Joy of living and hyper control
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Istanbul, September 7, 2022
3 weeks in Turkey, soon 4, and still struggling to keep up with the dynamics of the country.
Since our entry on the Western side, exit on the Asian side, before Batumi (Georgia), and new entry and final exit, we have been photographed and filmed daily. Of course it is for our security! Not a single place without a camera installed, whether on the private or public domain. (If only one place without camera: the Hasan Dagi summit at 3220m of altitude!) This impression of "Big Brother is watching you" is heavy. This gives a controlled atmosphere, the smile is rare, the effusions of joy very rare, everyone remains in his row, it is magnificent, a true model of society. In the museum, cameras everywhere, request for presentation of identity papers, metal detector gates everywhere in the stores, museums, a real pleasure, especially when you have to go through with loaded bikes, climb stairs, go down.
A police/gendarmerie/army on every street corner
What would my former colleagues in charge of security in Yverdon-les-Bains think? The police are everywhere. They stop the buses at night, in the middle of the bush, for an identity check. The identity papers are confiscated from all the passengers of the bus for a few minutes, without any prior explanation. The papers are returned in bulk, in a box that each person passes around, retrieving his or her document from among those of the others. The notion of proximity police is there, the one so much wished by our fellow citizens, but the smile, the help, do not go with it. How many times have we struggled in front of the military, gendarmes, police officers, to comply with their requests, with our loaded bicycles, without any help, any smile?
The names of birds and other borboryms specific to Captain Haddock have reasoned many times in my head. I forgot the weaponry. I loved visiting the Tokapi Palace in Istanbul with military men with their finger on the trigger of a mini Uzi (mini machine gun). I loved walking into any store in Istanbul with an armed guard. The weapons are everywhere, the military have at least two visible, a delirium!
Joyless public places
The preliminary observations give you in the end sad pictures. Beaches without noise, no music, spoiled kids crying at times. Bistro terraces under control - exceptions made during soccer matches but only in a few beer bars, duly confined to one street of Fenerbache, a nice street by the way, the only one really in our whole Turkish trip.
An atmosphere of death in Erzerum (very conservative environment - 99% of women are veiled), an atmosphere of devotees around the mosques of Saint Sophia (read our brief), no atmosphere at the seaside which becomes painful, even the backgammon players, are calm, domino players etc... nothing to do with the Pagnol-like scenes in the gardens of Bari. The deep countryside, crossed in Anatolia at the end of Cappadocia, is worse. No noise, old people playing in silence, on squares overheated by the sun, old people sipping a tea at 20 cts in Derinkuyu, in Ihlara, watching us from the corner of the eye, a heavy silence for us, while we are in a sunny country, which could rhyme with joy, pleasure, life! We feel spied on, stared at, tolerated, not welcome at all! What a contrast with all the other countries we visited. We think that this disastrous impression was amplified by the fact of having curiously, contrary to the other countries, missed several connections with inhabitants, professionals of the country. Clearly, the contacts with the hoteliers were professional, but without warmth, each one remains in his row, a reminder of the Soviet times in the countries of the former union!
Fortunately, the humanity and hospitality is provided by the dogs and cats!
It is impossible to finish this brief without a note of humor.
Istanbul, Kadikoy quays, September 6th, 6pm, last rays of the sun, illuminating the inevitable stray dog, this one is dedicated to welcoming customers who have to step over it before entering the shop and pass in front of the real armed guard, but much less friendly!