A military base, a man who transformed EVERYTHING in gold, a football match

25 February 2011

After Safranbolu and Amasra returning to Ankara was something a kind of down. The next morning, the anxiety to move on, put the foot on the road and visit another ancient place was running on my skin. The breakfast took ages, and the checkout an eternity. In the end, we left the hotel, and I was ready.

However, the tour guide had something to ask, a favour I couldn’t deny. He wanted to visit a friend who just had joined the army. The first thing I would like to understand what meant “join the army”. In Brazil, every male in the year they would complete 18 years old, are obliged to enlist to the army and serve for at least one year. In Turkey, I found it was a bit different. In Turkey, like in Brazil, the military is mandatory, but differently, some rules about age and formation applied. A male should refer to the army before they complete their 38th birthday and the period they will expend in the military will depend from if they had a university degree. For those who sustain only a technical degree, as a tour guide, they should expend 15 months at the army, a university graduated, on the other hand, should spend six months. In some cases, the male can opt to pay something around 5 thousand Liras being then dismissed

Esat, Firat’s friend, was a tour guide, so he would serve for at least 15 months. My guide had discovered his friend was serving in the Ankara region and had the idea to visit him since Esat had more 13 months ahead. But the visit would not be something simple. First, Firat did not know where was the base Esat was based. We began a search, ending in the middle of nowhere inside a military base in the planes of Ankara province. “You might have to stay in the car…” I thought to me would be no problem staying at the car; actually, I preferred since I had not a good impression about how the Turkish military treated foreign people. 

Stopping in a barrier, my guide talked with the sentinels. One of them indicated a parking lot where few cars were parked. I was preparing myself to wait for at least one hour, but Firat had changed his mind. “Leave everything here, phone, camera, and bring only your passport”. My heart pounded on my chest. I was walking into a military building without any reason apart satisfies Firat desire to meet Esat.

The place had a building in a tone that mixed with nature around was modern, clean, making me think about a border school than a military base. We waited in a room while the soldier on the reception search for Esat. After fifteen minutes, the surprise. Esat did not serve in this base. Upset, Fırat seemed likely to give up. Well, I knew him a little better now, I understood it was just an impression. He called Esat, and he told him where we should go.

Half an hour later, we were entering another military base, this one in an Ankara’s neighbourhood. Delivering trucks were coming and going, there were bank branches and lots of people coming to the base. We were directed to a room where several people were visiting other men serving. There were women visiting husbands, women with children attending their father, mothers visiting their sons. Sometimes, entire families were there, sitting in round tables having a çay and talking with men in uniform. Even business was being carried in one of the tables.

When finally Esat entered the room, I was faced with a man in his late twenties with green eyes and a big smile. He was pleased to see Firat, and I was introduced as a friend. As a tour guide himself, Esat had an excellent English (better than Firat’s English), which allowed me talking with someone who really could understand what I was saying. We had a good thirty minutes conversation and left with a promise to return one day.

Later, when I had already returned to Brazil, Firat told me Esat had left the army because he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. It was a blow upon his life’s plan. He had a fiancée and planed had children. Firat was very upset and sad. Esat however, overcomes his illness and married moving to live in Cappadocia. 

Leaving the military base behind, the next stop was related to a myth: Midas. The legend of Midas is widely known. The king who had the gift of turning everything he touched into gold. In Anatolia, he was also called Midas Donkey Ears.

Midas was the son of Gordias and Cybele. It is said that he received the gift of transforming everything he touches into gold from Bacco, after helping one of Bacco’s favourite satyr to find his way back after excessive intake of wine. Soon, Midas realised how much the ability to turn anything he touched into gold could be disastrous. He began to ask questions: How do I feed? Or reach other people or me? The legend said he had transformed his daughter in a golden statue when touching her. 

Midas prayed to Bacco, asking to free him from the golden touch. Bacco took some time to hear Bacco’s prays, and Midas despair increased day by day.  Finally, Bacco answered to Midas prayers send him to wash his hands in the Pactolus River. It’s said the sands of the river turned into gold, transforming the river into a source of gold for the people,

Other legends about Bacco showed how the king was poor to make a choice. Called to be an arbiter in a contest between Apollo and Pan, Midas chose Pan as the best musician. Apollo, to show how stupid was the choice, gave Midas donkey ears. Well-deserved, in my opinion, choosing the god of the shepherds instead of the god of music as the best musician is not a sensible choice.

We reached a small village; on the way I had noticed in the horizon a series of hills like the ones I saw near Sardis. Firat had told me the mountain were Tumuli of kings and influential people of Lidia and Frigia civilisations.  The village of Yassıhöyük has about 600 inhabitants, a small town. There we could visit the Museum of Gordion and the Galatian Tomb, which was removed from its original location to the museum to avoid being destroyed. Mosaics found on a farm near the museum were also moved to the museum. The pieces in the museum were displayed in a way to show the chronology of the region. However, what attracted people to there was the Midas Tumulus. In fact, today is believed that is the tomb in not from Midas but his father

It was a cold and grey day, and the museum was dark (all light was off), and there wasn’t anybody around. What was calling us was the tomb itself. The tumulus was dated from 740 BC and covered by a mount of earth. The entrance, guarded by a gate (open that day), lead to a corridor where we could see the story of the tomb in a series of panels on the walls. At the end of the passage, we could see the tomb protected by another gate, and the metallic structure supporting the hill above. 

Leaving the tumulus, we stopped in a restaurant near the museum for a çay. That time, many students had their break making lots of loud conversation, laughing and having their drinks outside in the cold. 

Firat decides we should stop in  Eskişehir, a city that had been growing thanks to the number of Universities installed there. Students were the major part of the population and made everything more lively, young and restless. We stopped for a late lunch and a walk around the mall. The hotel was located in front of the mall, so it was easy to find it. 

In this hotel, another experience was waiting for me. That night Fenerbahçe, a Turkish football team, was playing. Firat supported  Fenerbahçe with all his heart (he had the team name tattooed on his forearm) and was anxious to watch the match. He told about his routine when his team was playing and was working on a tour. He chose a bar or Caffe and order nuts and beer and watch the match on the full screen (seemed to me all bars and coffees in Turkey had one big screen). He had seen something similar in the hotel, the bar in the lobby had a big screen and probably will show the match later. Inviting me to come with him, I thanks but said I preferred to stay in the room and have a relaxing night. 

Alone in my room, I order some nuts, a sandwich and raki, turned on the television. When a knock on my door come, it was a surprise. It was Firat asking me if he could watch the match with me. I smiled and said, of course, he could. It was an experience observing how nervous he turned during the game. My analyse said football fans are the same all around the world. By the way, Fenerbahçe won that night.

After Safranbolu and Amasra returning to Ankara was something a kind of down. The next morning, the anxiety to move on, put the foot on the road and visit another ancient place was running on my skin. The breakfast took ages, and the checkout an eternity. In the end, we left the hotel, and I was ready.

However, the tour guide had something to ask, a favour I couldn’t deny. He wanted to visit a friend who just had joined the army. The first thing I would like to understand what meant “join the army”. In Brazil, every male in the year they would complete 18 years old, are obliged to enlist to the army and serve for at least one year. In Turkey, I found it was a bit different. In Turkey, like in Brazil, the military is mandatory, but differently, some rules about age and formation applied. A male should refer to the army before they complete their 38th birthday and the period they will expend in the military will depend from if they had a university degree. For those who sustain only a technical degree, as a tour guide, they should expend 15 months at the army, a university graduated, on the other hand, should spend six months. In some cases, the male can opt to pay something around 5 thousand Liras being then dismissed

Esat, Firat’s friend, was a tour guide, so he would serve for at least 15 months. My guide had discovered his friend was serving in the Ankara region and had the idea to visit him since Esat had more 13 months ahead. But the visit would not be something simple. First, Firat did not know where was the base Esat was based. We began a search, ending in the middle of nowhere inside a military base in the planes of Ankara province. “You might have to stay in the car…” I thought to me would be no problem staying at the car; actually, I preferred since I had not a good impression about how the Turkish military treated foreign people. 

Stopping in a barrier, my guide talked with the sentinels. One of them indicated a parking lot where few cars were parked. I was preparing myself to wait for at least one hour, but Firat had changed his mind. “Leave everything here, phone, camera, and bring only your passport”. My heart pounded on my chest. I was walking into a military building without any reason apart satisfies Firat desire to meet Esat.

The place had a building in a tone that mixed with nature around was modern, clean, making me think about a border school than a military base. We waited in a room while the soldier on the reception search for Esat. After fifteen minutes, the surprise. Esat did not serve in this base. Upset, Fırat seemed likely to give up. Well, I knew him a little better now, I understood it was just an impression. He called Esat, and he told him where we should go.

Half an hour later, we were entering another military base, this one in an Ankara’s neighbourhood. Delivering trucks were coming and going, there were bank branches and lots of people coming to the base. We were directed to a room where several people were visiting other men serving. There were women visiting husbands, women with children attending their father, mothers visiting their sons. Sometimes, entire families were there, sitting in round tables having a çay and talking with men in uniform. Even business was being carried in one of the tables.

Esat and his now wife

When finally Esat entered the room, I was faced with a man in his late twenties with green eyes and a big smile. He was pleased to see Firat, and I was introduced as a friend. As a tour guide himself, Esat had an excellent English (better than Firat’s English), which allowed me talking with someone who really could understand what I was saying. We had a good thirty minutes conversation and left with a promise to return one day.

Later, when I had already returned to Brazil, Firat told me Esat had left the army because he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. It was a blow upon his life’s plan. He had a fiancée and planed had children. Firat was very upset and sad. Esat however, overcomes his illness and married moving to live in Cappadocia. 

Leaving the military base behind, the next stop was related to a myth: Midas. The legend of Midas is widely known. The king who had the gift of turning everything he touched into gold. In Anatolia, he was also called Midas Donkey Ears.

Midas was the son of Gordias and Cybele. It is said that he received the gift of transforming everything he touches into gold from Bacco, after helping one of Bacco’s favourite satyr to find his way back after excessive intake of wine. Soon, Midas realised how much the ability to turn anything he touched into gold could be disastrous. He began to ask questions: How do I feed? Or reach other people or me? The legend said he had transformed his daughter in a golden statue when touching her. 

The Galatian Tomb

Midas prayed to Bacco, asking to free him from the golden touch. Bacco took some time to hear Bacco’s prays, and Midas despair increased day by day.  Finally, Bacco answered to Midas prayers send him to wash his hands in the Pactolus River. It’s said the sands of the river turned into gold, transforming the river into a source of gold for the people,

Other legends about Bacco showed how the king was poor to make a choice. Called to be an arbiter in a contest between Apollo and Pan, Midas chose Pan as the best musician. Apollo, to show how stupid was the choice, gave Midas donkey ears. Well-deserved, in my opinion, choosing the god of the shepherds instead of the god of music as the best musician is not a sensible choice.

We reached a small village; on the way I had noticed in the horizon a series of hills like the ones I saw near Sardis. Firat had told me the mountain were Tumuli of kings and influential people of Lidia and Frigia civilisations.  The village of Yassıhöyük has about 600 inhabitants, a small town. There we could visit the Museum of Gordion and the Galatian Tomb, which was removed from its original location to the museum to avoid being destroyed. Mosaics found on a farm near the museum were also moved to the museum. The pieces in the museum were displayed in a way to show the chronology of the region. However, what attracted people to there was the Midas Tumulus. In fact, today is believed that is the tomb in not from Midas but his father

Inside the tumulus

It was a cold and grey day, and the museum was dark (all light was off), and there wasn’t anybody around. What was calling us was the tomb itself. The tumulus was dated from 740 BC and covered by a mount of earth. The entrance, guarded by a gate (open that day), lead to a corridor where we could see the story of the tomb in a series of panels on the walls. At the end of the passage, we could see the tomb protected by another gate, and the metallic structure supporting the hill above. 

The place where the sarcophagus was found

Leaving the tumulus, we stopped in a restaurant near the museum for a çay. That time, many students had their break making lots of loud conversation, laughing and having their drinks outside in the cold. 

Firat decides we should stop in  Eskişehir, a city that had been growing thanks to the number of Universities installed there. Students were the major part of the population and made everything more lively, young and restless. We stopped for a late lunch and a walk around the mall. The hotel was located in front of the mall, so it was easy to find it. 

In this hotel, another experience was waiting for me. That night Fenerbahçe, a Turkish football team, was playing. Firat supported  Fenerbahçe with all his heart (he had the team name tattooed on his forearm) and was anxious to watch the match. He told about his routine when his team was playing and was working on a tour. He chose a bar or Caffe and order nuts and beer and watch the match on the full screen (seemed to me all bars and coffees in Turkey had one big screen). He had seen something similar in the hotel, the bar in the lobby had a big screen and probably will show the match later. Inviting me to come with him, I thanks but said I preferred to stay in the room and have a relaxing night. 

Eskişehir

Alone in my room, I order some nuts, a sandwich and raki, turned on the television. When a knock on my door come, it was a surprise. It was Firat asking me if he could watch the match with me. I smiled and said, of course, he could. It was an experience observing how nervous he turned during the game. My analyse said football fans are the same all around the world. By the way, Fenerbahçe won that night.

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