A Home of One’s
By Chet Yarbrough
There are a variety of ways citizens of Turkey choose to live. Some choose to live in homes that are monuments to Turkey’s past. A few live in rock homes dating as far back as 1800 BC.
This home in Capadocia is a few feet from town. A husband, wife, and son live here. It is rented from the government of Turkey for what constitutes an annual property tax. The family can live in the home as long as related generations live there, and pay the taxes. The home is preserved by the State as a monument to Turkey’s past. It cannot be structurally modified without prior approval of the State. The few homes in this program are inspected annually for any forbidden structural changes.
This is a highly coveted style of living. The current occupants note their son is considered quite privileged by his school mates. This particular home is a social gathering place for local friends of the family. The wife is the descendant-connection that keeps this home in the family. Her marriage assures inheritance by future generations that have any blood relationship.
The temperature inside the home is perfectly comfortable when outside temperatures reach above 80 degrees. In the severest winter months, heat comes from a vented stove that is temporarily set in the middle of the living room. The home has electric wiring for lighting and appliances. The floors are covered with beautiful hand-made carpets made by past and present generations.
While sipping tea in the living room, the warmth, and cleanliness of the home floods your senses.
In another part of the city, in an older part of Capadocia, there is an underground communal enclave of passageways and rooms. They are carved into ancient rock formations. It served as a refuge for Christians. It was used in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. It reaches a depth of as much as 200 feet in the Derinkuyu district of Capadocia. Its purpose was to protect Greek orthodox Christians from many wars occurring in that era. As many as 20,000 people sought refuge in this underground city.
Massive rock door wheels secured passage ways and rooms in the underground city. The wheels were leveraged by spears or staffs to open and close the passage way.
Another style of living in Turkey is in national parks–occupied by nomads whose lifestyles reach back to the 3rd century BC. In winter months, nomads move to the city, but return every spring to tend their farms and goat herds. They, like the previously mentioned families retain their place on the State’s land as long as their descendants continue to use it during habitable months.
Each nomadic family builds their own house, out-buildings, and fencing. When they leave, those structures become expendable. Many live an “off the grid” existence, supplemented by periodic visits to the city to sell their goats. The couple noted below have a daughter that stays with her grandparents in the city during the school year. The father acknowledges he may be the last of his family to live this life because his daughter has other ambitions.
The remainder live in houses reminiscent of modern America.
The state controls a high proportion of land through the authority of the Under Secretariat of Treasury. Through inheritance rules set by the General Directorate for Foundations, the government indirectly controls Turkey’s historic sites.
One presumes the reason for much of Turkey’s control of land is because of its historic character. For nomads, the tradition of a nomadic population (though now quite small) is preserved for cultural reasons. This reminds one of a Hong Kong guides’ disappointment in the loss of traditional market places in semi-autonomous regions of China.
In addition to Turkey’s effort to preserve history and tradition, its cities are intent on being or becoming modern metropolises. It strives like all countries of the world to join the technological age to better serve its national interests and public needs. Turkey struggles with the same economic concerns evident in other countries of the world. The difference is that so much more ancient history is evident in Turkey than in many other parts of the world.
Istanbul and Ankara are modern metropolises.
Interestingly, it seems relatively easy to become a Turkish citizen. You can be born in a family with one parent who is a Turkish citizen, and you have citizenship. You can marry a Turkish citizen and receive citizenship after 3 years of marriage. Or, you can simply live in Turkey for 5 years (without any absence over a total of 6 months in the 5 year period) and become a citizen. The 5-year rule involves a residence permit which requires a foreigner to have a passport/travel document that is valid for at least 60 days after the expiration of a requested residence permit.
Today, it is possible for foreigners to own property in Turkey. There are limits to the size of the property (about 7.4 acres per foreigner), and some special rules depending on which city or area one wishes to live. In 2007 an estimated 75,000 foreign nationals owned property in Turkey.