23 September 2003 Tuesday - Ankara to Cappadocia / Hattusas - 41 Photos
Today, as planned, we drove from Ankara to the Cappadocia region of Turkey, where there are lots of ruins from ancient civilizations. The driving was long and tiring, but Mete kept us somewhat entertained by talking about daily life (both Turkish and American) and politics. For example, Turkey shares a border with Iraq, which is a current hot spot in the world. As you probably know, the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew their leader, Saddam Hussein, and offered a one hundred-million dollar bounty for information leading to his arrest, so Mete asked us if we were to find Saddam sitting alone in some Turkish crop field, how would we split the money? Would we split it 50-50 or 60-40 with him? I think Saddam would be crazy to take refuge in Turkey, because Eastern Turkey is mostly Kurdish, and Saddam and his notorious brother, "Chemical Ali" used chemical weapons-for no apparent reason-to kill thousands of Kurds (people of his own country!) several years ago.
Mete also showed us his pictures from hunting and fishing trips, then told us about hunting in Turkey. For example, he said that it's illegal to hunt bears in Turkey, but some people still try to do it. The woods are very quiet, and a wounded bear makes a very loud howl, so when someone poaches a bear illegally, the rangers can hear the howling and follow the sound to catch the guy. We had several stops along the way to stretch our legs, drink tea or coffee, and such.
It's very interesting talking politics with Mete. He explained a bit about the incident with United States regarding the invasion of Iraq. In the States, we heard that the U.S. had asked Turkey for permission to use their air bases to stage the invasion of Iraq, and Turkey said no, unless the U.S. repaired their air bases and paid them several billion dollars. That seemed unreasonable to me (and a lot of Americans) at the time, but here's the rest of the story: It seems that during the first Gulf War, with President Bush Senior, the U.S. promised to pay Turkey billions of dollars for the use of their bases, but after the war, the U.S. allegedly reneged on their promise. Turkey never got paid. There's an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, so when the U.S. made the same request in 2003, Turkey basically said, "First, pay us the money you owed us ten years ago, then we'll consider it." I guess that's understandable. Shows you how tainted the American broadcast media is.
Mete also told us about an incident that made the news in Turkey a month ago where several Turkish soldiers were in Iraq, and a bunch of United States soldiers came in, beat them up, gagged them, put bags on their heads and so forth. He also says that the United States is touting how bad terrorists are, and at the same time, they are supplying arms and ammunition to Kurdish terrorists. I don't know if this is true at all, because nothing was reported in the American media that I'm aware of. The Turks don't like the Kurds at all. They say the Kurds are uneducated, primitive bully terrorists. He told us about a Kurdish terrorist organization called PKK. He says the Kurds are sending their sons to fight for the PKK, and then they supply the PKK with food and money because their sons are there. I've never even heard of the PKK. There is a longer name for it, but I don't remember.
Because Mete is a hunter, he joked about Turkey declaring a hunting season on Kurds. At the same time, Mete listens almost exclusively to a Kurdish singer, (I forgot the name) whom he also calls a terrorist who has been in jail multiple times, but he seems to like the music and the words that speak of the injustice of the world. The words are all in Turkish, so we don't understand them, and it's probably good that we don't. I asked Mete if the Kurds are also Muslims, and he said they were, but this deep hatred between the Kurds and the Turks is an ethnic thing, not a religious thing. I asked, "But why do Turks hate the Kurds?" He said it was because people believed that the Kurds were stupid, lazy, uneducated people, people who don't want to learn, who are happy to sit around and cause trouble. Mete values education, and doesn't like stupid people, but I guess I can understand that. Of course, I've never even met a Kurd, so I can't say if the prejudices are real or imaginary. What I do know is that my dad was prejudiced against black people, and he used to say the same things about blacks, and it was not founded in reality.
We talked for a while about prejudice, and he asked us if the white people of America are still prejudiced against the blacks. I told him it's still there, but much better than it used to be, and getting better all the time. I told him that my dad was a bigot who hated most other racial groups (all people, for that matter), but especially blacks (but, oddly, he liked Native Americans), but the people of my generation are not prejudiced as a rule, except for some places in the Southern States. I told him I've had black friends, and liked every black person I've ever met. I told him that the blacks in the U.S. had been outpaced in population by the Hispanics, and how some Americans feel threatened now by them. Kathy believes that in ten years or so, American citizens will need to know Spanish to survive, and in twenty years, Spanish will be the national language of the U.S. Why? Because whites and blacks have one or two children, but Hispanics (plus Hmongs and other groups) are having lots of babies. Comedian Jay Leno jokes that there's an easy way for terrorists to get into the United States: Go to the Mexican border and walk through the tunnels in line behind everyone else.
Mete also said that most of the Islamic world was angry at the United States, for invading Iraq, and for supplying the Israelis with arms and money and political support. I told him that I didn't understand our support for Israel either, since the citizens of the United States are not Jewish, but Christian, and the common people have no special love of Jews either. I think most citizens would rather stay out it and leave the Israelis to their own devices.
We also talked about how angry people in the United States were after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I told him what made me madder than the attacks themselves was seeing the Palestinian people jumping and screaming for joy at the killing of so many innocent people. I told him I used to believe that the Palestinians were probably a good people, and they should be given a homeland, but when I saw them celebrating in the streets on 9/11, my attitude changed, and now I believe they are animals who place no value on human life. I also told him that, at the time of the attacks, most Americans were glad Mr. Bush was President rather than Al Gore because Gore would have probably rolled over and said, "Thank you, sir, may I have another." I told him that Bush had to invade Afghanistan as a response to terrorists, or the United States would have looked too weak and become a bigger target. Iraq was another matter, but I'm sure Mr. Bush has more (secret) information, especially about weapons of mass destruction, than I have about the situation, so I deferred the decision to him.
Politics aside, we stopped at a archaeological site from the ancient Hittite civilization called Hattusas.
We took lots of photos and Mete explained about the site. It was a very big site, but quite crumbled down. The city was alive around the fourteenth century B.C. and devastated in 1180 B.C. They had lots of gods, like the Egyptians, including a sword god. He said they were the first civilization to refine iron and make crude steel swords. There were several gates,
like the Sphinx gate, the lions gate, and so forth. There was a huge stone wall around the city, and a tunnel where the inhabitants could trap potential attackers inside, pull down a keystone from the roof and have the whole tunnel collapse, burying the enemy.
We are currently staying in a hotel outside the town of Nevsehir. There isn't much to do here, and nothing to do in town, so we have been relaxing, visiting the gift shops in the basement, checking out the Turkish bath, game room, pool and such.