Turkey: A visit and a broader perspective


When you visit Turkey like I did it’s hard not to realize you’re in a country where Islam is the main religion. Not that I have any problem with that. I’m a very spiritual person, but not a religious one. There’s a big difference. I’m not affiliated with any church -never was, never will be. Yet very spiritual. Of course. I respect all religions in the same way. The main religion of this country is not more visible than the Catholic Church in Rome and both are not disturbing at all. Also, strictly taken Turkey is not Islamic. The Islam is not mentioned once in the Turkish constitution and Turkish law forbids civil servants to show any sign of religion like wearing scarfs over the heads of women. Also, the Turkish government has seized control over All religious schools. Actually the army is the guardian of the Turkish Republic and protects it from extremist Islamic forces. In the past the army has shown to remove powers if they try to make a religiously governed country out of Turkey. The army and the current government have a strong intention to keep Turkey a democratic and secular country where religion and government are clearly separated just like France, Germany and the USA. So there is no state religion and all religions are allowed. Also a feature that distinguishes Turkey from a lot of other countries in the region is that, although the vast majority of the people are Muslim, they are not Arabs and do not speak Arab. The Turkish language is very unique in the world. Only Turkish people speak it or people that are ethnically linked to the Turkish. Interestingly the Turkish originated from central Asia about a 1000 years ago being Nomads and having a Shamanic religion. They came to the Turkish region in two ways and in several waves. The first of them were captured during Arabic raids in central Asia and became mercenaries because of their excellent fighting capacities. The Turkish adopted the faith of those they initially served. It didn’t take long before they started fighting form themselves and conquered land to be their own. The first of their lands were in Anatolia in current Turkey. They conquered these lands from the Eastern Roman Empire aka the Byzantine Empire with its capital being Constantinople, currently named Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey. They were very successful military and ruling their conquered land. The main success factor was that they respected the people they conquered, only charging taxes without forcing them to change their religion. Also, they did never appoint ministers and civil servants based upon their status, ancestry or anything else but their quality to do the job. There was hardly any corruption.

Knowing this, one wonders what made the Ottoman Empire to grow and the Western Roman Empire to finally collapse. As I said, the Ottomans at first were only one of the competing Seltshook powers in Anatolia that finally were to rule all others in the region and finally conquered Bulgaria, Iraq, Northern Africa, Palestine and in 1683 nearly captured Vienna. Like I said before the Ottomans were quite friendly to those they conquered. So much in fact, a lot of farmers fled from the lands of their European nobility and wanted to work on Ottoman lands because they only had to work a few days a year for their new masters in stead of 2 days a week in the Feudal system. Most of them were formerly even owned by the European Aristocrats. The Ottomans did not make a difference in the way they treated different people. There’s a reason for that. They were once enslaved themselves and adopted the faith of their Islamic masters, the Arabs. Their original faith was Shamanic which explains the Shamanic like tradition of the Sufi’s that are not very Islamic. They are merely adapted into an Islamic culture just like Alevite Muslims whose traditions resemble Greek Orthodox and Catholic rituals. Hence their homeland once was part of the Western Roman Empire that had the Greek Orthodox faith after they split of from the Catholic Church in 1057 AD. The Ottomans had several flows of Turkmene people that fled from central Asia from attacks of the Mongols. the Ottomans friendly received their new brothers. And thus their empire grew.

In interesting point is the half moon and five pointed star in the Turkish flag and many other flags of Islamic countries. These symbols are pre-Islamic and pre-Christian and even Pagan. They are also Masonic. They say the half moon has to do with the half moon that appeared the night the Ottomans captured and nearly destroyed Constantinople. Sultan Mehmed II was infuriated by Constantine II, the Byzantine Emperor, who spread word that there was a different heir to the throne of the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople was all but destroyed and people slaughtered, women raped. The knights of the fourth crusade did about the same in 1204 so this plundering actually had nothing to do with religion. Was it business as usual in Medeaval warfare? The Byzantines are known for having destroyed cities to the ground themselves, so it was not a new thing to commit such a crime.

I’ve contemplated religion a lot. That’s because religions tend to bind as well as divide people. I once figured that the world would be a better place if there would be only one religion or none at all. The first option unfortunately implies that everyone is bonded to that religion which would make it obligatory and I would strongly oppose to that. So the option would be no religion at all.

Being a libertarian (a strong defender of freedom) I would not suggest forbidding religion and all societies that have done so in the past have dubious reputations.

A typical Muslim thing is that once born a Muslim, one is always considered to stay one, even if one would leave the religion, which is also strongly forbidden and opposed to. Some people have become well known not to say famous because they left the Muslim faith. On the one hand, I think people should be free to do so. On the other hand, I ask myself if I would bother taking all the risk and the effort of leaving the religion. I guess I wouldn’t. I would choose to consider myself to be a liberal Muslim and that would be the end of the story. The Muslim faith in Turkey is so common, so everywhere and everyone’s that it’s like a brotherhood, a family relationship, it’s part of the culture nearly everyone has in common. Like Roman Catholicism in France, Spain and Italy. There’s no discussion about it.
From a cultural and national point of view that’s a good thing and I guess no one would have a problem with it as long as they are not forced into the faith.

It struck me how well-organized this country is. Let me give you an example. I’m here for leisure with my family. We’re in a five star hotel with more luxury one could wish for. Certainly more than is good for me. Although one could easily compensate the surplus of food by attending the morning gym at the beach. Also, they offer a wide variety of salads with all healthy food required for a balanced diet. This type of hotel also has an excessive amount of noise. At the pool, they play music all day and it depends on your musical taste as well as your desire for rest and quietness whether you like that or not. But I promised you an example, remember?

Walking to the pool one has to descend some little stairs while crossing the terrace and the pavement alongside the swimming pool that lingers around trees that are obviously older than the hotel itself. My daughter missed a step on the second stairs towards the pool. The stairs are very wide and made of the same kind of beige natural stone that makes the whole terrace and actually all the pavement in and outside the hotel. It’s surface is very smooth and thus very slippery when whet. Because of it’s light, identical color the stairs easily blend in with the surrounding pavement. So my daughter slipped and Bruised her ankle. Too bad. The hotel has its own doctor’s post that is in fact more of a remote reception of the hospital they send you to. Like in the US, Turkey has both state and private hospitals. The big difference is that even the private hospitals in Turkey are quite affordable, we discovered.

The receptionist looked at my daughter’s ankle and immediately suggested taking x-rays at the hospital to check whether it was broken or not. I objected to that. I immediately assessed a bandage would be sufficient. My wife opposed to that and understandingly wanted to make sure her ankle was not broken. So we agreed upon paying the hospital a visit. The receptionist, who hardly spoke any language than Turkish, called the hospital and within about 12 minutes a mini bus arrived with a wheel chair to bring the four of us to the local hospital. They handed us some forms to fill in, made copies of our little princess’s passport and insurance card and off we went into an examining room. A doctor with a beard surrounding his entire mouth greeted us. Apparently he didn’t speak any foreign language but his interpreter spoke German fluently. He actually preferred German over English. It’s funny how well a lot of Turkish speak German; Germany is not around the corner and the last time Turkey joined Germany into a fight against their common enemy, Russia, was during World War I. The X-rays were available only minutes after they were taken and the doctor soon confirmed the ankle was bruised, not broken. Yet he insisted upon a solid brace instead of a tight bandage, which we clearly stated we preferred for various reasons. My little boy was very much involved in all that happened in the doctor’s premises and was even handed a pair of rubber handkerchiefs to play doctor as we progressed. The whole excercition lasted for only three quarters of an hour and the little bus took us back to the hotel in a pace that was well above speeding limits. The invoice hit €700,-

I’ve never been helped faster in a hospital than this. Amazing. My daughter was even equipped with a special brace she’s allowed to swim with.

Back at the hotel we needed to make some arrangements. We planned two excursions we now had to cancel. Now some other people were involved. I called the tour operator and made an appointment for the next morning. We met in the lobby. He took the general manager of the hotel with him. The reason for that was that he wanted to find out who was responsible for my daughter slipping on the stairs at the swimming pool. The man was actually the customer care manager of the tour operator. He asked me to write down what happened. So I did. The general manager was very thankful to me when he found out I was not blaming the hotel. I did advise him to attach black rough stripings on the edges of the steps on all stairs made of the luxury beige stone as it would greatly improve their visibility as well as preventing people to slip over them and fall. He responded that safety comes in different levels and he would consider my advice. The interesting thing about it all in my opinion was that there was a customer care manager involved. Also that he was considering blaming the hotel to have them pay for my cancellation. Some forms had To be filled in and when I get home we should see the amount redeemed in our bank account. I found their approach very professional and cooperative and very much different from affairs in Greece, Spain and France. Although I like those countries as much as I like Turkey. The customer care manager also apologized for his poor English although I found his English not poor at all. He just spoke German a lot better I guess like a lot of Turkish as I mentioned earlier.

When meetings tourists here I can really feel that they don’t have a clue where we are from. It doesn’t matter to the Turkish, they like Germans as much as Russians and all other people. Maybe they don’t like the Greek but you wouldn’t find them here anyway for obvious reasons. It’s the Russians who don’t know whether I’m from Germany or not. I know for sure that Russians like the Polish are not very fond of Germans; the second World War is still fresh in their memory. I’ve encountered the same thing in France: first they thought I was a German just because I’m blond, especially when I’m in the sun for a week or so. When they find out I’m not German, they start to smile and are surprised by my ability to speak French with them.
Over here I meet the Russians who maybe think we are Germans. My wife and my kids are very blond, my kids even have a kind of white hair after a week in the blazing Turkish sun. There is a big difference in the elder Russians and the youngsters. The latter a far better dressed, although I would not want my wife to dress like those young women do. It’s a kind of modern, sexy style, they way they dress. Not our style but we’re fine with that. Second, they look a lot more happy than the elder Russians. The elderly look they are coming straight from a communist party bureau and are about to inspect a group of red army soldiers. You get the picture? Last evening I sat at a table waiting for my wife and kids to come down. An elder Russian woman quite aggressively asked me something in Russian. It was about one of the chairs at the table. The thing is, you can ask the thing about a chair at the table and depending on how you ask it the answer would be yes or no if the chair is not available like what was the case in this instance. So I said “no” and she wanted to take away the chair assuming that I answered her question in Russian that would have been something like: “is this chair taken?”. But I answered “no”, assuming that she asked: “is this chair free?” what disturbed me were actually two things. First, the arrogant, not to say aggressive look on her face. Second, that she didn’t even bother trying to ask me something in English, German or French for that matter. Come on, who speaks Russian? I don’t know anyone who does and I speak several languages so give it a try! I actually couldn’t help adding:”you could have asked me in English!” Her face got an even, grimmer look and her reply ended with a word that must mean something like “Russian”. The contrast was a nice young Russian guy that politely asked me in English if one chair would be available to him. I replied as polite as I could to him that such was not the case and I can’t blame him for looking a little annoyed at my table after 5 minutes while I was still waiting for my wife and kids. Some other people even tried sitting down at my table without even asking me. I must say I was a little surprised by the low standards of manners and their general behavior of some people here at the hotel. I already knew that the number of stars of a hotel do not apply to the level of the manners of its guests. Another thing is that this week was the first time I ever saw someone smoking a cigarette while eating. Amazing! Too bad for the fine taste of the food. Not to mention people smoking while others at their table are still eating. This is widely accepted and I had the impression that it was mostly the Turkish doing this. Fortunately all smoking was an outdoor activity. This hotel is fine. I really like the people who work here. They work hard, they are friendly and are very kind to kids. They work very hard on improving details of the hotel that need an update, restoration or repair. They just finished the installation of a new wooden deck on the small peer that goes into sea. A funny thing is the “all inclusive” concept. Somethings it looks like this concept attracts people that also like the “all you can eat” concept. I don’t know, I’m just guessing.

Another thing about Turkey. It appeared to me that this country is styled to the US. I already mentioned the customer care manager from the tour operator that even was examining whether the hotel would be responsible or not. Although it’s becoming more common in Europe these days, blaming and sewing others is a typical American thing. Law firms in the US thrive sewing large companies, several films cover that practice. Also having both state and private hospitals is something that is even prohibited or bind to strict rules or niches in several European countries. When you put on the TV you see Tell-Sell programs, sponge bob and all kinds of programs that look like Dr. Phil or Oprah. Also a Turkish version of CNN and NBC is available. Would it have anything to do with Turkey being a member of NATO?

Another thing. Turkey wants or should I say wanted to join the European Union. Why would they wanna do that? The Euro is in trouble, EU membership is costly, the monetary requirements of Turkey like the interest rate are very different from other countries like Germany or the Netherlands. A status like Norway, Iceland and Switzerland not being members of the EU but being member of the so-called European Space would be the option I would prefer if I was Turkey. But I’m not Turkey. I’m Marcus Rolloos and I’m a personal coach. I help people straighten things out, helping them to look at things form a different perspective. I hope I helped you look at Turkey from a different perspective and I hope you enjoyed the story.

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