El Gringo Viejo in Turkey


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Middle East » Turkey
October 6th 2012
Published: October 6th 2012
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Wednesday, Oct. 3, back in Istanbul again

Conditions in Turkey

Turkey is a much more modern country than we expected. The Old City of Istanbul is truly ancient and oriental, with super-crowded big bazaars and markets. Very interesting and colorful, but outside of the old part, Istanbul looks like any big world city, maybe with worse traffic. Its location on the Bosporus is breathtaking. Outside the city we were always on big highways like freeways in America. Tremendous amount of construction always visible near cities; lots of earth-moving equipment. Caterpillar is making a fortune in Turkey. Economic growth was 8%!l(MISSING)ast year, much greater than anything in Europe or America, and they are distinctly having second thoughts about joining the European Union. The collapse next door in Greece gives them shivers of schadenfreude.

Huge tracts of apartment high-rises surround all the major cities. Our guide Tolga (trained as a civil engineer) said all this new housing was designed by a corrupt construction industry to collapse in the next 7.0 earthquake. The Turkish government knows this, but has done nothing. They did, however, stockpile a million body bags for use after the quake. If it is the will of Allah.

Turkey is the only Islamic democracy, and has been since about 1920, thanks to the founding hero Attaturk. It has two major parties, one more religious than the other, and it has had one peaceful change of power. But despite what you may hear to the contrary, it is not secular. There are mosques everywhere, all constructed by the state, with imams paid by the state. You will hear no jihadi sermons in Turkey, since Turkey is a member of NATO. If they went off on a jihad, would we be legally bound to help them? This question must not come up. Strangely, alcohol is legal and advertised everywhere. Turkey has a wine industry; decent but not great. Turks mainly drink Raki, similar to Greek Ouzo.

The price of gasoline in Turkey was about 4 Turkish Lire per Liter. At 1.79 TL/USD and 3.7854 Liter/Gallon, that comes to 8.46 USD per gallon, the highest price in the world, it is said. You would never guess this from the amazing traffic congestion in the Old City. But the cars are small. All the new apartment buildings have solar panels and big hot water tanks on the roof.

Turkey has just come through many years of very bad inflation (120%!p(MISSING)er year in 1994) but somehow they got it down to 6.4%!b(MISSING)y 2010. Now it is creeping up again, 10.4%!i(MISSING)n 2011. Tolga was very aware of this, but he did not know why it had come down. Nor do I. The inflation numbers are from

http://www.inflation.eu/inflation-rates/turkey/historic-inflation/cpi-inflation-turkey.aspx

Most women dress in Western clothes; often blue jeans and a shirt. Maybe 10%!o(MISSING)f the young women dress for Islamic modesty (long sleeves and long skirt and headscarf); with older women it is distinctly more. Sometimes you see a black burka with just a slit for the eyes, but that is unusual. In other words, women dress about like they do on the Wayne State campus in Detroit. At a mineral water swimming hole we saw a traditionally modest older woman leading by the hand a voluptuous younger woman (her daughter?) in an extremely teeny bikini. I did not have the guts to take their picture. Trust me, it was priceless.

Turkish hotels: The showers have been good; sometimes really great. Likewise the enormous Turkish towels. But four of our hotels had a feature I have never seen anywhere else: a double paned picture window with a venetian blind between the panes, conveniently located right between the shower and the bedroom. If you are old and fat, you can close the blind for privacy. If not, you can open it and there you are in all your glory, for everybody in the bedroom to admire. A sweat-and-scrub Turkish bath is always available in the hotel spa, with massage if you want it.

The hotel buffets were massive, but not the greatest Turkish cooking. Tolga took us out twice to real Turkish restaurants, where the food was much better. The best hotel breakfast: thick yogurt with fresh figs and honey.

The toilets all had a little nozzle in the back that puzzled us at first. It turned out to be a built-in bidet. Just reach down on the right and there is a valve that controls it. It is a little startling when you first try one, but you soon get used to it. Very green; just sit on a towel to dry yourself off. You can see oriental hole-in-the floor toilets in the tour bus rest stops, but the Western alternative was always there.

In the hotels there was beer and wine in the little room fridge, and a nice assortment of other necessities out on a tray: whiskey, raki, snacks, and two condoms, just in case the drinks and the picture window shower get anybody excited. They think of everything.

Well, this little general report will get me started. In blogs to come, I will tell you about our tour in a more organized, chronological fashion. I will also figure out how to attach photos.

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11th October 2012

Conditions in Turkey
Loved your blog. Reminded me of little things I had forgotten.
12th October 2012

Great descriptions....
Can't wait to read the next installment....and some photos?
12th October 2012

Two Texas Thumbs up for the Turkish Blog, dear Brother, from Quedlinburg, Germany
The pic of you in that Turkish hat is great, and the text is entertaining and witty--as always. I enjoyed finally taking a look at your blog after a rather busy day. Since I'll be leaving for Berlin this coming Tuesday and then into the air to FRA and DFW on Wed., I'm forcing myself to get "close-down" jobs over with. This has been an excellent stay in Germany and I'll have a lot to tell you once back in Lubbock. I plan to put out an Obama sign in the middle of my thorniest cactus and get to work for him with TexMex DEMO parties, mariachis on the roof and plenty of tequila. Abrasos, M

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