Friday, March 16, 2007
I had been to the beautiful city of Istanbul before. So I was looking forward to spending 24 hours in the Turkish capital Ankara to meet some of the country’s up and coming entrepreneurs. The people were great. The city reminded of Albany, New York. Sadly, that's not a good thing. Ankara is a typical capital full of traffic and anonymous government buildings.
After a four-hour flight from London, and a two-hour layover in Istanbul, we then endured a long taxi journey from the Ankara airport to a "conference-type" hotel which meant it was in the middle of nowhere. The hotel staff, however, was great and told us upon arriving that we had been upgraded to suites.
The week only got better from there. We soon flew back to Istanbul.
I learned on my last trip that every interview in Turkey starts with the host offering you tea and a long chat. You have to build that into every shoot. It's not hard to do that when you are shown so much hospitality. My producer, cameraman and I just sat in the office of one of Turkey's rising business stars. You don't want to start setting up the lights and tripod until the ritual is complete. I also think you learn a lot more this way and can spend less time and tape when you have a good idea where your subject stands.
The other reality in Turkey is that the boss is the boss, and there are many people standing around ready to help when you are with him. These people are usually men wearing suits and ties (just like all the taxi drivers.) The only problem is, they are too eager to help. At each location we went during the week, someone was trying to carry the camera or pick up the tripod. It annoyed my cameraman and they kept getting in the shots. They are expected to shadow the boss wherever he goes. That's a problem when you are trying to film him walking with me or on his own.
We were in Turkey to see what the business community can do to convince Europe that this Muslim nation should join the EU. The clear message from everyone is that business is already closely tied to Europe and the politicians will follow. There is so much confidence here that the EU will one day practically beg Turkey to join.
Much of that confidence was shared with us over drinks and dinner at Istanbul's flashy Ulus 29 restaurant. Yes, more food, more good company and more evidence that Turkey is very Western. We talked football, tourism, Italian food. But religion is barely talked about, despite there being mosque nearly on every corner.
One morning we were told to meet one of Turkey’s richest men at a breakfast spot. We arrived, 45 minutes before he did, to find ourselves in the finest restaurant I have ever seen. It was along the banks of the Bosporus and it became clear after a while that the company must have booked the entire place. There were no other patrons. The CEO arrived, complete with security and plenty of people to carry the tripod, and we spent the time eating wonderful eggs, drinking good coffee and talking Turkey.
Then, we were whisked off in his secure VW van to the headquarters. I could not help noticing that wherever we went, people stood when he walked by. In many way Turkey is pushing to be part of Europe, but there are customs that most of Europe has moved beyond.
Turks also like to present gifts to their guests. I can't think of another country where I was given gifts (Turkish Delight of course) after each interview.
I often say you can't have a bad meal in Turkey. You also can’t find rude people. May all of Europe learn from the people who want to be tied closer to Europe but not lose their important links to the East.
Click here to see my report
-- From Jim Boulden, CNN International Producer/Correspondent
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