Centering (Georgia Road Trip, Part 5)

Central Anatolia! One of my favorite places in the world, with fairy chimneys, underground discos, no, wait, forget the disco (been there, done that)…

HacıAli likes to tell the story of how one day, driven into a stark-raving frenzy by my disco-neighbors, I smashed all the pots in front of his shop. (About an hour later when I came to, I went back and rather sheepishly said I was ‘done shopping’, and could he please ring up my total. His response: “Let me show you where the expensive stuff is, for next time.”)

Picture 20 Chez Grandpa Ali avanos-haci-ali

Now that I no longer own a house over a disco, I have a standing offer from HacıAli to stay in his old house above the shop, since it (the house, not the shop) is usually empty. Considering that it’s more than 10 hours on the road from Bodrum to Avanos, we don’t get up there much, but Harun and I took HacıAli up on his offer on our way up to Georgia. It got us out of the Aegean and on our way towards the Black Sea – with planned stops at ‘The Hittite Sites of Central Anatolia’. At just about the half-way point between Konya and Çorum, not only was Avanos conveniently located geographically, an overnight stop there also gave us the opportunity to ‘feel the pulse of the nation’ in the wake of Turkey’s ostensibly ‘unsucessful coup attempt’.

I know, I know: post-failed-coup Emergency Rule is not the best situation to be taking a road trip in, but we’d planned it in advance (the road trip, not the coup, obviously!), and I was going to have to be back in the Aegean in September, because I was going to be teaching part-time at a university close to where we were moving; in fact, I was supposed to be planning my classes during our road trip, leisurely dreaming up dialogs on architecture and sustainability while driving a fuel-burning vehicle thousands of kilometers for my personal enjoyment…

But alas, it was not to be.

As soon as we sat down in front of HacıAli’s – where we happily sat for hours, drinking Turkish tea and ‘taking the pulse’ – I received a text-message from a friend containing a PDF file with a list of all the educational institutions being closed because they ‘had ties’ to the ‘coup plotters’.

And thus, as Harun likes to say, “I was fired before I even started”.

Now, I can pretty much vouch for everyone in the department I was going to be teaching at and say that none of them ‘had ties’. And it was this apparent indiscriminateness of what some might call the ‘post-coup efforts to right the country’ that made it so difficult to ‘take the pulse’ as we wanted. Harun and I were pretty much the only people we found who didn’t first lower their voice and look around (and in one case, put away a cell phone ‘because it could listen’) before venturing an opinion on the only thing that was on anybody’s mind anywhere between Bodrum and the Georgian border (which was where we were headed, remember? Don’t worry, we’ll get there…).

In the interests of protecting the privacy of the possibly (but not necessarily) paranoid, I will just randomly intersperse some comments along with some photos. Just chalk everything up to ‘Anonymous’.

Picture 22 Zelve zelve-peaking-through-the-cave

Not a Hittite site, but a network of cave dwellings just a few kilometers from Avanos. (Full disclosure: we did not get to Zelve until our way back from Georgia; it was hot, and we had tea to drink and pulses to feel.)

(Pulse: “Just like at Çanakkale, the brave Turks took to the streets to defeat the enemy and preserve democracy… What are you looking at on that computer? Are you nuts? Delete! Delete!)

Picture 23 Hattusas: Cowshittite-cows-3113

Hattusas is even more like an open-air museum than the open-air museum in Cappadocia famous for its cave paintings, since here in Hattusas you drive from ‘exhibit’ to ‘exhibit’ (or walk, if you are in good shape and prefer not to burn fossil fuel). No cave paintings here, but lots of interesting stuff, like the layout of ancient Hittite dwellings, and cows. Whether or not these cows were descendants of ancient Hittite cows, I cannot say; however, cows did figure prominently in our journey from Hattusas onwards.

 (Pulse: “Who am I to say anything? I’ve got no one with any power backing me up. No one in the position to say something is saying anything. If no one’s got your back, saying something would just be the epitomy of stupidity.”)

Picture 24 Hattusas: Lionshittite-lions-3100

 Yup, me, there on the right. To give you an idea of scale. Lion on the right is original, lion on the left is to show what the lion on the right used to look like once upon a time.

(Pulse: “This was planned. It’s the continuation of reforming the military, removing those who are still in the way of what Turkey and the US want to do in Syria.” **)

** Note: Less than 2 weeks later, Turkey invaded Syria…

Picture 25 Hattusas: the Tunnelhittite-tunnel-3104

 Yup, this time it’s Harun on the right for scale. Very cool tunnel. In every sensed of the word. Outside the tunnel it was 35 degrees (95 in farenheit). I quite enjoyed the tunnel… I could just about imagine a procession passing through here…  By the way, the brochures you get at Hattusas show some really cool reliefs, which you can see at Yazılıkaya (“Stone with Writing”), just up the road from Hattusas. But for the really, really cool stuff, you need to go to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, which is filled with things dug up from  various Hittite sites all over Central Anatolia, and lots more.)

(Pulse: “The end of the US Empire is at hand; that is only natural, all empires come to an end. Power is shifting to Central Asia… Anyone who is innocent will be released from detention.”) 

Picture 26 Alacahöyük: End of an Empire (Hittites )Image result

Of course, seeing the artefacts in a museum in Ankara isn’t quite the same as seeing them “in situ”. Alacahöyük (a “höyük” is a “mound”, as in “burial mound”) is done up rather nicely; you can walk around the site and peek in the graves (note the crown on this guy here) before you go into the museum building. There are no grazing cows here, but if you’re lucky, you may run into the local geese herder marching his flock home in the evening. Also, there is a lovely cafe across the road, run by a woman from Erzurum who makes delicious gözleme and who will engage you (or your Turkish-speaking companion) in long discussions about local politics and rail against all things in general.

(Pulse: “Foiled coup? Foiled? Oh no, not at all, it was very successful…”) 

For everything you ever wanted to know about the Hittites and even more, check out this amazing web site. And just hang in there, we really are going to Georgia. I think we might even get there in the next installment…

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