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Hoppe Talks Turkey

Mises Daily: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 by

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In 484 BC, Herodotus, the father of written history, was born in the ancient city of Halikarnassos, known today as Bodrum, Turkey. During the winter, Bodrum is a sleepy town of 35,000, but come summertime the population explodes as half a million tourists from all over the world come to enjoy the beaches, boating, history, shopping and nightlife offered by this ancient city by the Aegean Sea.

History was again made in Bodrum recently with the inaugural meeting of the Property and Freedom Society, the brainchild of Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Hoppe invited scholars from Europe and the United States to this extraordinary spot to make presentations, engage in fellowship and enjoy the area and its history. Attendees hailed from 30 different countries.

The conference was held at the Karia Princess, a charming and elegant hotel owned by Ahmet Veli Menger Holding of Istanbul. The Vice-Chair of AVM is Gulcin Imre, whose economics PhD dissertation is on the work of Ludwig von Mises.

Presentation subjects ranged from religion to property rights and investment opportunities in Eastern Europe. But the overall theme of the conference was the growth of government around the world and how to turn the tide in favor of liberty.

In addition to Hoppe, speakers included LRC regular contributors Tom DiLorenzo, Stephan Kinsella, and Paul Gottfried, as well as Mises senior fellow Guido Hulsmann and adjunct scholar Marco Bassani.

But as distinguished as the presenters were, it was the history of Bodrum and the surrounding area that provided the highlights. A guided tour of the Castle of St. Peter that is Bodrum's most distinguished landmark dividing the city's harbor in half was provided for the group. Work on the castle began in 1406 by the Knights of St John. The castle and city came under Ottoman rule in 1523. After centuries of neglect the castle became a prison in 1895 and was even damaged during WWI by shells from a French warship. The castle now contains displays of undersea treasures found around Turkey.

Standing on the upper levels of the castle a person has breathtaking views of Bodrum Harbour and the entire city including, The Amphitheatre situated in the hillside over looking Bodrum. With a capacity of around 13,000, the amphitheatre was built during the Carian reign in the Hellenistic age (330–30 BC). Not much is happening at the Amphitheatre these days; it became a museum in 1973. Now, nightlife provides the action in modern Bodrum and although it only seats about half what the amphitheatre did in its day, nightclub Halikarnas is the place to be for the nocturnally inclined. But don't think Halikarnas "The Club" is cheap for those carrying dollars. Admission was in the $20 range (on a Sunday night!) and drinks were about the same. We were eager to listen to what hip and modern Turks dance to. Alas, America's most pervasive export seems to be Rap and Hip Hop music.

Boat docks dominate the other side of Bodrum Harbour. And for those under the impression that Turkey is some sort of poor backwater country, a stroll down the docks where the private yachts are moored will change that perception immediately. Dozens of million dollar plus craft are parked side by side, with many having full-time crews. A row of expensive shops and restaurants on the shoreline completes a scene that could be San Diego.

After the first day of presentations, conference attendees were bused to the nearby fishing village of Kadikalesi for a dinner at sunset on the beach. Upon arrival, the national drink of Turkey, Raki, was served. Raki is an "anisette" which clouds when water is added. Normally you mix it with approximately two-thirds water at the table. In the common Turkish language it is also called "Aslan süt," (lion milk). According to a Bodrum website: "The great thing with Raki is that its flavour lends itself to all courses, to the hors-d'oeuvre, the sweets, fish or meat, Raki always fits." Or not.

For those looking for a non-alcoholic drink to quench their thirsts, Ayran is a beverage made out of yoghurt, diluted with water, salted, and served cool. Ayran is very much appreciated by Turks (and a certain Russian economics professor), and is supposedly ideal when you are thirsty on hot days. Or not.

It's hard to have a meal in Turkey without yoghurt being involved. Tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese and lamb are also staples. Much of the food is grown or raised in the Bodrum area. The Property and Freedom crowd got a look at the surrounding countryside with a trip to the archeological ruins of Ephesus and the last residence of the Virgin Mary. Olive trees dominate the landscape for part of the trip. Miles and miles of rock fences separate the various hillside properties where olive trees flourish. The climate is perfect for olives as is the limestone soil that nourishes the trees' root systems. The area along the Aegean Sea is the prime olive oil–producing region in Turkey.

With a history dating back to 1200 BC, Ephesus was the capital of proconsular Asia during the Roman Empire, and its ruins are considered some of the best in the world. The city bore the title of "the first and greatest metropolis of Asia." The population of Ephesus has been estimated to be in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 inhabitants in the year 100 AD, making it the largest city in Roman Asia and one of the largest cities of the day. The theatre built on the slope of Mt Panayir that once held 25,000 spectators is truly spectacular as is the Marble Way, the street that connects the theatre to the Library of Celsus. The Library, built in the 2nd century, was attacked by fire in 260 but the intricate façade suffered no damage and must be seen to be believed.

Back in Bodrum you'll be happy to know that the worldwide real estate boom has not passed this ancient city by. Real estate sales offices are abundant and partially completed vacation condos numerous, creeping up the hillsides that form a bowl around the city. New units can be had for as low as the mid-$80,000's. But don't expect to move in right away. Delivery time is two years away. Just in time for the opening of Bodrum's first golf courses. The course developer believes golf-crazy Europeans will flock to a mild Bodrum in the winter months to escape the snow up north. He is about to start planting grass on the first course and he assured me the second course would be "world class." Assembling the private land for these courses took 15 years.

If Turkey is known for anything it is belly dancers and Turkish rugs. One evening Property and Freedom conferees were provided the opportunity to enjoy both at the Karia Princess. The rugs of course were for sale. The dancers, as far as I know, were not. With a Gypsy band providing the accompanying music, three different performers shook the intellectual group into a frenzy. All of this after spending the day boating on the Aegean Sea, which gave some the opportunity to test the cool, crystal-clear water. The Aegean's waters don't warm up until late summer, but there were no complaints from those who took the plunge.

Flying to Bodrum requires a stop in Istanbul, a city of over 11 million people located on two continents. The city's western part is in Europe with the eastern part in Asia. Dozens of ships work the waterline dividing Istanbul into two that is the Bosphorus, which connects the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea and in turn the Mediterranean.

Istanbul is teeming with life. The city is packed with mid-rise apartment buildings, a satellite dish and clothes line of laundry adorning each balcony. According to Wikipedia the city's population has more than tripled since 1980 with millions coming from southeast Turkey looking for work. And despite some of the highest gas prices in the world, $7 to $8 per gallon, the narrow city streets are clogged with traffic.

History is everywhere you turn in the city's historic peninsula. Incredible mosques are short walks from one another and without a guidebook we wouldn't have known that a 32,000 square foot Turkish bath built in the 6th century lies under an unassuming commercial corner. Plus, the Bazaar District is only a short walk away. By the way, merchants in the Grand Bazaar aren't keen on accepting American Express or US dollars. Shoppers are much better off negotiating with Euros. As our guide told us, "the dollar is dead in Europe." Gold is popular at the bazaar with numerous jewelry shops and stores selling bullion and coins. Although prices have been tame for the past year, inflation-wary Turks make a habit of keeping their wealth in gold and carpets, rather than depreciating paper. The new Turkish Lira was created on January 1, 2005, and was made equal to 1 million old Turkish Lira. From 1933 to 2001, the old Lira declined from two to the dollar to 1.65 million to the dollar.

Istanbul at night is a sea of lights as far as the eye can see, punctuated by the floodlit Mosques sprinkled throughout the city. It was a sight to behold from our rooftop restaurant perch.

It is impossible to see all there is to see in this beautiful and fascinating part of the world in the short week we were there. Thankfully, Professor Hoppe is planning the second meeting of the Property and Freedom Society for Bodrum again next year.