The Green and the Red, the Old and the New
As we made our transition from Istanbul to the rolling green hills of Ankara, I began to appreciate how little I knew of what to expect traveling east in the Anatolian peninsula. Our group set out today with our eyes glued to the windows as we drove at a speed of more than 5 mph (definitely do not miss the Istanbul traffic). We saw the growth of the capital city set against the backdrop of mountains. Coming from Atlanta, where green is everywhere, it was nice to find myself once again surrounded by vegetation and not just urban sprawl.
However, even within the urban sprawl, there was a remarkable melding of old architecture and artifact with modern construction and technology. Beside the Temple of Augustus, build around 20 BCE, and the 17th century Haci Bayran-I Mosque, there are outdoor escalators and recorded music playing from hidden speakers around the fountains found in the park. These lush green gardens stand in contrast to the red-roofed buildings that surrounded the old city, which made me realize the seeming scarcity of water. To my surprise, our tour guide, Ramiz, said laughingly that there were no lakes in Ankara, a landlocked city. And suddenly those flourishing gardens represented a lot more than a place to escape on a lazy Sunday. It makes me wonder where the water comes from in a city where there are prosperous plots of vegetation amongst the arid and dusty city structures.
While walking through the Roman ruins and old town of Ankara, Ramiz mentioned how he considers the city an open-air museum. Exploring the citadel and observing life around the parks and old cities, I wanted to extend that idea to an open-air, inclusive experience where the past and the future meet. A museum is a place where one can observe history, whereas Ankara has been a place where one is situated in and able to converse with history. Being invited into a mosque with preserved walnut columns from the 12th and 13th century allowed us to physically engage with the past. It makes me wonder what those trees would say if they could talk.