Wednesday – our penultimate journey – off to Ankara

We had our last breakfast at our lovely Travellers Cave Pension looking over the Goreme town pillars. We were too late for the balloon flyover. Gathering ourselves up, we set off down the small lane where the hotel was for the Main Street so as not to offend the locals again by bringing the truck up to the door.

After the excitements of the day before, it was inevitable that the trip to Ankara was going to be low key.

It seemed to take no time at all to leave our lovely Cappadocian landscape behind and find ourselves driving through what looked to be an ‘executive home’ housing estate. It was certainly a marked contrast to most of the places on our travels. After passing through a large town with high apartment blocks and several mosques, we moved into a vast agricultural plain, dotted with the occasional tree. The majority of trees grown here are apricot and walnut and the main crops are wheat, potatoes and a kind of squash that are grown for their seeds. These are fried and used as a popular snack. The discarded outer shells are seen as small yellow balls all over the fields. The rich larval soil looked dark and deep.

In the distance another volcano appeared at the edge of the plain and then a range of mountains stretched along to our right. To our left salt flats glistened white in the sunshine. This was a large salt lake that followed us for a long way as we charged along the highway, eating up the miles to Turkey’s capital city. Ataturk moved the Turkish capital to Ankara in 1926 in an effort to turn his back on the spectacular mosques and palaces of Istanbul. Originally called Angora after its key area of trade, the hair of Angora goats, Ankara has grown from a small provincial town into a vast city.

We occasionally passed farm buildings and even more rarely compounds of new farm machinery or trucks. This was the flat landscape of Central Anatolia.

We were passing another large lake when the traffic ground to a halt. We had come across the first road crash we had experienced in all the time we have been on the road. In a very short time we were moving off again and before long we were on the outskirts of Ankara. The dreaded gear problem rose to the fore again as Simon gallantly tackled the mass of traffic, underpasses and flyovers of the city. Gone were the groups of old gentleman sitting on cast off chairs and benches in the shade and lady’s with their shopping baskets full of bread and vegetables. Gone were young women swathed in scarves and pulling along reluctant young boys. Ankara appeared as a busy, brash city with no time for such niceties. We had been pulled back into the 21st century with a vengeance!

Our hotel proved to be in an older part of town and after dumping our overnight luggage we were off to find the Citadel the only part of the ancient city remaining. Nothing is known of the original builder on the site or the date but the current Citadel is Roman in origin, the Byzantines increased its size. In its hey day the surrounding wall had 44 towers and was 42 metres high.

We wandered through the narrow streets inside the wall. Many of the houses have been renovated and their ground floors are shops. The old Citadel area itself seems in part to have been made from a real ‘hotch potch’ of enormous old stones – some of which have been put in upside down, as indicated by their inscriptions! The design of the main castle was also very odd, with first a round inner courtyard and on increasingly higher levels walls and walkways. The walls were at least four foot thick. From the very top level there was an incredible view down over the metropolis of Ankara and in the misty distance, mountains.

On the way up and down we saw women industriously crotcheting all sorts of jewellery, bags and baby clothes. Sadly few people stopped to inspect their wares. It had been quite a stiff climb to the top and we stopped in an empty cafe for refreshment. I had home made lemonade which was delicious. Keith had an ayran the local salted yoghurt drink that he has taken to.

We trundled back down the hill, inspecting a local clothes area on the way, which was an education. Ankle length winter coats for ladies, together with some rather startlingly bright lacy affairs (that I can only believe are worn behind closed doors) and some weird get ups for children were readily available. Wedding dresses were also on display – all very exotic. It would seem that there is nothing particularly demure about the Moslem bride. However, it must be a bit hard to have the opportunity to wear all that frou-frou stuff at the wedding and then move to the very baggy trousers and the long coat afterwards. How lucky we are to have a choice! In fairness a lot of the local women seemed to have made their choice too and it has noyhing to do with polyester baggy trousers…..

After a rather scary skirmish out into the traffic we eventually found a little local cafe for supper and returned to our hotel to prepare for our last drive.

Tomorrow Istanbul.

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