Friday, May 1, 2009

It's no longer Constantinople

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I've been in Turkey for much of the last week -- three days in Istanbul and 3 in Ankara.  The weather has been lousy in both places and I've had a cold so didn't do much, which is a shame because I really do like Istanbul.  Ankara is less interesting.  Gertrud and I spent 5 days in Istanbul in the 90s and I was also here one other time so at least I've seen the highlights.  The Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazzar, Topkapi and many of the historical sites really are incredible.  We want to come back to Turkey again, but next time it would be to Anatolya, Capadocia and the Turkish Islands.

Barak Obama was here about a week before me and made a generally good impression on the Turks.  It looks like he has the Turks and the Armenians considering reestabishing relations after many years which would be a real feather in his cap.  He avoided mentioning the "G" word - - meaning Armenian Genocide although he described it in enough detail that many Turks are saying he might as well have said it.

I visited Armenia two years ago and was amazed at how close Yerevan, the Capital, is to the Turkish Border (about 20 miles).  From my desk in the Embassy I could see snow covered Mount Ararat, one of the holiest sites in Armenian history and religion which sits completely in modern Turkey.  And the Turks have closed the border which prevents the Armenians from being able to visit it.   Many Armenian brands are named after Mount Ararat (e.g. their most popular rum which has a picture of the snow-covered mountain on the label). And as you all probably know, Mount Ararat is said to be where Noah's Ark came to rest when the flood subsided.   So I guess the dilema for the Armenians now is whether they are willing to renew diplomatic relations with the Turks to be able to climb on Mount Ararat or whether they will hold out until the Turks own up to the Armenian Genocide (

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