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Thursday, May 11 – Goreme to Ankara

We enjoyed our last breakfast at the Goreme House (but no fresh orange juice; they ran out of oranges). After I sent a quick email to Amy, Bill and I rolled our luggage down the street to the bus station. We caught the 10:15 bus, changed at Nevsehir, then on to Ankara. The 5-hour bus ride was OK, in a nice, new Mercedes bus with an attendant serving us water, tea, coffee, and twinkee-like cakes. There was a video playing on the TV, but it was in Turkish. The bus made a quick lunch stop; Bill and I shared a pizza on pita bread and a Pepsi for 3 lira ($2). Then Bill got a Magnum. I spent most of the bus ride catching up on my journal—not easy on the bumpy road.

At about 4:00 p.m. we arrived at the big, fancy bus station in Ankara—one level for arrivals and another for departures. We gathered our luggage and grabbed a taxi to the Citadel (Old Town). The taxi driver estimated the meter fare would be 16 lira, but took us to the wrong hotel (Angora Hotel instead of the Angora House), in spite of Bill giving him the address on a piece of paper (maybe he couldn’t read). After convincing the driver that this was not our hotel, he retraced our path and finally arrived at the Angora House. I felt lucky that the fare was only 20 lira.

Ahmet, one of the owners of the hotel, met us at the gate. I loved this hotel, in a renovated Ottoman mansion once owned by a member of Turkey’s first Parliament.

Our lovely room in the old Ottoman mansion

Lovely bathroom in the old Ottoman mansion

We unpacked, got a map and headed for the And Café for a beer (expensive—6 lira) and a magnificent view of the city. We were having a pleasant conversation until a speaker on the nearby mosque’s minaret, aimed directly at us, blared the call to prayer.

Views of the city from the And Café

Views of the minaret aimed at our ears

We walked through the winding streets of the Citadel, filled with kids playing and women knitting and chatting, then climbed to the castle for a wonderful view of the city. We walked around the Citadel, checking restaurant menus, then back to the hotel for a shower.

Streets of the Citadel

Streets of the Citadel

Kids playing in the street

Little Rascals

Brother and his big sister

Cute mug shot

The castle

View of the city from the castle walls

Kids on the castle walls

Kids practicing karate in the castle

At Ahmet’s recommendation, we went to dinner at a lovely restaurant on the main floor of the Rahmin Koc Museum. We ordered salad and a pasta dish, both delicious. We were the only customers in the restaurant.

Wall around the Citadel (old town area)

Lovely Rahmin Koc Museum Restaurant

We got back to our room at 9:00, Mehmet, the manager of the Apricot Hotel in Istanbul, called just to say good-bye. What a sweet guy. He said he’s showing everybody our website and will get us a lot of business. I worked on my journal and read my book. Bill found a current issue of Time magazine in the lobby. He’s happy.

Friday, May 12 - Ankara

We got down to breakfast at 7:30, but breakfast wasn’t ready until 8:00. (They had to dash out to get the bread.). After breakfast we hung around the hotel until 9:00, waiting for the owner, who spoke English, to arrive. Maummer, the other partner whom we had not met yet, came in wearing a NY Yankee’s baseball cap. He’s a very dignified and intellectual man who just wears the hat in the morning to keep his wet head from getting a chill. He gave us a map and directions to the places we wanted to go and suggested a lunch stop. Bill said we needed to exchange some of our dollars (locked up in the hotel safe) for lira. Since Maummer didn’t have a key to the safe, he just took 100 lira out of his wallet and gave it to us, no questions asked. We said we’d repay him when we returned in the evening.

Our first stop was the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, housed in a 15th century caravansary. The artifacts dated back to the Paleolithic Era. We had to dodge hordes of school kids who were on their end-of-the-school-year field trip. They kept approaching us to practice their English, asking our names, where we are from and even how old we were.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Burial urns outside the museum

The museum was incredible and made our stop in Ankara worthwhile. It is arranged chronologically and has excellent English language signs. We spent about 3 hours there. Here are a few highlights I captured.

CybeleFirst Mother Goddess 5,750 B.C.

A thinner later version of Mother Goddess

Animal shaped jugs

Vase with a cool face

Collection of oil lamps

A cool little figure

Collection of written documents (2000 B.C.)

Collection of glass bottles for perfume and make-up

Collection of vases

What’s left of King Midas’ writing table

What's left of King Midas

Really old stuff in the basement

More basement stuff

The chariot has arrived

King making an offering to a god

Enter the Roman and Greek periods

Enter the Roman and Greek periods

Enter the Roman and Greek periods

With our brains exploding from so much information, we decided to head for the Ethnographic Museum. We got lost in a sea of Saturday morning shoppers and busy streets. We ended up at Ulus Square, where there is a large statue of Ataturk on a horse. A helpful Turk pointed us in the right direction. (Follow-up note – One week after we returned home to San Diego, the PKK (Kurds) bombed this area, leaving 6 people dead.)

Statue of Ataturk

Couple of Turks waiting for tea time

We decided to have lunch before tackling another museum so we stopped at the Uludag Kebap just across the street from the museum. The restaurant looked like a hotel with four floors of dining rooms. The restaurant was nice, with linen tablecloths and waiters in stylish vests. We had salad and meat and pita bread in tomato sauce with yogurt.

After lunch we went to the Ethnographic Museum only to discover that it was closed for lunch until 1:30. We didn’t want to wait for a half hour, so we grabbed a taxi to the Ataturk Mausoleum. As we arrived we were treated to a changing of the guard ceremony. The mausoleum was packed with Turks in awe of their version of George Washington. The vast complex of buildings, courtyards, gardens and walkways dotted with stone lions, sits on a hill overlooking the City.

Protectors of Ataturk Mausoleum

Protectors of Ataturk Mausoleum

Protectors of Ataturk Mausoleum

The Mausoleum

The Mausoleum

Forward March

Changing of the guard

Steps to the Mausoleum

More steps to the Mausoleum

Magnificent corridors

Ataturk’s tomb

We visited Ataturk’s tomb (cut from a single rock), then followed the masses to the Ataturk and War of Independence Museum. The large museum is filled with Ataturk stuff—cigarette holders, cigarette cases, pistols, swords, daggers, his Dapper Dan clothing and even Fox, his favorite dog (now stuffed). The War of Independence section has dioramas of war scenes, including sounds of shells exploding and soldiers screaming. The portrait gallery displayed Ataturk and his military buddies.

The last section showed Ataturk the leader of the new republic. Nice photos and text, but not enough time to read it all. Some highlights:

  • No more headscarves for women,
  • Adopted a daughter who becomes an airplane pilot,
  • Encouraged women to become professionals (doctors, engineers, scientists),
  • Adopted the Latin alphabet in place of the Arabic alphabet,
  • Opened adult schools to educate the peasants,
  • Changed measurement system to metric.

Ataturk died at age 58 of sclerosis of the liver (he was a heavy drinker). This fact was not in the museum; we learned it from the owner of our hotel.

Our brains saturated with information from the museums, we took a taxi back to the Citadel for a beer at the Washington Restaurant. We had a beautiful view of the city from our outdoor table.

We went back to our hotel to shower and to pack for our trip home. We checked out a couple of nearby restaurants. One was eerie, with mannequins of Turkish peasants propped up on some of the chairs, but the showstopper was the long table set up for a large tour group. The next restaurant only had menus in Turkish and French. We decided to head back to the Washington Restaurant. We got an outdoor table and watched the sunset. The place was packed. We splurged (had to get rid of our Turkish lira) and had Chateaubriand for two—a huge hunk of meat that melted in your mouth. After our last dinner in Turkey, we waddled back to the Angora House.

National mosque

Our last sunset in Turkey

Saturday, May 13 – Flight Home

Our wakeup call came at 4:30. Our taxi arrived at 5:00 for the rather long ride to the airport. We were advised by Turkish Air to arrive 2 hours before departure time, but we were able to get on an earlier flight to Istanbul, where we changed to our flight to Chicago. Clearing customs in Chicago, we asked to be put on standby for an earlier flight to San Diego. We were the only standby passengers and got the last two seats on the airplane. Arrived in San Diego at 4:00 p.m. Another wonderful trip and memories to last the rest of our lives.

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