25 June 2022 – Trip to Ankara, Türkiye
Last weekend, we took a quick trip to Ankara, the capital of Türkiye- to see my friend Turgay and his wife Pinar (and daughters Petek and Pelinsu).
Since the rental car price was quite expensive (apparently required an extra insurance cover just to drive 525km), we decided to try “the bus” (a private bus line). The buses are all very modern, and we booked through an online app called BusBuddy. Many options were available, for timing and stops. Unfortunately, what should have been a good experience (nice bus, clean, comfortable) turned into an uncomfortable experience because the A/C was completely ineffective. Why? On 3 out of 4 “legs” (and 2 different buses) our driver was a chain smoker who drove with his window down, and the A/C running, which actually made the A/C completely ineffective. What should have been a comfortable 22-25C cabin temperature was a humid 32-36C cabin temperature – caused by an inconsiderate addict. I took photos, and complained on the bus, at a major bus stop, and afterwards online. Lesson learned – next time, take a different bus company and check their policy beforehand.
On arrival in Ankara, we stayed 3 nights at the Occidental Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality and economy of this hotel. Occidental, by the way, is the opposite of “Oriental”. It means “coming from the West”. We even got a Seniors Discount.
Turgay and his wife Pinar (and daughter Pelinsu) picked us up at the hotel and first took us to the Anitkabir (Atatürk Mausoleum), Ankara’s most visited attraction and Turkey’s most important modern pilgrimage site. Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) was the founder of the modern state of Türkiye.
As well as the actual mausoleum, with its lavish use of marble, the site is centred round a vast plaza and contains a large museum complex. It contains both exhibits on the War of Independence, led by Atatürk, which resulted in the birth of Turkey as a modern nation, and many displays focused on Atatürk’s life.
Outside, there are excellent views across Ankara from the arcade that edges the plaza. The mausoleum itself is decorated with gilded inscriptions of Atatürk’s speeches. Inside, a cenotaph stands above the placement of Atatürk’s tomb. Visitors entering the mausoleum should respect the atmosphere of somber reverence inside as Turks pay their respect to the founder and first president of their modern nation.
This photo shows the detailed restoration of Atatürk’s 1935 armoured Lincoln. This car was lovingly restored after 2.5 years of effort in 2018, and is a testament to Turkish craftsmanship.
In the afternoon, we had a walking visit of some historical, restored area of the city, where we came across a fortune teller using a rabbit. The rabbit is presented with a plate of “paper fortunes” and selects one for you. The streets and shops were charming to walk through.
Later in the afternoon, we did a walking tour of the Citadel and it’s surrounding neighbourhood.
The citadel (Kale) area dates from the Byzantine era and is ringed by impressive fortifications raised in the 9th century. Inside, narrow cobblestone alleyways are rimmed by creaky Ottoman-era houses, some of which have been painstakingly restored in recent years, though others are slowly slipping into various levels of dilapidation. The main attraction inside the inner walls is the Eastern Tower (Sark Kulesi), which offers vistas that span across modern Ankara from its historic ramparts.
Stopping for tea in the afternoon, I took a photo of this very large teapot that was used by the cafe.
In the evening, Turgay and his wife hosted us to dinner at a very popular restaurant in the downtown core of Ankara. It was VERY tasty, and there was no way we could finish all the food they brought us.
Sunday morning, we went out for a Turkish breakfast, again at a very popular spot. Again, the quality and quantity of food – did not leave us hungry.
Later, we went to a surprisingly crowded shopping mall (Sunday afternoon). Turgay wanted to show me the fishing equipment in Decathlon, but, always on the lookout for something different – I came across this children’s play area. Here, the parents pay for their children to strap in and hop up and down in this bungee thrill ride. First time I had seen this.
We made our way back to Alanya the next day, and are extremely grateful to Turgay and Pinar for showing us a good time in Ankara!