Turkey 5: Ankara

We bade a sad “See you soon” to Istanbul this morning.  Last night, we ended our time there with an AMAZING bath at the Cemberlitas Hammam, a Turkish bath which has been there since 1524 and was designed by Sinan, who was responsible for most of the amazing architecture of Sulieman’s rule. 

So we picked a good last night activity. 

Early airport transfer to Sabhia Gocken, which lies about an hour outside of Istanbul proper, on the Asian side of the city.  So, yes, today is the official day where we switch the tag from “Europe” to “Asia”.  Neat moment crossing over the bridge, if nothing else.

Ankara was today’s stop, the proper capital of Turkey ever since Ataturk was in power.  Flying in, it reminds you a lot of Alberta, with everything being spread out and hilly.  We hopped a Havas bus to the city centre, got ourselves turned around a bit, and ended up paying 10 lira for a cab ride that should have cost us 4, but we made it to our hotel for a quick rest before tackling Ankara’s three main sights.

First up was the Anitkabir, or the massive Mausoleum devoted to President Ataturk, who was the leader who basically created modern Turkey.  80 years later, he’s a national hero on the level of a George Washington in the States and the Anitkabir is certainly a fitting structure for a man who created a country.  Looking almost like a desert version of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi, the complete is absolutely huge, located on the top of a hill, featuring a museum devoted to Ataturk’s life, displays of his important items, a huge tomb with his huge sarcophagus, and a courtyard made of marble that a) will cook you if you stay out there too long and b) causes the soles of your shoes to squeak in a way very unbefitting of a final resting place of a national hero.

Cabs were the order of the day for the first two stops.  Gotta say, not impressed by the Ankara cab drivers.  The first one definitely took us for a ride because we didn’t see the meter built in to the rearview meter.  The second guy showed the meter but then shortchanged me, giving me back a 5 when it should have been 8.  I think he was rounding up, but I’m pretty sure you don’t figure tips out like that. Third guy, however, was fine and he got us to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, up a big old hill, in short order.

Housing relics from Gordion, Phyrgia and Ankara, as well as a couple special items from Troy and the recently rediscovered Julianopolis, I imagine this museum would be quite amazing if it was running at full strength.  Unfortunately for us, 3 of the 5 rooms were closed for repair, but at least the people at the door were nice enough to let us know this ahead of time.  What was inside was impressive and it made for a good out-of-the-sun stop.

Last stop involved a small uphill hike, as we made our way to the Ankara Castle.  Nobody knows when it was first built, but it first appears in records around 1017 AD.  There’s still people living in the castle town proper, although now the trade is obviously tourist as opposed to whatever the previous use was.  The walk up the hill was simple enough and the castle afforded some great views over Ankara.  The city isn’t nearly as photogenic as Istanbul – not by a LONG shot – but wandering the old castle walls, watching kids fly homemade kites off the ramparts, made it an equally memorable moment.

After that, downhill walk back to the hotel, stop at an amazing restaurant, Metro Iskembe ve Lokantasi, where Daina and I had Turkish kepap plates that didn’t taste like they were made for tourists.  Now, we relax!

Tomorrow, we hop a bus for Goreme.  If the elevation and views from Ankara Castle were amazing, I don’t know what word we’ll use to describe Goreme.

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