Having returned ( Like General Macarthur ! ) from the perils of the Levant , and quenched various domestic "Fires" I am now free to continue our vexed discussion regarding the entry of Turkey into the E U .
It would be silly of me to judge the whole nation from an airborne glimpse of eastern Thrace , and a fortnight lazing around the city of Istanbul , probably the most un-Turkish city in the country , but I did get off the tourist round and got to talk to people unassociated with the visitor trade there .
I was surprised to see the pace of redevelopment in the area - as in Greece , new motorways , urban light rail and tramways , modernisation of the railways and docks/harbours all well in hand , and all done without E U financial support ( which will please you , R F !
Within the walls of the old city ( approximately a triangle 5 Km each side ) there are some very run down areas equating to the areas of the U Ks cities that were cleared as "Slums" in the 1930s . However these are being cleared and replaced with modern building , with , as usual , a little too much zeal for the new start , so that certain buildings which would be picked out in a current redevelopment scheme here as worthy of preservation/conservation are there adding to the rubble piles .
I was impressed by the standard of "Urban Design" in the new areas , quite as good as anything in the West , carefully carried out , and suited to the traffic across the spaces ,i.e. generally standing up well to the routine wear and tear . Their urban landscape architects plainly have talent . This can also be seen around the open spaces in the historic bits too , the new work blends well with the old .
The Economy there does not depend upon Tourism , though that is an important sector and crucial to a few limited areas of the city . Much of the city is busy with other things unrelated to visitors .
There seems to be considerable "Under-employment" there , in that many people about on the streets are engaged in "McOccupations" , not just the hawkers and peddlars to the tourists but many more hawking and peddling to the population , sometimes items of utter inutility , porters with handcarts wandering about and crying out that they are for hire , others in the rabbit-warrens of the Bazaars who carry huge loads about on their backs , bent near double under a species of packframe , or human pack-saddle , which they generally hire for a few Lira per day before setting out to sell their own carrying capacity on a casual basis in the alleys and lanes .
About the most casual of casual-labour imaginable .
I discussed the benefits of these precarious and unrewarding existences with tavern aquaintances there and was assured that these "occupations" were regarded as far more respectable than straight begging or taking state welfare benefits , regarded as the last resort of the hopelessly helpless , impaired and vulnerable in society .
Better to stand on a street corner with a carboard tray with a few packets of tissues , a handful of ballpoint pens and half-a-dozen cheap cigarette lighters to proffer to passers-by .
Interesting . I thought WE were the ones with the "Protestant work ethic" .
That this kind of activity is generally regarded as morally preferable to to begging/benefit claiming is of course healthier too for the individual , as they are less likely to succumb to the isolation and depression that are the product of Unemployment as experienced in our more advanced society .
The Mosques were traditionally the central core building of complexes that provided much of the historical social care in Islamic society , including soup kitchens for the poor .
I was in one of the big Mosques and stuck my head into the room marked "Information" to learn more , got greeted like a long lost brother , and chatted for about three hours , and was surprised to be told in the course of that , that this aspect of their charitable work was pretty much redundant , and that simple hunger was no longer a problem as was routine up to fifty years ago (except for a very few people in desperate states) .
Regarding potential entrance into the E U , I was surprised to hear mixed views and dubiety around the issue , in several seperate discussions .
I found that the Turks I met were generally strongly nationalist in sentiment in the sense of wanting to preserve their own identity , and were puzzled to hear that there were misgivings among some in the West who regard their accession to the E U as the spearpoint of some new islamist irruption into Europe .
Bearing in mind that these were Istanbullis , citizens of one of the world's most polyglot cities , their view of themselves was as Europeans and secular in nature and inclinations , albeit with strong original roots in Islam and as (nominally) descendants of hordes of horseborne warriors galloping majestically across the Steppes .
Several expressed reservations about what they saw as potentially becoming subsumed within an amorphous E U , and feared an incoming surge of immigrants from the richer western nations who would drive up all the prices and fundamentally alter their ways .
( Now where have we heard that before ?
Few expressed any interest in moving to another european country to live , and those that did mostly said they would go to Germany , where the links have been very strong for a hundred years now .
As a people I found that they varied widely , from people as pallid as those of us who inhabit the damp and cold northwest of Europe , through the dark Mediterranean types , to occasional people of Asiatic appearance , which given the history one would expect .
Turkey traditionally accepted Religious refugees , famously the European Jews fleeing the renaissance era european persecutions , more recently (and something of which I was unaware) many southern and eastern european Roma , Gypsies , fleeing from the Nazis during WW2 ,
and currently Moslem populations fled from Bosnia (there is a whole new district of the city named "Yeni-Bosna" = new Bosnia) , others from the on-going troubles in the Caucasus states , Chechens , Ingush , Dagestanis , and yet others from further away Kazakstanis , Uzbeks , even Uighir people from Sinkiang and the present Chinese oppressions there .
In dress the men are wholly European , a few old men still wearing the skullcaps , baggy "crap-catcher" trousers and other traditional clothing . The women mostly wear a headscarf ( but then so does the Queen and dear Princess Anne !
) together with an light coat that reaches down to mid-calf , but there are few wearing the Chador - say two or three per hundred ? I was told that most that do are from the more conservative areas far to the East , nearby Iran .
To sum up then , on the point about Turkey coming in to the E U , I see little reason to fear that .
" Relax ! No-one else is going to be fool enough to be sailing about in this fog ."