ESTIEM Europe 3D – Turkey

ESTIEM Europe 3D – Turkey

Ankara, Istanbul

21-28 February 2011

Europe. Turkey. Istanbul. Narrow street in Mecidiyeköy. Nice yellow taxi. We’re rushing 90kmh among the other cars and the by-passers who are reckless enough to jump into the middle of the road time to time. The driver is holding the wheel and a butt of cigarette in the same time with his left hand, the right one is obviously only for gesticulation. He’s swearing at Fenerbahçe because of its last lucky game against Beşiktas and slapping me on the back “gently” as I express my sympathy. He doesn’t get my connection with Eskişehirspor though. Instead of further explanations I’m deliriously grabbing at the seat with both hands and when in the cacophony of thousand horns we almost crash into a minibus, I feel it’s high time I fastened my belt. “Allahallah” he says and laughs at me. Then he starts an endless monologue which I don’t understand half of it, but the point is to emphasize I couldn’t be in biggest safety anywhere else in the world. And somehow I trust him.

The aim I risked my life for was the participation on the upcoming event of the Europe 3D project organised by the student organisation of ESTIEM on 21-27th February 2011. It’s a kind of state promotion where the given nations present themselves regarding the aspects of politics, economics and culture fostering a better understanding of each other, the spread of local values and occasionally the demolition of false prejudices. The latter one, unfortunately, also has its need in regard of Turkey because of historical and migration reasons.

The curtain rose in the middle of Anatolia, in Ankara that is the capital and the vast bureaucratic centre of the country. After a memorable international night in the morning we listened to a high-standard lecture in connection with the first dimension presented by Prof. Ilker Aytürk from the hosting Bilkent University. Beginning with the early ramblings of the Turk peoples (led by the Seljuks), through the glorious Ottoman conquests to the radical reforms issued by Atatürk we could follow the history of the Turkish states in a nutshell. When it came to the politics of today a stream of questions flowed onto the professor. Though the functioning of some fundamental institutions of the modern democracies (eg. checks & balances, distribution of power) leave much to be desired in the present day Turkey, the basis of the government party (AKP) and the prime minister (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) is solid. On the field of human rights and minority policy the republic is progressing step by step but the situation of the Kurds representing around 20% of the population is still not satisfying in many aspects. In the long run Turkey arrived at cross-roads: further approach of the highly critical western countries or stepping back toward the transforming Islamic world. The direction significantly determines the future of all of us and in my view the European Union should be more receptive in this case among others with restarting the stuck joining negotiations.

 

In the capital we visited the mausoleum of the great reformer, general and statesman Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in Turkish the Anıtkabir. It’s due to this outstanding historical character that Turkey managed to resurrect from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, successfully stood up against the unjust peace treaties of the Entente Powers after the First World War and hit the road of secular modernisation. On the scenic square of the public facility we (almost literally) run into the president of Malaysia who just had shown his respect for the great man according to the rules of international relations. He may have come to Turkey in order to discuss with Erdoğan, but rumours took wing saying he just wanted to have a freaking party with the ESTIEM guys for the personal call of our talented organiser Kemal Apaydın… 🙂 After that followed by several security checks we got an insight in Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi ie. the Parliament, residency of the national legislation. Generally speaking, despite being naughty schoolboys and girls we bore ourselves better than some of the politicians whom had to be warned not to talk louder than the speaker himself.

On the next day we continued the journey in the picturesque village of Beypazarı that was a significant trading spot of the Silk Road in the Ancient Times. After having a luxurious Anatolian breakfast served on the ground with all kinds of olives, cheese and even carrot jam we spent the early afternoon in a special living museum. We could take our chance in painting water (sic!, ebru sanatı) which later materialized on a colourful piece of paper (back home I got extra dinner from my mum for that). In the frames of the so-called kurşun döktürme a lady crashed molten lead into a pot just above our heads while murmuring parts from the Koran so that she could tell if we have any serious admirer or criticaster in our lives. She said I was free of any demonic impact which I was pleased to hear after spending half of my fortune on protecting evil eye stones (nazar boncuğu)… 🙂 Then upstairs we put on the costumes of Turkish puppets. It was such a compellingly childlike feeling to be a little kukla!

On Thursday we arrived at Istanbul, this magnificent metropolis being located on two continents and which history can be traced back to many thousands years. I might be somewhat biased for this city but I believe it can be barely compared by any other place in the world. The thousand colours of the Golden Horn with its uncountable tiny boats and vessels reflecting the image of the sky and the towering minarets; the merging cries of ship-horns, seagulls, street sellers & musicians and the world of scents like the unique flavour of roasted chestnuts make Istanbul extraordinary. This place is addictive, generates a whirlpool of feelings and those who haven’t been here yet, do not know Turkey at all.

From that time on the guys from Boğaziçi Uni took over our coordination led by the always smiling Mutlu Erman. On Friday morning Eral Yılmaz, economic research manager of Akbank gave a vividly descriptive presentation about the economical figures of the country. We were glad to see the central bank managed to cut back the chronically high inflation rate to single-digit numbers after the hardships of the late 90’s and the launch of new currency in 2005 signs the beginning of a new prosperous era. Even the effects of the global financial crisis were tided over relatively smoothly in Turkey. Of course the economical lines are affected by politics as well. In this context it’s intriguing that on the field of Turkish external trade in recent years commerce with the EU is constantly shrinking while economical interaction with the Islam world significantly grew.

It’s hard to pick the most pleasant one among the tremendous fun we had but one of the best was undoubtedly eating. Gastronomy flourishes in this country. Some examples can be the special dumpling mantı containing spiced meat mixture in dough wrapper, the hand rolled tasty pastry called gözleme or the worldwide well-known roasted lamb kebab with its huge number of variants. If you’re interested in the topic please pay a visit to the amazing blog of Timea Slavic at http://coffeeandcroissant.blogspot.com! Timi also documented expressively the trip to heaven, the most famous baklava house all around Turkey called Güllüoğlu. The name means Güllü’s son and the charismatic boss spoken-of Nadir Güllü was really there showing us around joyfully in his fascinating empire. Another divine gift was (for some of the guys at least) looking around in a factory of the number one Turkish brand of beer Efes. For those who appreciate the magic of the “fluid bread” this experience will be hard to forget, just like the one-hour-long free “tasting” that followed the tour. After that we managed to reach a higher level of spiritual consciousness while sharing some funny facts about the world in the back of the bus… 🙂

 

That’s because if some joyous youngsters come upon each other they will definitely find a reason… and a way to celebrate! It was like this in the windy-chilly Ankara when a bunch of enthusiastic ESTIEMers were on the verge of freezing to death on the wastelands between two departments in the huge campus of Bilkent. But they were tough enough not to pass away before striking the ideal place for a frantic party: a nice & cosy ATM booth… But God/Allah works in a mysterious way. After these humble conditions on the following day we had the chance to heat a flaming atmosphere in one of the classiest clubs of whole Istanbul. It was hard to spot too many students apart from ourselves… Middle-aged brokers, sales managers, property investors and some other well-dressed guys with questionable professions surrounded by sparsely dressed young girls made up the guest list in Reina. By the way, it just shows our versatility – I can hardly imagine an opposite situation, namely when these guys would make a crazy party in an ATM booth bouncing, dancing & playing activity with the security camera… 😉

Even if I look back at this week through the glasses of AEGEE (where due to our 13000 members we have hundreds of high-quality events year by year) I must say we took part on an awesome event! Thanks for the persistent work of the organisers through several months and for this splendid international team that came together there. I’m grateful we had this chance to get an insight of this… erm, i run out of English superlatives… fevkalade country and I’m sure this station of the E3D project planted many seeds that will have their positive effects later on. Teşekkür ederiz dostlarım, hadi görüşürüz! ’Cause we all got a bit turkified! 😉

            Zoltán Rácz, March 2011

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