May 2004: Are you up for another trek through our old city? A young
couple (Chad & Candi) we've met here at Incirlik wanted to celebrate their
first anniversary in Ankara on the Memorial Day weekend and asked if we would
go along with them to show them around.
We said we would be very happy to go along. I set about getting hotel reservations at the King Hotel there; that's quite simple really, you get on the Internet, send a message with number of people and how many rooms; in very short order they get back with you to confirm space available and note rooms are reserved. Next, I went to the local train station for tickets; in order to get round trip, one must purchase at the train station. Tour agencies can only get you one-way tickets. I took a Turkish friend or should I say he took me to the station so there would be no translation challenges and in two minutes the tickets were completed, $104 per couple on the night sleeper train.
I confirmed with Candi that everything was in order and told her they could pay me later.
On the evening of the 28th our Turkish friend again took all of us to the train station in his van. He wouldn't hear of us taking a cab down town, what are friends for after all. He has a brand new VW and it's very nice. He let us out at the front of the station. We walked across the sizable courtyard into the station, through the main lobby, down the interior back stairs, through the tunnel under the tracks, up the stairs at the other end to the far platform where our train awaited us. It's interesting that it's called the Blue Train because it's actually creamy white with a single red and blue stripe.
We arrive a little early for departure (as is my way to do) so we wait a few minutes for our porter to call us. The train is only six cars behind a diesel engine. There are three standard passenger type cars and two sleepers with the dining car set between them. The cars appear to be built in 2001, from what it reads on maintenance panels. Our car is the last one on the train. Once we were cleared to board we were shown to our compartments. Chad & Candi were assign to 17 & 18; we were 19 & 20, the last compartment on the train. Actually, there is a porter compartment next, then the shower room and restroom before the passageway across the rear end of the car. I did some standing at the rear and watched the world fade away behind us that night. I'd venture the car is about 120 feet long as I paced it off. There are ten compartments with two berths each, with a corridor to one side of the train. The compartments have a sliding door and initially you step into a sitting compartment, which later transforms into bunks for your evening of sleep. You sit with your back to the front of the train in very comfortable individual armchair seats. In front of you to the right of the compartment just inside the door is a pre-formed fiberglass sink and mirror corner cabinet.
Water is available for washing from the faucet in the sink BUT you're "DO NOT" drink it. Shorter and to the left in front of you is a two door cabinet about 30 inches high with a two shelf cabinet on the left and a very small refrigerator behind the right side door. In the frig are some snacks: two packages of rather good crackers, two candy bars (chocolate and caramel), two plastic cups of water and two small cartons of (in this instance) peach juice, no not my idea of good juice. Nothing is cool, let alone cold! Interestingly enough, we've not yet been on the night train when the frig has been operating in anything other than a cabinet capacity. Above the cabinet are three clothes hooks double sided and above them is a framed smoke glass overhead rack. To the left is a very large window, which is most of the upper portion of the compartment, stretching nearly wall to wall across the side of the train. The window makes for great viewing when it's not full of condensation as ours is! It's a thermal pain and obviously the seal on this one is broken allowing moisture to collect inside making the view near impossible. Frosted directly in the center of the glass is the star and crescent from the Turkish Flag. They are of no distraction on a clear window but as I said, this one is full of condensation. Fortunately, the top quarter of the window is not thermal and you can pull to tilt it into the cabin to open it. I sit on the cabinet with my feet on the edge of the seating and can easily see through the quarter glass window. Believe it or not it isn't that uncomfortable either. I can too, see the upcoming scenery as opposed to the scenery where we've been. I prefer to see where I'm going, more than where I've been; it too allows me to see the full length of the train on the occasions when it turns right on the track. The engine is quite boxy looking as it is a red and white rectangle on the track. The engineers cabin is about the only distinction as it stands slightly above and is wider than the overall elongated box.
The porter has appeared once more to take our tickets; he will keep them until morning when he will return them, I've not yet figured out why they do that but then this is their way. It isn't long before the train pulls out of the station and we begin the 12-hour plus trip. We leave on time, 7:30 pm. We still have about an hour of daylight and we enjoy the view as Adana disappears into the urban landscape behind us. It isn't long before we ask Chad & Candi to join us in the dining car for dinner. They enjoyed chicken shish along with Carol and I get a Lamb shish, we have salad and bread as well. We rode along for just over an hour during dinner watching the sun melt away. The closer we got to losing the sun the higher we climbed into the Taurus Mountains. Leaving out of Adana toward Ankara is a great deal of work for our train, as it has to make its way up and over these mountains. The view from the dining car this whole way has been primarily agricultural: watermelons, citrus tree, potatoes, corn, cucumbers and multiple other products, as this is a very fertile part of Turkey; as I remember, over half of Turkey's produce is grown here.
Once we finish our meal, we return to our cabins in the adjacent car. The porter
has converted our rooms for the evening while we were away. The bunks actually
fold out from the wall; the lower one is the back of the seats we were earlier
sitting in, it simply folds down onto itself. The upper one falls into horizontal
position and is held in place by two large seatbelt like straps, and a ladder
is put in place to allow you entry. I always take the upper bunk so Carol doesn't
have to climb the very narrow and steep ladder. It's funny I always think back
to my childhood and the bunk beds I had in my room, but this ladder is much
narrower and the space it occupies is limited. There is little room to maneuver
once the compartment is converted for sleeping. The bunks are about six foot
long because I fit nearly wall to window, my head toward the corridor and my
feet toward the window. I'd guess the width to be about 30 inches. The bunk
is actually quite comfortable, with a very nice mattress, sheets and a blanket
available. The pillow has something to be desired (very hard this time) but
it's useable, well it's OK. The motion of the train of course, is from side
to side as it moves down the track. It's end-to-end for stopping and starting
but it's essentially smooth and easy. It will and does make sleep somewhat of
a challenge. Almost every stop of the train (there are many) causes one to roll
first forward then back. I certainly didn't count them so sleep was there some
of the time. I'm sure some of the stops were so gentle, I simply slept through
them. There are people though who just cannot sleep on the train; I tend to
get some sleep. I know I slept far more coming back on this trip than I did
Chad and Candi both said they didn't sleep well at all, but they had never before been on a train, and it truly takes some getting used to. They were good sports though for having not slept much at all.
I was up at sunrise (as I always am) and long before the dining car was available so I sat on the counter and watched the landscape melt away as we made our way through more beautiful agricultural countryside. Once over the mountains and into central Turkey there are field after field of grain racing past our window. This central part of the country is noted for vast amounts of grain (Turkey's bread basket). In years past I remember the many times we traveled through this area (both by bus and train) and this day was no different, it's just alive with green and beautiful growth beyond anything I could adequately describe.
It wasn't long before Chad & Candi were moving about (since they did not
sleep well) and we made our way down the corridor to the dinning car for breakfast;
Turkish breakfast that is, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese, olives
(both green and black), a boloney like meat product (one slice about the size
of a double thick silver dollar), local bread and plenty of tea (Chad &
Candi had a Pepsi each). While we ate I happen to be sitting with a view into
the kitchen and noticed the cook disposing of his peelings; they went directly
out the open window above his workspace. I motioned for Carol to look at this
guy's garbage disposal. At the same time we watched the rolling hills and grain
fields dissolve in the distance and we began to see more and more of the growing
population of central Turkey. Even the small villages we knew in the past are
now becoming small communities. The beauty of the landscape gives way to the
urban sprawl of Turkey's new way of life. The population of Ankara, I've learned,
has climbed into the 5 millions; just ten years ago it was around 3.5 million.
Once we've gotten through eating we return to our compartments and the bunks
have been stowed away, so once more we have our seats. Ankara is still a good
We're now beginning our graceful descent into the basin cradling Ankara. The city is actually spread over and around a vast box canyon. As Ankara was proclaimed Capital in 1923 it was a quiet village of summerhouses, wine country mostly; it has continued its climb up off the valley floor and has become a bustling modern city! As we roll our way farther and more deeply into its center toward the train station, the porter returns with our tickets and we prepare our bags for the walk through the terminal. It seems forever before the station finally comes into view, but once it does we are there and ready to begin showing Chad & Candi a good time and a new adventure.
We get off the train; walk nearly the full length of it and descend some stairs leading into the tunnel under the tracks. We cross under several sets of tracks (Ankara has a much larger station than Adana) and ascend to the main terminal platform, walk into and through the lobby and out the front doors to get a cab to our hotel. A number of cabbies are waiting as they know the train arrival times and queue up for fares. The city air is fresh, clear and cool as our cab wends its way through the downtown traffic. Our hotel is only a short cab ride away but traffic in this city is a circus (and not necessarily three ring), so it takes about twenty minutes.
I've got to take a moment to talk about "the taxi"; one never gets in one here without experiencing a new adventure. All of these cars have four doors; they're painted a blend of school bus and roast corn yellow, with their license plate number emblazoned in dark blue on each side of the car and on the roof. They drive as if someone else owns the cab and they give almost no regard to physics. Most of the drivers we've ridden with over the years have been well versed on evasive driving maneuvers and make their way through traffic with an aplomb that 's remarkable. I can't even tell you how many times I've been sure we were going to kill something or someone on the street and these guys thread the needle without incident! To be completely honest, they are not all white-knuckle rides but many will give you pause.
We made it to the hotel without delay but we're very early for check-in. They are very kind and have two rooms being cleaned that will be ready in only five or ten minutes, so we thank them and wait. Chad & Candi fill out the appropriate paperwork as we wait; we've been in the hotel before so our information is already on file. The check-in is done almost at the same instant we're told the rooms are ready, so we go to our rooms and drop off our bags. In short order we meet back in the lobby to begin Chad & Candi's tour and our re-discovery of the city we've come to see.
The first thing we want to do is take Chad & Candi to our favorite sweet shop for a mid-morning pastry and tea. The hotel desk clerk phones to get us a taxi, when it arrives we pile in and ride across town. When we get to the location for the shop we are quite taken aback, it's GONE! Fortunately, another of our Turkish friends has his gift shop next door, so we stop to ask about our friends who are gone. It seems they have retired and rented the old shop to a new merchant. We find this most disappointing but simply get on with our day. This is another confirmation for us that nothing remains static in any part of this world of ours.
With that disappointment behind us we walk across the street and check on another old friend's shop. We checked it out in September when we last came to Ankara and it was not open, today is no different, it isn't open either. We decide to waste no more time, we go to the light pole at the street to a call box and push the bottom there to get a cab; we get into the taxi and ride to Ulus (the oldest part of this city) to visit the Roman Bath complex. We pay the entry fee, just over a dollar a piece. This complex was built between 211-217 AD and covers a large area of ancient Ulus. You can still see the oval swimming pool in what used to be the cold room. The footprint for the hot and tepid areas also remain visible in the complex, but are more difficult to distinguish without knowing what and where they are. These features are in the primary exhibit area, now enclosed behind a fence. As we walk toward the fence we come across a turtle leisurely nibbling on a flowering piece of vegetation. This distracts our attention for a few minutes but then we get on with our exploration. The grounds around the major fenced ruin are strewn with broken marble, standing and fallen columns, ancient sarcophagi's, and numerous grave markers found during digs at this excavation. A great deal of this site must be envisioned with considerable imagination. There are a number of pictorials available on the grounds to illustrate the buildings and colonnades of the ancient past but little of the standing structure available to heighten one visual acuity.
We leave after making a complete round of the grounds; we make our way across the busy street adjacent to the ruin and into the reconstructed district of Ulus. Carol and I have a difficult time in this area because it is so much different from our past. We're looking for the Julian Column now, which was erected to commemorate the visit of Emperor Julian to Ankara in 362 AD. We're having little luck finding it when finally we give up and start to climb a stairway in a new shopping complex leading to our next site, the Mosque of Haci Bayram. As we are ascending the stairs, I happen to look to our right and there's the column! It's now so enveloped in the new buildings, it's hard to see; in our years past, it was nearly on it's own in a city square that no longer exists. It has a stork's nest atop it, but that seems to be abandoned. I can only imagine the stork has made alternative arrangements for living quarters since the buildings surrounding it have consumed the column. I can't say for certain the nest is no longer being used but we certainly do not see the stork today and this is prime stork breeding season.
All of the area we are walking through now is new to us. We've just gotten totally disoriented by it all. The structures around us have been built in the last ten years making even Ulus seem strange to us. In years past, this area was our most enjoyable shopping; it had charm and great character. Sometimes progress is not appreciated, I'm sorry, but the old charm was far warmer and much more attractive.
As we crest the stairs the old Mosque built in 1428 comes quickly to the fore and we are again viewing far too much change. The ancient past has once again been consumed by the all to present future! There are modern shops where old Ottoman homes once stood. Commercialism has trumped warm neighborhood courtyards. It is extremely difficult to see what has happened to these areas and I won't even try to explain my disappointment to our friends. I feel as though something has been taken from me that was never mine to begin with. The more we see of our old city the more it hurts; no don't ask, I don't know how to explain it, it simply feels wrong.
We take a few minutes to view the Temple of Augustus, still standing after centuries. This ruin was originally erected to commemorate the Goddess Abele in 25 BC and later was converted to a church. The Mosque of Haci Bayram uses a portion of the Temple's wall as its own, the mosque was built up against the temple. What you see now of the old temple is a basic wall structure with an apse, no roof and little else. The walls are etched with the deeds of Augustus and with the passing years of pollution in Ankara these have been fading (inadvertently stolen by man through nature) to the point of almost total disappearance. It's a striking example of what inattention and simple neglect with do for an ancient treasure. Turkey has far and away too many treasures of this kind to afford upkeep and preservation but it's a shame something like this in their Capital City cannot be saved!
After lingering here for a time we begin our walk down the street away from the mosque and the ruin. We're looking for the stairs we used to use in the past, we find them but they're of no use to us, they no longer go where we wish to go, so we move on. As we pass them by and walk down the street further another set of steps look inviting and tend to go to what we think is the right place. We opt to start down and find we have chosen as set that descends through some old houses that have not yet been destroyed by progress. First we're on the stairs then we're on a concrete path then more stairs, we're climbing down and then across the hillside then down again until we have weaved our way to the street far below. That certainly gave our guests some feel for what it used to be like for us to walk in this area.
We don't go far, as our next pursuit is the citadel we can see on the companion hillside, far above where we currently stand. We slide into a taxi to take us to the hilltop so we don't completely die of exhaustion. The cab lets us out at the gate open into the citadel; this enclosure was built by the Galatians in 327 BC atop one of the higher hills of the old city and has been sacked and re-built more times than I can tell you. We decide after entering that lunch would be our first order of business, so we go to one of the newly renovated Ottoman homes that is part museum and part restaurant. As you might imagine the cost is high but it's an experience you must have at least once. These places are all new to us as well, because again, all of this touristic commercialism has taken place in the last ten years. I appreciate and understand the economics of the effort expended to save these Ottoman homes BUT commercializing this ancient ruin is sad.
The place we choose to eat is four floors of part museum and part bar/café. We are directed to the upper most room via a couple of ancient staircases and the view is vast and clear. We opt for salads and hors d'oeuvre; we aren't all that hungry but wanted a little something. We spend about an hour and then move on to see more of the citadel. We walk deeper into it through the inner most gate and climb to the highest wall; made available now by newly constructed stairs and pathways. This is a body of steps with no railings and once we are at the top of the wall we are some hundred feet up from where we started. The view, like that from the restaurant window, is spectacular! My vertigo is alive and well however, with no guide rails or walls up here on top. The reconstruction simply made this highest wall what it was centuries ago. OSHA does not live here!!!
The whole way up the steps, urchins selling crafts accost us with demands to buy their creations. They aren't really bad people; they are simply woman and children taking advantage of a captive audience, as they try to make money. They're mostly just annoying. We put them off as we ascend the hillside but acquiesce on our descent. Candi decides to get a purse (black macramé) from one lady; it's very lovely and well made so worth the asking price (about $7). Carol, further down the hill, buys a scarf from someone else to add to the many she already has, but we are thinking of visiting a mosque and she needs the head covering.
After getting back to the relative flat of the street below and through the craft sellers we make our way through more of the citadel and back out the gate from whence we'd come. Just out the gate and down a short incline to the left, we come upon the nut and dried fruit vendors. It smells great but we pass without buying anything. We're certainly enticed to do so but we're actually headed for a friend's gift shop to introduce Chad and Candi.
We're visiting Fatma and Yetki Tuna (friends from 1983) at Gallery "Z"; they're from the old neighborhood (many of our old friends relocated to this area after the US Forces left Ankara in 1993) where we lived the first time we lived in Ankara. We let Chad and Candi look around some. Fatma runs things here and she has art exhibitions on a regular schedule; Carol is visiting with and considering buying another painting from one of our old artists (Ismit Yilmaz, she does watercolor flowers). It's interesting that paintings we used to purchase for 45 and 50 dollars are now $150 to $300 and more. We don't linger here long, only just enough time for a drink and then we move on. Carol has suggested we walk back toward the citadel gate and the nut vendors.
There is a quaint little narrow street that descends the hillside where we're headed. This street is noted for spice vendors, fabric and hardware shops. It has been blocked off to traffic since we lived here last and that's kind of nice. It's very steep so cars and trucks were better served going around it anyway. The aroma of spices is still intoxicating and the colors continue to be radiant in the sun; there are rich rust reds of the hot pepper variety, bold greens of spices I don't even know, crystal whites with the different salts, and rich tans of cinnamon. There are numerous dried leafy spices in barrels and bags lining the street as we continue our descent.
In the few fabric shops along our route there are brilliant rainbow colors in satin and velvet for making native customs. There are cotton pastels in every conceivable color and wool suit material lining shelves in shops with their doors thrown wide open for the day's business. There are shops of raw wool awaiting buyers. The hardware shops have all matter of products: there are net like hammocks hanging outside, there are vermin traps stacked at the door (both large and small), massive dog collars hanging from the eves, hoes, shovels and other tools stand against the wall. If you can imagine it in a hardware store, it is more than likely available in some form right here.
As we approach the end of the street we turn left and make our way down more stairs to another friend's shop. We introduce Chad & Candi once more to a good friend, Attila Torun a gentleman noted for black & white photos of Turkey but also general tourist collectables. When we met Attila in 1982, he too had a shop on our side of the city. He is one of our closest friends in Turkey. It's truly a pleasure to see Attila and introduce Chad & Candi to him and his shop. Here again, we stop only a few minutes, as our time is limited. We take our leave thanking Attila for his kindness (he checked on some material for us) and we walk across another street to see yet another old and dear friend. This time it's a copper shop we stop in to meet Isan Giredeli, a coppersmith. This I'm sure is a real experience for Chad & Candi because Isan is very pleased to see us and makes a big fuss over our stopping by his shop with new friends. He offers us refreshments, which we generously accept. He digs out an ancient photo of Carol and me to show off to Chad & Candi, it's from our first time in country, so it's at least 20 years old, we look way young! We also look much thinner. As before, we cannot linger here, there is far too much city we must get through yet.
We walk further up the street and find a staircase leading down to the street below. Carol wants to walk them through the primary fabric sector; this is all clothing, bedding, towels and drapery shops. Surprisingly, there is a gun and ammunition shop buried among all these clothes too. We're immediately engulfed in a wave of humanity as we get onto the street surface below. One can truly feel the sensation of a salmon on this street, no matter in what direction you move it seems you are swimming up stream. We slowly make our way through the masses while Carol & Candi occasionally dart into a shop to view this or that 'baby item' but we take little time because we're headed across the city again. Once we make it to the terminus of the street we're beat, we get a cab and head back to the hotel to let Candi have some well deserved down time; the poor lady is pregnant and we are beating her to death with all this walking.
At the hotel, we let them out of the cab and we take a short ride of our own to a Saturday Bazaar we once frequented. Here we go again; you know the line, nothing is ever the same (you simply cannot relive anything), the bazaar is still where it used to be but change has not been kind to it. We could not find another old friend we came to see, nor could we find anything of the old merchandise that once filled the stalls here. Cell phones seem to have taken over this country in our absence; they are so incredibly ubiquitous! Even in Adana, cell phone shops abound; you have to wonder how any of them make any money at all. Aisle after aisle of this old bazaar is now lined with Chinese electronics and trinkets; there are stalls full of clothing as in the past, there too are the occasional auto parts stalls but most of what we remember has faded into history. Loads and loads of new century junk abound; it's reminiscent of southern flea markets.
Our little detour is quite unproductive so we simply get another taxi and return to the hotel. Earlier in the day we had made arrangements to have dinner with another dear friend and his family. Carol and I freshened up and then met up with Chad and Candi again. I suggested we walk to the restaurant where we were to meet for dinner because it was just around the block from the hotel. There was some friendly grousing, a bit of hesitation but in short order we set off.
I managed to find us a shorter walk than had been though BUT made the walk into a bit of a climb since the street I chose to cut off on was somewhat steep. If you hadn't concluded it yet, I must tell you, Ankara has almost no flat surfaces. No matter, we made the restaurant on time and had a great reunion with Cengis Dolunay and his two daughters, Gunsu and Goksu, and his son, Mehmet. Cengis and Carol had the pleasure of working together in the Legal Office both times we lived in Ankara. His daughter, Gunsu, was my secretary on our second stay in Ankara.
We had a very famous dinner of Iskender kebab; it's thinly shaved lamb over pita bread, smothered in tomato sauce and hot butter, with plain yogurt to the side. This is a meal we very much miss, as it is not available in Adana. I hope we didn't overwhelm Chad and Candi but for us the conversation was warm and nonstop. As we were finishing our dinner Cengis insisted we come to their home for desert. Once we're comfortable at their home we're served drinks, shortly after, Gunsu brings out a very large platter of fresh fruit in one hand and a cake topped in strawberries in the other. Each of us has a piece of cake and we continue our visit. Time gets away, as it tends to do in these situations and we graciously thank them for their hospitality and leave. We've just topped our evening off with great friends.
It's Sunday morning now, and breakfast awaits. The hotel offers a broad array of food for breakfast, traditional Turkish and continental fare, eggs and the like. I opt for traditional Turkish; sliced tomato, cucumber, white cheese and Turkish salami. Carol has an omelet of mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese. Chad and Candi both have a ham and cheese omelet. Carol and I both have Turkish tea while Chad and Candi each have Pepsi. After breakfast we go to our rooms to pack, we need to get checked out so our rooms can be available to the next guests. We'll be leaving Ankara on the night train again this evening but the hotel clerk allows us to leave our bags in lock-up at the hotel desk while we're out all day. We pay for our rooms and drop our bags off so we can get started on today's adventures.
We begin again this morning with a cab ride to Ulus to visit Anatolian Civilizations Museum. This museum was established in the thirties to document and maintain the ruins from the multitude of ancient Turkish sites across the country. It was created from an old Han (hotel) and Bedesten (covered bazaar) originally built in 1464 and restored after a devastating fired in the 1880s in the later part of the 1930s. It opens at 8:30, quite a bit before we expected, and we arrive around 9:00. We find the entry clerk unprepared for visitors; seems the ticket machine is not available (computer malfunction) to dispense tickets at the moment. The clerk waves it off however, takes our money and tells us he will get our tickets to us in the museum, as they become available.
We cannot go through the turn styles without tickets so the clerk motions for us to go around behind the visitor center to enter the grounds. As we make our way up to the front of the museum, several older gentlemen queue up to be our guide. One gentleman starts to explain what he's doing there before us, when he's confronted with Carol's Turkish and decides we can make our way alone. They too find I speak the language to some degree and bid us a most pleasant visit. We assure them we have been through the museum a number of times in the past and thank them so much for their compliments on our meager ability to speak their language. Courtesy and respect in this country, especially for the older generation, pay many positive dividends.
Once inside we begin the trek through ancient history, this facility starts us off at 50,000 BC (the Neolithic period) and we quickly transition into the early Bronze Age as we walk just a short way into the first exhibit hall. We walk through the lives of prehistoric man and into the temples of the Hittites, through the development of cuneiform writing on to the stage King Midas. We walk among ruins consolidated from every corner of this amazing country. There are exhibits of Bronze Age material, ancient obsidian, the beginnings of iron tools, discovery of glass and into the age of coin production for commerce. This museum transports us from the beginning of time through the lives and times of the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. The garden area surrounding the museum is also full of ruins from numerous sites around the country.
After several hours of walking through ancient history we exist the museum complex, just out the gate we opt for a taxi and move on to the premier tourist attraction in Ankara, that of the Ataturk Mausoleum. Before we are allowed to proceed with our cab, we must have our purses and bags searched, and we have to walk through a metal detector to make this visit. Should you not be familiar with the name Ataturk; he was the Father and founder of this incredible country. He proclaimed Turkey a Republic in 1923 after some courageous struggles and dragged the population into the 20th century kicking and screaming! I could go on about this Leader for a good while but suffice it to say, he was far ahead of his time.
Ataturk died in 1938 and was laid to rest in this magnificent complex in 1953. The entire complex, grounds and buildings, are dedicated to his memory. His life and times are brought to us through his cars, his clothes, his military awards and the multitude of gifts bestowed upon him by Heads of State from numerous other countries. He's a leader who never visited another country; his most famous quote say it all for me: "Peace at Home and Peace in the World".
Our taxi has dropped us at the foot of stairs that ascend to the Lion's Way, a pathway that carries us into the parade plaza of the main complex. Each structure in the complex has a symbolic significance; almost NO dignitary visits this Capital City without making a pilgrimage to this place. There's a specific room set aside for these dignitaries to pay homage to Turkey and the memory of Ataturk. It happens that the room is the entry hall to the exhibits of Ataturk's life. There are two easels standing to the back that display photos of those who have stopped by in the not to distant past. This day, we see that the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Herzegovina have stopped by to pay tribute to this country and this most revered man. Each of these men has laid a wreath in the rotunda of the magnificent mausoleum as their part of the visit here.
After a moment of reviewing the photos we begin viewing in the first exhibit hall containing artifacts such as military documents, swords, guns, metals, bar sets, time pieces and photos of those who have visited with this great leader. The next hall has a life size wax figure sitting at a desk with displays of flags and formal dress clothes flanking it.
The crowd today is massive and extremely orderly as we move through from one hall to the next. Our next encounter is with enormous panoramas documenting wars Turkey has fought for its independence. Ataturk was instrumental in these conflagrations and he is prominently portrayed in each painting we encounter. He was trained from an early age in all things military; he attended a military high school and two consecutive academies. The sound affects that accompany these dioramas too make this experience very real. I've personally read a number of books on this incredible man and find these displays very compelling. I hate to use the word deity to describe any man, but many revere this man to the point of near deification. He was always in the forefront of battle and never once was he wounded. He was said to have believed he was a man who could not be hit in battle, but interestingly, another of his famous quotes goes something like this: "My body will die and turn to dust, but the Republic will stand forever".
Our route from one exhibit to the next expands what we've already learned of this man; reforms instituted during his Presidency each get their own display and full historic notation. The shear volume of material is overwhelming but demonstrate very clearly the impact Ataturk had on this extraordinary people and country. We reach the terminus of this magnificent tribute to a man who was larger than life for a lot of Turks and we are immediately confronted with modern commercialism, the gift shop! Carol and I linger only long enough to buy two books, which document the entire exhibition. I want to endorse one book with the date and Chad & Candi's name as a memento, both for their anniversary and to commemorate this visit.
Upon leaving the gift shop we are deposited onto the central parade plaza and make a decision to walk the entire upper level perimeter of the complex. We begin in the tower displaying Ataturk's 1934 Cadillac and then walk a short way to the next tower where his two Lincolns are presented, farther on we find the Cason with cannon that was used to transport his body upon his death. He actually died in Dolmabache Palace in Istanbul and his body was transported by train to Ankara. It lay in state at the Ethnographic Museum for the period between his death and in internment here.
It's well past lunchtime now, so we take the shortest distance out the compound and hail a cab. Our legs are rebelling now to the point where even crowding into the taxi becomes welcome relief! We ride across town again to an old favorite restaurant Haci Arif Bey of our past; it is fortunately still intact. We're directed to the large patio to the rear and seated. As we're walking toward our table Chad and Candi see the small pools inhabited by turtles. There are a few small ones but several are quite large. I tell them, the turtles have been a part of the place forever, not these probably but turtles in general.
We are treating Chad and Candi for their anniversary here, so we order some special items. We have a famous and most tasty cigi korfta along with a lahmacun; the first is a nearly raw lamb kneaded for a number of hours by hand with cracked wheat and lots of hot spices (the spice actually cooks the meat, or so they say), the other is a pizza like thing. Both are quite spicy if done correctly and this place does them very well. Both Chad & Candi have chicken shish and Carol has eggplant shish. I'm having salads, and I'm eating the excess of the first delivered meats.
We've made this a very leisurely meal so we could all rest up some from all the walking we've done today, however we have other places to see and show off, so we must move on. I pay the check and we're off. We make our way up the street and around the corner to the Corum; a modern mall complex attached to the Sheraton Hotel. We're in a very new part of the city now; all of this has been built in the last ten to fifteen years, the Sheraton is actually adding on even today. We walk through the mall for sometime; Chad and Candi look in different stores and dismiss a purchase as out of the question. Prices in this mall are far and away out of either of our budgets! Needless to say, this is not a place your average Turk will shop. As we were passing one group of ladies, the older one in traditional headscarf simply lamented in Turkish, that everything she looked at was high priced.
We made our way up two different escalators and toward the back of the mall to exist. We were making our way to the Sheraton to introduce it to Candi, Chad had already seen it (actually stayed in it) as he was on a guard detail (with some General) here from Adana some months earlier. We entered through a metal detector at the front door and walked around the lobby. Chad showed Candi the areas where he had been on his previous visit. I visited the very nice bookstore they have.
We left after a short time and got another cab to take us to the AtaKule tower (125 meters high, just over 400 FT) in the newest part of the city. This is another of Ankara's modern malls and was there when we lived in Ankara through our second tour. We used to come here for stuffed potatoes and we see today, they're still being served. Chad also notes that KFC is here and he decides he needs a drink. He's a little put off with his discovery because when he was here on guard detail; he was told KFC was too far away and he could not get to it. We came here because we could use the tower for a bird's eye view of the city. We paid our dollar each to ride the elevator to the top; the view today is magnificent, there is a gentle breeze and the crowd is minimal. We walk around the observation deck and point out a number of sites, including each one we had visited up to now. Although the view was great, time was slipping away and Carol had decided we needed to see the huge Kocatepe Mosque in the central part of the city.
We queue up for the elevator and descend the tower making our way to the curb to hail yet another cab. This ride took us through new and different streets and put us out at the foot of the largest mosque in the city. Again we ascended a flight of stairs to the mosque interior plaza, we noticed a casket to the right and worked our way across the plaza without disturbing the mourners. Now, standing at the foot of the mosque entry stairs we climb once more. Carol and Candi don their scarves; we all remove our shoes and enter the building.
Carol and I have not been inside since seeing it under construction some 20 years before. As is the case with all mosques we visited, this one is beautiful on the inside. The artistry and intricate painting done from the floor's edge to the central dome is simply beautiful. Each dome interior is painted in gold leaf with phrases from the Koran and the walls are adorned by simple tributes to Allah, or God. All the windows to the east are stained glass. The sun is shining in just right and they are a blaze with color. The Imam ascends the stairs to the Koran and begins to prayerfully sing praises to Allah, so we bid the space a hasty farewell; we do not wish to disturb the faithful.
Once we had replaced our shoes we made our way down the stairs, across the plaza, down another set of steps and crossed the street that runs under the mosque plaza. We had decided that Chad and Candi needed to see the 21st century mall immediately underneath this traditional symbol of Islam. We entered through the main doors and we're engulfed in commercialism by the supermarket and home product store. Not far along we board a conveyor that takes us both up and more deeply into the mall. As we get off one we almost immediately get on the next for another lift up and into the next level. Chad, Candi and Carol begin looking at baby clothes, while I try to grin and bare the place. Like the others, my feet and legs are killing me, and dawdling isn't helpful.
The stop isn't a total waste; Carol has found something more for a child she doesn't even know yet, her newest grandchild due in the fall. We get to the cashier and then miraculously we are on our way out of the place, through the masses of humanity.
Once more outside we get a taxi and return to the hotel to rest and wait for our departure time, to the train station. It's about six in the afternoon and our train isn't until 8:15, so we have time for some refreshment and most welcome relaxation. We get caught up in talking about the day's events and our exhaustion levels. Candi has made today valiantly, we've walked well over ten miles this weekend as far as I'm concerned, I don't really know of course how far we've actually walked but I'm also sure we do not want to know!!!!
The deck clerk phones for a taxi, and in short order we're on our way to the train station and our sleeping car. The whole weekend has gone without a hitch and as we're early at the station, we go to sit in the pastry shop where we have sweets and drinks. Time marches on so we pay and dash off to the stairs down under the tracks and back up to our train. We board without incident and then we're hit by the revelation that this night train has NO dining car. We've never been on a night train in Turkey without a dining car, I'm quite taken aback by this because we have not eaten and this was a shock we were not prepared for.
Fortunately we had a big lunch and none of us is real hungry anyway, but it
means no breakfast in the morning either. I'm not real pleased, but then life
does go on. It gets dark quite quickly after we board and dining is not something
to dwell upon. About an hour out of the station we get our cabin reconfigured
for sleeping and we turn in. The walking has made sleep a whole lot more attractive
and I feel like we all will sleep very well on the return trip to Adana.