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From the Heart of Europe,
Prague to Istanbul, Talas,
Tarsus and Samsun

by Yuksel OKTAY

(May 18-21, 2006) May is when many people start making visits to the Princess Islands to get away from the hassle and the traffic of Istanbul that is becoming unberable by the day. In May, a number of graduates of Talas American High School make their way to Talas, Kayseri  for their yearly Re-Union who are joined by those who come all the way from the United States (including Yavuz Ozdogu who also attended the Charleston WV Talas/Tarsus gathering in March) and perhaps some from Europe as well. May 19-21 turned out to be another unforgetable time for the graduates and their former teachers, who were be getting together for the 6th time since 2001, which I had to miss. Another group of graduates of the same school and also Tarsus American College was going to Tarsus the same weekend, May 19 - 21 for the yearly "Homecoming" celebrations, which this year also mark the 50th anniversary of 56 graduates, when both the 6th and 7th grades graduated together following the reduction of the senior high school year from 4 to 3 years..

The month of May was also significant this year for the celebration of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's 125th birthday on May 19. A Symposium organized by the Ataturk Research Center and the Ataturk Yuksek Kurumu, was held in Ankara which was attended by the President, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs and many dignitaries. The President of US, George Bush, has sent a message to the Ataturk Society of America, praising Ataturk's achievements. A few days later a book on Ataturk has been given to the Head of the White House Communication center, Nicolle Wallace, as a present to President Bush from the SkyTurk Newscaster Ozlem Deniz during her visit to the White House, as reported in the Aksam newspaper.

On May 20, a sister-city signing ceremony took place  in Samsun between the Samsun Municipality and the city of North Little-Rock, Arkansas, following an effort that was initiated five years ago by the Turkish Forum and the "Submarine Officers Association of US", and the submarine "Razorback", towed from Golcuk, now flies the Turkish flag along wit the US flag, moored along the river, accross from the Clinton Library in Little Rock. According to an article by Yasemin Dobra-Manco in the Turkish Daily News, Mayor of North Little Rock,  Hon. Patrick Hayes, has sent a message to the Samsun Mayor Yusuf Ziya Yilmaz on the occasion of Turkey's May 19 celebrations and the signing of the sister-city agreement.

May is also the month when the Turks in America hold their annual "Turkish Day Parade"; this year marking the significant 25th year on May 20, during the month long Turkish festival in New York and New Jersey. The event is organized by the Fderation of Turkish - American Associations (FTAA) which this year is also celebrating the 50th year of its founding in 1956. CNNTurk carried a forty five minute program on "The Turkish Lobby in the US" with vidoes of the parade in the background, postponed twice, first due to the Galatasaray championship celebrations and second time due to the unbeliavable and very sad attack at Danistay on May 17, which brought tens of thousands of Turks to the Ataturk's Mosaleum and also to the funeral of one of the judges who died in the hospital following the attack.

Therefore, there were many choices in May this year for anyone wanting to take part in the celebrations, to be among friends, fellow citizens, or just plain folks, both in Turkey and the United States, or in Europe for that matter.. Since no invitation had arrived for the 50th anniversary reunion of 56 Tarsus graduates, I decided to travel to Prague for a number of reasons. Mustafa Kemal had visited Karlovy Vary west of Prague in 1918 and I wanted to see this city praised by many as the most beautiful place in the world, located in the heart of Europe and visited by many dignitaries over the last three hundred years. Another reason was to learn about the Nuclear Energy program of the Czech Republic, which has two operating nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is one of the most debated subjects in Turkey now as the Turkish government has announced building at least three nuclear power plants and has started discussing this with both Turkish and foreign companies.

Czech Republic, Prague and Karlovy Vary

Czech Republic, one of  two countries created from the old Checkoslavakia in 1992 in a peaceful manner, is located almost in the center of Europe and is a member of the European Union. Every public building flies both the Czech and the EU flag. It has a population of a little over 10 million. The Turkish Embassy is located in a very nice part of Prague, where on May 19, a celebration had taken place on the 87th aniversary of Mustafa Kemal Pasa's arrival in Samsun. As usual, there was a policeman in front of the building.

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a beautiful town of one million, with historical buildings everywhere and muesums of all kind, including a "Toy Museum", the "Museum of Communism" and the Franz Kafka Museum. Prague was listed in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Register in 1992, just like Istanbul and Safranbolu was in the 1980s. In 2000, Prague was also one of nine cities awarded the title of European City of Culture, just like Istanbul has been selected for 2010.

One of the most famous landmarks is the "Charles Bridge" which is adorned with many statues on both sides. One of the figures included in one of the monument is an Ottoman figure which was covered due to renovation. There is also a tall observation tower at the end of the bridge and evidently a church on the other side where 4 figues come out from one of the towers every hour reminding the people of the evils, including a devil and an Ottoman figure, which I did not get a chance to see.

There are incredible venues where people were walking and visiting the famous buildings, including the Astronomical Clock adorning the Old Town hall. When I stopped at a news stand, the owner with a long hair and beard asked me where I was from. When I told him that I had just arrived from Turkey, a man sitting next to the stand stated that he would like to visit Istanbul some day. When I asked him if he knows Ataturk, his comment was: "Everybody knows Mustafa Kemal Ataturk."

One of the items written about in the newspaper The Prague Post was the decision of Hundai to invest $1.6 billion for a new automobile factory in Nosovice, Czech Republic, which was originally planned for Turkey, expanding the capacity of the existing Adapazari plant. Evidently the Turkish government was not willing to accept the $280 million for infrastructure charges and miscelleneous tax advantages. Another news item was the decision of the Czech Republic to cancel $229 million, 80% of the dept Iraq owes to the country accrued during the Saddam hussein regime.  The country was also getting ready for the June general elections where the ruling center left party, currently supported by only 23 percent of voters, is expected to win and form a coalition party with one the five that will be represented in the Parliamnet. A large campaign ad, which I had a passerby translate for me, stated, "It is legal to loose an election."

Karlovy Vary is a little over two hours by bus, which travels through beatiful green forests ad pastures and yellow fields of Kanoli, a vegetable grown to make use of its oil as an energy source. The Pupp Park Hotel, where Mustafa Kemal Pasa stayed in 1918, is located along the river. The hotel  brochure for May has a photograph of Ataturk among many others who have also visited the spa, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van betthoven, Otto Von Bismarck, Napoleon Bonaparte and Fryderyk Chopin. The presidential suite, where Ataturk stayed, was occupied and therefore not open to visitors, but the hotel representative sated that a bust of Ataturk would be placed in the room in honour of the great leader.

Nuclear Energy in the Czech Republic

One of the purpose of my visit to Prague was to learn about the nuclear program of the Czech Republic and the capabilities of Skoda Heavy Industries that has been involved in the energy field for many years. In fact, Skoda was part of the consotium that built the Soma TPP back in the late seventies during the US embargo against Turkey. I had an opportunity to meet with Frantisek Suransky, the head of the Nuclear Energy Department of the Czech Republic, which has two operating nuclear power plants. Temelin NPP, with 2 units of 1,000MW, is located aprroximately 100 kms south of Prague. Dukovany NPP, with 4 units of 440 MW, has been in operations since 1986 without any significant problem. Both plants are Russian design with many of the major equipment supplied by the Czech companies, including Skoda, which is also working on upgrades of the plant with the French companies that will increase the power output by 5%.The fuel for Temelin, which used to be supplied by Westinghouse, will be provided by the Russian company TVEL beginning in 2010. The government's Energy Policy issued in 2003 plans to build additional nuclear power plants at a new location, since some of the old coal fired power plants may be out of service. The Russian and Czech companies are also getting ready to build a nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.

The power generation in the Czech Republic is mainly by coal with little hydro, but also has wind power plants with plans to extend in the renewables area. The total installed power of the Czech Republic is around 17,000 MW. For a nation of a little over 10 million, this translates into over 6,000 MW per capita, almost three and a halft times that of Turkey, which was around 1,700 MW at the end of 2005 (EU average 6,200MW).

Frantisek Suranksy was well aware of Turkey's plans to build nuclear plants, which he advocated, stating that he had met the head of the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority of Turkey during a conference in Paris.

Prague Jewish Town and the Franz Kafka Museum

There is a Jewish town in the old section of Prague that dates back to the 13th century with its present appearance the result of a redevlopment project taken between 1893 and 1913. Franz Kafka is probably the most famous Czech author who was born in Prague in 1883 and died at the age of 41. "The Trial" was among the books that we read at Tarsus American College. There was an exhibition, "The City of K. Franz Kafka and Prague, at a historical old building, the Herget Brickworks, with documents, photographs, hand written manuscrips and all of his books.

Turkish March by Mozart at the Prague Castle

The Prague Castle is located very close to the center of the city which has a church, many historical buildings and the Presidential Palace, where the President used to stay until a few years ago. A pretty Czech lady was handing out a brochure for a concert in one of the music halls, which listed "Turkish March" in the program. After chatting with her about the concert and whether she knew Ataturk (she said yes, they had studied his reforms at school), I asked if she has been or would go to Istanbul. She said she would not, stating "There are too many bombs there." How sad.

The National Library

It seemed that everyone in the metro had a book in their hand, with a student at the bus station reading while walking to the food stand and back. They told me that Czech people are among the top people who read books and have several libraries accross the city. The national library is located in a beautiful building that dates back to 1861.

Nazim Hikmet's Café

The Savoy Café where Nazim Hikmet, probably the most famous Turkish poet and writer, was a regular customer, is located along the VLtava river, right next to the National library and across from the National theater. The place, with photographs of famous patrons, was full of young students and old people as well, having a grand time. When I asked a couple if they had been to Turkey, they both said, "Yes, it is a beatiful country."

With all the May happenings in my mind, I had a very nice trip to Prague, enjoying their traditional food and beer, referred to as the "liquid bread." Both the head of the Nuclear Energy Department and several others that I spoke to stated that Turkey should be a member of the European Union. However, judging from the recent events that took place in Turkey, with contibuous attacks to Ataturk's principles and reforms, it may be a long time before that dreams becomes a reality, if ever.

Ertan Dumanli

There was also a very sad event that took place in April in Istanbul. Ertan Dumanli, a graduate of Tarsus American High School and a much beloved doctor passed away in May . I never met Ertan, but read a lot about him, including an article by Yilmaz Ulusoy in the May issue of Ulusoy Travel magazine. Among some of the statements of Ertan in the article, one was especially very significant: "This school - Tarsus American High School - taught me to defend my rightfullness –hakliligimi - always‘’. During the last 40 years I have spent a lot of time defending the rightfullness of Turkey on an issue that was carried on the Talas and Tarsus web sites as well, evidently not well received by some of the group members. I attended the 2002 Talas Re-Union, skipping a wedding of a friend in the US, and made several suggestions on the Talas Library and Ani Evi, including an offer to donate all of my books, which still stands.  I hope the ‘’Talas Evi’’ project can be realized with not only the Talas graduates and former teachers, but also with the children and the friends of Talas graduates with its all majesty.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Tarhan Danisman and Ugur Inan, both members of the 56 graduating class, both passed away, but remembered fondly for the 7 years that were spent in the same class in Talas and Tarsus, including a trip to Antakya together with Nisan Yagliyan, also a member of the class of 56. A poem from the Ulusoy travel magazine article on ‘’having friends’’ is given below:

Dostlari Olmali Insanin

Aynen gemilerin limanlari gibi
Zaman zaman ugradigin,
Yukunu bosaltttigin
Dalgalar dininceye kadar
Bekledigin koynunda...
Sekillendirmeyi ogretmeli
Hayatin comlegini
Sana vermeli soguk bir kis gununde
Uzerindeki tek gomlegi.

- Oguzhan Bolukbasi

  _ . _

Yuksel Oktay, PE
TAO53, TAC56
21 Mayis, 2006

Summer 2006
Issue# 18
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