Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Turkey


Monday 31st May

I was woken by the whoosh of hot air balloon burners.

After four nights in Goreme we resumed travelling. A 10am bus was supposed to take five hours to get to Ankara, but first it took us to Nevsehir and we didn't leave there till 11am, so that worked out as more like six hours. In Ankara we took a taxi from the bus terminal (otogar) to our hotel.

the sitting area outside our room
We stayed in the Angora House, a renovated Ottoman-style house, which feels like a little palace with just six rooms for guests.

The Angora House is well-located for the most popular attractions. It is off a narrow street just below the citadel, surrounded by crumbling houses, local shops, and souvenir sellers. Just a few minutes down the hill is a small spice/nut/dried fruit market and a huge number of antique shops, as well as the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and the Rahmi M. Koc technology museum.

The manager was really friendly and helpful, but a bit run off his feet as he was providing security, preparing breakfasts, and helping guests as well as doing all the bookings and administration, with just a cleaner for support.

The guidebook had cheaper prices in euros, but the newer prices are in US dollars and a twin/double room was now $90. (This was the only place we saw that used dollars instead of lira or euro, perhaps to take advantage of exchange rate movements or perhaps because Ankara attracts more non-Europeans.)

Tuesday 1st June

old houses built right on the ruins
I woke up very early — I woke up the manager trying to escape from the house — and had a look around the lower parts of the citadel, though the top areas were not yet unlocked.

Otherwise we started with a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, as it was just down the road — given the steepness of the hill, quite some way down, even though it was very close. This has excellent material and good interpretive explanations, with the displays organised chronologically, running from the Palaeolithic through to the Lydians (with a few later bits and pieces). The building itself is also notable, being an attractive renovated han or caravanserai.

the museum entrance
a Phrygian Kybele
an Antolian boomerang?

There were a few tour groups going through, and some groups of school children, but it was easy enough to avoid those and return to areas when they had passed. We must have spent three hours or so in here.

Ankara was a small sleepy town until chosen as the capital of the Turkish Republic by Ataturk some 90 years ago. Now it is a huge sprawling city, with a planned layout and with residential suburbs separated by open areas. For Australians, imagine something a bit like Canberra, but with the population of Sydney — and with no trees and with residential suburbs chock-full of twenty story tower blocks instead of free standing houses.

We barely ventured out of Ulus, however, the old part of Ankara beneath the citadel, so for us it felt like a small town.

newer suburbs from the citadel
Then we visited the Rahmi M Koc industrial museum before wandering up to the citadel, where we had lunch and admired the views (somewhat obscured by what I assume was a pollution haze). The houses are built in, on and around the old fortifications, and this is quite a poor part of town. There were a lot of shops catering to tourists, but it looked like those were mostly local Ankarans — the area seemed popular with young couples.

It was pretty warm so we had a break in our hotel before heading off to the Ataturk Mausoleum, Ankara's other major tourist attraction. We didn't go into the mausoleum proper, but watched a short film, replete with purple propaganda prose, and spent a long time in the museum, which has rather good, if one-sided, displays about different aspects of the Turkish War of Independence.

carpet motif in the colonnade
it wasn't nearly as crowded as I expected

the view from dinner
On the way back to the road a well-dressed old man stopped us, asked us if this was the way to Ataturk's house, and then sang us a short ditty (all in English) about how corrupt the Turkish Parliament was and how it was producing a "a bad, bad people"...

We had dinner a little way down the hill, on a table sloping down a cobblestone street, watching the world go by.

Our stay in the hotel coincided with that of a retired American couple from southern Texas, who were travelling with one of their fourteen grandchildren. They were reasonably liberal Episcopalians — she was a Democrat and he a Republican, and they argued with each other about everything from Obama to Israel — and had some fascinating stories about what the Mexican border area in Texas is like. But it was more interesting talking to the hotel manager, since we had somewhat more context for learning about Turkey than about Texas!

Wednesday 2nd June

a metalware shop
We spent the morning wandering the antique shops that cluster just below the Ankara citadel. Copperware seems to be a speciality here.

We still got to the station early, but we found an English language newspaper and sat and had tea while waiting. Ataturk lived at the railway station for some time during the War of Independence and there's a little museum here which I looked at, but it has almost no explanatory material in English.

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