February 21st – Ankara
Driving from Cappadocia to Ankara today. Our guide, Erdal, tells us more about Turkey, their culture, Ataturk, their war of independence, and the tax system. Our weather is changing. We have had beautiful blue skies since we arrived, but it is getting cooler.
En route we pass the Salt Lake which is the second largest lake in Turkey. This is still farm land with the main crops being potatoes, apricots, grapes (table and wine) and squash grown for the seeds. Other products include pottery and brick factories. We see the occasional flock of sheep.
The average monthly income is $7-800/month in the rural areas. Government workers earn $1000/month and those in the tourist industry have higher paying jobs with 50% of their income coming from tips.
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the population is mainly students and government workers, bureaucrats.
Turkey provides education and health services for their people but they are also heavily taxed. Income taxes range from 25-55% of their income. A sample of other taxes includes food at 8%, luxury tax 57-58%, phone 33%, fuel is $10/gallon.
There is also a strong black market of illegal goods brought in from neighboring countries that is not taxed, i.e. gas, cigarettes, as well as heroin.
Ataturk – National Hero
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the leader of the Turkish War of Independence. He was instrumental in the founding of Turkey as an independent country and became the first President of the Republic of Turkey. He is known as the “Father of Turkey”.
Turkey has ruins dating back thousands of years yet is a relatively young country, being declared an independent country in 1923 with Ankara chosen for the capital.
As a much beloved and charismatic leader, Mustafa Kemal chose the path that would lead Turkey from a broken land into a healthier country. He wanted to model the country after European countries, not Middle Eastern countries. Over a period of 10 years, some of the key choices he implemented included:
- A war on illiteracy – getting the masses educated (86% literacy today)
- Declared the country a republic which ousted the monarchy (Sultans)
- Developed a secular principal with separation of church and state
- New Turkish alphabet formed that was Latin based (ended the Arabic alphabet use)
- Acceptance of the International calendar
- Banned the wearing of the Fez (hat) and veil (full robes) both of which represented the Ottomans
- Gave women equal rights in 1934 which included the right to vote and run for office
- Civil code was adopted, no more harems
Another key element was the adoption of surnames. Up until that time, people in Turkey did not have a last name. He let everyone choose their own last name, anything they wanted with the exception of the name of a trade/profession or a location. He was given the name Ataturk (father of the Turks) and no one else is allowed that name.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk died in 1938 from cirrhosis of the liver. An enormous mausoleum, Anitkabir, was built in his honor which sits high on the hill overlooking Ankara.
Anitkabir ~ Ataturk Mausoleum
Sitting on top of Observation Hill, the mausoleum was completed in 1950. Lions Road leads to the large ceremonial plaza. At one end of the plaza are massive steps that take you up to Hall of Honor which houses Ataturk’s tomb.
Hittite Museum (Museum of Anatolian Civilizations)
Currently undergoing renovations, only a small portion of the museum was open.
Driving through Ankara
After a long day on the bus we arrive at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for a one night stay. This was my favorite hotel on this trip.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for the talent of so many artists that have created works of art that are now national treasures.