Life and Death in Late Winter

The view from the old, stone castle or Ankara Kalesi stretches beyond the houses, tower blocks and mosques to the empty white mountains. The capital city has been exploding from a small town of some 50,000 in 1945 to a city of 5 million today. Young people continue to leave the harsh demands of the distant countryside to fill the new jobs as the country enjoys rapid and sustained economic growth. At the centre, the city is metamorphosing; old red-roofed houses replaced by neat rows of tower blocks. The dull, smog blanket hangs in the still cold, but the air of optimism driven in large part by the vast production of cars, consumer electronics and textiles prevails. Turkey is one of the modern workshops of the world.

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A view of Ankara castle in evening light

The city spreads along highways and across hillsides. Space to grow is not a problem as here there are huge swathes of upland steppe. The loss of wildlife is, as in most countries, much more acute in the lowlands; the narrow coastal belt around Istanbul where the city continues to obliterate flower-rich heathlands, dunes and grasslands.  The great coastal and inland freshwater systems are drained of water for agriculture or provide easily constructed sites for new industry.

The plantation forests to the west of Ankara provide a small buffer to the modern villas in the new suburbs. The steppe grasses and plants are dormant; crisp under the snow and night-time frosts.  A dead fox tells a story of harsh, uncompromising life. The pristine, small white flowers that erupt from the dead soil, beautiful Colchicum atticum, tell another story of the small, first steps of an impending springtime stampede.

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Newly built villas and newly planted forests

 

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