seperate from the other cheeses and labeled "high-fat goat's cheese", whether intended to warn or proudly proclaim, i do not know
More specific to Turkey were the Simit (see pic), which looks and tastes like a 2-day old Aunty Annie's pretzel (its hard) without the sour cream & onion dust. In fact, I had to dip it in Nutella to get myself sufficiently excited. A gooey thing which I hazarded to be butterscotch turned out to be fruit syrup (pekmez). All in all, 3.75/5.
First stop: MKA's Mausoleum
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (= "Father of Turkey") is a larger-than-life presence, deeply embedded in the Turkish psyche, so much so that he is a cult figure with statues everywhere etc. The mausoleum complex (no, the body is not on display, cheh) consists of a pointlessly long walkway leading to a vast square, all built from marble.
Now, I was quite worried to learn that Turkey had been a really happening place since 3000 B.C. (that's 5000 years ago). Die-lah like that. If the Maori only landed in virgin New Zealand 700 years ago (1300 A.D.), (at a time when Parameswara had probably already established a 5-Star harem in Malacca), and already my precarious grip on NZ history is limited to vulgar possum jokes and my oft-repeated "yeah...did you know all Polynesians are like, the same?", then I was never going to remember anything about Turkey's roots
Climbing towards Ankara Citadel
Feeling guilty about the Nutella, I decided to walk through the street bazaars leading up to the 3000 year old ruins of the Citadel. I am ashamed to say that I was so unsure of myself as to not enter a single shop, until, emboldened by the universally-recognizable baying of homo Americans emanating from the shadows of a kilim (carpet) shop, I entered that shop. The first thing I saw was a huge glass eyeball. "Whats this for?" I asked the proprietor, who, like most Turkish shopowners, spoke not a word of English. The American woman regarded me with a mixture of pity and amusement. "Thats the Evil Eye," she added confidently, "they're EVERYWHERE". Duh, Miss Cornell University (I was wearing my college visor), did you just step off the plane, or what?
By the time I reached the Citadel, the locals had convinced me that I was Japanese
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Everything in here was really, really old. It was so old that the curators were name-dropping the likes of Moses and Midas and Solomon when describing the artefacts. It was so old that the shopping lists were on cuneiform tablets (this is something I have always wanted to see). Now, unlike some family members whose staircase is decorated with antique "charcoal-type" irons (and in a house with 4 teenagers, it's a wonder someone has yet to have an accident), I find it hard to appreciate old stuff
After visiting a huge mausoleum, climbing a hill and mentally taxing myself at the museum, it seemed only natural that I should end the evening with a 1-hour treadmill run, the details of which I will spare myself from typing out, save to say that I spent the first 10 minutes of that run listening to the endless drone of the names of all 3000 victims of 9-11 being read out on CNN because I didn't think to change the channel. Oh, if they were to read out the names of all the civilian victims of the Afghanistan air raids, Iraqi and Lebanon bombings, it would take days.
Dinner was actually a formal reception in the hotel, for the conference delegates. As is usually the case in hotels, simple hearty local food normally served in generous portions had been mutated to resemble miniscule hors d'ouvres, so as to not insult the genteel aesthetic
Anyway, following a worrying recent personal trend of mine at buffets, my dinner ended up consisting of 60% desserts. Tonight, this was probably due to the fact that there were 2 types of crème brulee, which I initially thought was badly done and lumpy, but it turned out this is because it wasn't crème brulee but Turkish rice-and-milk pudding. So I had 4 of those, 1 of each type when I thought it was crème brulee, and 1 of each, after I'd realized they were Turkish, thus necessitating a different approach. Not to mention the real crème brulee, of which I had 2, and the baklava (very high standard). And, of course, many, many Turkish Delights. Sweeeeeet!