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Sivas

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Although I have to watch what I eat its still an important part of the experience when on the road to try the local grub, some of it converts you for life. This mornings student brekkie was not one of those occasions unfortunately. I can only describe it as sour rice soup, a real gruel and I couldnt even force myself to eat it, unknown for me. I went to the Sivas Museum hungry.

The attraction of the museum was the place itself as much as anything. A grand yet unremarkable former school building, it had secured a place in the history of Turkey as the venue from which the nationalist movement formulated plans for the War of Independence. "Here is where we laid the foundations of our republic" said Ataturk. The date of the congressional decision (4th September 1919) is now inscribed over each doorway. The main chambers have been preserved as they were, the Congress room, the Delegates room, Ataturks bedroom, the Cable room (with original radio) and the Printing room. The printing press manufactured in Brussels was used here during the critical years to produce a twice weekly newsletter of which there were many examples in both Latin and Arabic script. I managed to translate the title Irade-I Milliye as meaning National Will. They still dated it in the old Islamic calendar, around the 1330s.

There was an assortment of mainly unexciting Ottoman artifacts, ceramics, weapons, clothing and copperware, a horse drawn carriage and and a room of very old and very large carpets. One of the few captions in English bragged that carpets were a Turkish invention, the oldest known one having been found during the excavation of a site at Pazirik. There was an enlargement of an early Turkish banknote with Ataturks portrait, written both in old Turkic script and surprisingly French, a bill for 500 Livres Turques. I also learnt a little bit more about the Tekkes, the Mevlevi Dervish convents. They were actually used by various sects and the large ones were known as Dergah, the smaller ones which were not live-in Zaviye. Tekkes dedicated for use by travellers or the poor were known as Hankah.

There were the many habitual photos of Ataturk, a couple of which had quotes in English which I recorded. One was of the dude at a Seminar of Linguistics in 1932 in which he said "The links between national feelings and language are very strong. A rich nationl language is the main factor in the development of national feelings. Turkish is among the richest languages; nonetheless its richness deserves to be consciously utilised and developed. The Turkish nation who has succeeded in preserving its homeland and independence must also set its language free from the domination of foreign languages". Hence the otherwise general lack of English captioning then! The point about preserving its homeland is a distraction however since Turkish is historically a Central Asian tongue, one of 16 along with the likes of Turkmen, Kazak and Kyrgyz. Surprisingly, though now considered a branch in its own right, it is believed to be derived from the same root as the Finno-Ugric group, peoples who look like chalk and cheese. It certainly helps explain its complexity though! By now I had chipped away at Turkish and even managed to surprise locals occasionally with 4 or 5 word phrases. Still very frustrating though.

Conveniently located around the heart of the city, Sivas is also renowned for its well preserved Seljuk architecture, its Medrese of 1271 being considered the best remaining example. They are characterised by their very ornate islamic influenced doorways. Inside the courtyard there was a tourist trap of sorts though walking round it I was surprisingly left unpestered. On sale were examples of Ebru, a traditional style of painting much used in the decoration of books. Nearby lies the Twin Minaret Medrese, of which only the front facade remains. Surprisingly it was built by the Mongols (more renowned for knocking such things down) after they gubbed the Seljuks at the nearby battle of Kosedag (Mount Kose), it was originally used as a faculty of Islamic Law. It was my first encounter with classical Islamic blue tiling reminiscent of Central Asia, although unfortunately not much of it survives. A taste of what to come though. Directly opposite is the earlier Healing Medrese of 1218, a hospital of sorts which doubled as a Faculty of Medicine. It is blessed with another very elaborate entranceway and courtyard. It was the largest in Anatolia when the Seljuks built it, wherein they attempted to treat the mentally ill with music and faith healing. Aff their heids themselves obviously! Inside can be found the tomb of the Sultan who created it, Izzetin Keyvakus I who perversely died of TB in 1220 shortly after its completion. The tombs cobalt blue tiled facade was in very good nick, covered in Arabic stylised inscription, I love this stuff.

It hadnt taken long to square away the sights of Sivas and so with the rest of the day I must have spent 5 straight hours on the net trying to get my diary moved along. Back with the boys, we sat and watched my team Besiktas getting gubbed 2-1 by Dynamo Bucharest. They turned down flat the offer to share my beer, it was Harram (unislamic).

Posted by andyhay 23:00 Archived in Turkey

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