My Last Destination: The Capital Of Turkey
Ankara Travel Blog› entry 80 of 83 › view all entries
I did a quick hike to El Nazar rock church in the morning before checking out of the pension and luckily catching a free ride to Ankara with three people who were going back to Sakarya. It was a 4-hour ride, including a lunch stop near beautiful Tuz Göl (Salt Lake), where the sun was radiating through clouds and streaming across the large lake. Bakan, Imajo and Satori were great and dropped me off at a city bus stop that took me to a meeting place in Kızılay district, where I waited for my host Mehtap to arrive. She is Güneş's friend from İzmir and they had communicated a few weeks ago about my arrival. She is in the midst of studying for exams but has graciously offered the flat she shares with her boyfriend Cemal.
Ankara is Turkey's capital city and second largest city with about 4.5 million and growing. Because it is inland there is a continental climate and it is now cold. Actually it was snowing when I arrived, despite the fact that it had been a mostly sunny drive up from Göreme. I made myself at home at Mehtap's place and later enjoyed a fresh cooked meal of köfte, broccoli with garlic-yogurt sauce, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, grilled peppers and salad. I had brought a bottle of wine from the Turasan winery in Ürgüp and we had that as well as another kind of wine called Cumartesi, which means Saturday. Cemal had come back around 7:30 and his friend and fellow tattoo artist Hakan also stopped by after we had finished eating.
On Monday I woke up around 9:30 and eventually Cemal, Hakan and I went to his cafe and had a good breakfast. I tried a special kind of simit that was shaped like a pide and contained cheese, olives and sausage. I also had a Turkish apple tort. Then they drove me to Anıt Kabir, the mausoleum and museum park of modern Turkey's great leader Atatürk. Born Mustafa Kemal in 1881 he went on to serve as a military commander and was especially important during the battle of Gallipoli. He eventually persevered through several battles to gain independence for Turkey and became its first president.
I took my time walking through the city from Anıt Kabir back to Kızılay.
Petek has two dogs, Roxanne and Roseanne, who are very excitable but sweet. Roxanne at first tried to eat our dinner but finally settled down on my lap, which wasn't easy since she is a big dog.
My last day in Turkey was spent partially sleeping in after the late night of drinking and sheep head-eating. I did have time to visit the award-winning Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in the Ulus district. Though the admission price was a bit steep, it was another interesting museum filled with historical information about Turkey from the earliest Paleolithic settlements to present-day Ankara, complete with amazing artifacts like Neolithic goddess statuettes, cuneiform clay tablets, Bronze Age jewelry and Phrygian pottery.
From the front of the museum I walked up the steep hill, past a small vegetable market and through the old city gates. Even more steep winding streets further, I reached the top but could not access the actual fortress with the Turkish flag flying high. Still there were some smoggy views of the city from the angles I could glimpse from. I snapped another self-photo and realized it was probably the last photo I would take in Ankara. The sun was getting heavy in the hazy horizon and because I had not had lunch I knew I needed to go eat something.
From a restaurant called Kebabistan I ordered my last mercimek and a mushroom pide. Around the corner I spotted a blind man sitting on the pavement begging for change with a tiny blue pail in front of him. I dropped a few coins in and heard him say "Allah" as I walked away towards the large statue that presides over Ulus Meydanı. I must have been tired because I fell asleep in the bus going back to Mehtap's and missed my stop. Several nice people at a grocery store helped me get a cab and when I arrived, Mehtap was waiting outside her apartment building and paid for my cab fare again.
I cannot underestimate the generosity of Turkish people. From new friends to strangers on the bus, I have been helped time and again. A free glass of tea from a restaurant, someone pays for my bus fare when I don't have a bus card, nice gifts from my hosts who have already been paying for meals and transportation. Turks have a saying, "a few lira won't make you rich and won't make me poor," and with this philosophy they just don't worry about it. In fact most people seem to enjoy life and live by the golden rule. I can be sure I will be back to Turkey someday. Türkiye'yi seviyorum!
As I spend my last hours in Turkey, my emotions are a little mixed.