Noon in Ankara is 5am in Boston. Ankara is the capital of Turkey.
The people were friendly but their English was as good as my Turkish so we talked at each other and tried to pick up nonverbal cues. My first bottle of water was free because I had no change. I got change at a bank and when I went back to offer to pay, the vendor reminded me he had told me the water free. I didn’t try the mussels sold with lemon wedges, but there were lots of carts selling them.
The people in Ankara were of all skin colors, hair colors and eye colors. I think that was notable for me because Turks don’t make up a noticeable ethnic group in New England and I had no preconceived notion of what to expect. The men were well dressed. Even the taxi drivers wore a suit and tie. Most women wore dress coats almost to the ground.
I think I went to just about every bank in the city center trying to change travelers checks. In Ankara, I recommend you have cash. Some streets were filled with shops like NYC ,but just some. Ankara is a city built into hills where you see houses tucked into the inclining hillsides. Just around the bend, you may find yourself in the middle of nowhere.
How did I forget to take the street map from the Lonely Planet Guidebook at home? After a full morning on the hunt, I procured a city map in Turkish. Although I spent much time being lost, I ultimately arrived at most places on my itinerary. Getting directions would often lead me to even other places! I wrote in my journal, “Next to nobody speaks English here. So glad I know SOME Turkish.” I saw no tourist trolleys, but I got a bit of a city overview on the ferris wheel in Fountain Park. Some museums sold a few postcards.
At one museum was an excerpt from a speech (translated in English too) by Ataturk in which he said–Growing up if he had two pennies, he would save one for reading materials; and otherwise he would not have gotten to where he was in life. I highly recommend the Anatolian Civilization Museum for its fantastic artifacts. Worth a look is the 5,000 BC cave painting, a linear painting of an orange vulture on the dark gray wall. Given my state of mind, I was wondering if it had served as a road sign.
My last day in Ankara, I was hoping the rest of the country had such delicious breakfasts filled with crusty bread, olives, tomatoes, cucumber slices, hard cheese, boiled eggs and gingerbread. Even with all the running around I did, I managed to gain weight in Turkey. I think my leisurely breakfasts were responsible. I was told Ayran (white yogurt) is the most popular drink in Turkey, but that didn’t sound fattening.
I became comfortable in Ankara. Perhaps because it is not a touristy place, I was very much left alone to explore. But the locals were both friendly and accommodating whenever I asked for help. And the statue at the entrance to the train station made me feel certain they had seen my kind before.
Look at that scene. Which face is yours? Which face would you like to be yours?