22 September 2003 Monday - Ankara - 63 Photos

This morning, we got up at the un-godly hour of 5:00am, showered, and hauled our butts and luggage downstairs where we waited for our transfer to the airport.

The transfer was uneventful, and we flew to the Turkish city of Ankara. After the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Kathy and I had been looking forward to a more quiet, relaxed country atmosphere of Ankara. Wrong. It turns out that Ankara is also a huge, bustling city with nearly four million people.

When we got to the airport, the airport staff announced in Turkish (but not English) where everyone was supposed to go. There were several doors marked with different things. Most of the people on the flight looked like businessmen who were commuting, and they all went to one door. We figured the other door was for picking up luggage, so we started heading toward that door. When we got inside, it didn't seem right because there were very few people there. Of course, everything was in Turkish. Then I had second thoughts. I didn't trust my assumption of which door to take. What if we were in "International Arrivals," and the businessmen went into "Domestic"? If that was the case, instead of picking up our luggage as we expected, Kathy and I might be shuffled off to long Customs and Immigration lines, and our luggage would be on the other side of that first door.

Kathy and I went back outside and tried to go to the other door, but we were stopped by airport staff who forced us to get back onto the bus. We were alarmed, but the bus driver drove us to yet another door that was labeled "International Arrivals." Of course, since we were coming from Istanbul, we weren't international, we were domestic. Kathy and I refused to get off the bus. Eventually, we convinced the bus driver to take us back to our original door, which was for domestic arrivals, where we picked up our luggage.

We were met at the airport by our guide, name Mete, pronounced "Meta." He's a pretty cool guy, about our age, knowledgeable and fun. He's a hunter and he's a big fan of the Cabelas outdoors store in Minnesota. He even wears a Cabelas T-shirt and it is his favorite store. He told us that his friends call him "Accessory Mete" because he carries around lots of gadgets, including a gadget watch (with barometer, altimeter, and such), two different types of Leatherman tools, 5-mile two-way radios, first-aid kit, camping and fire-making tools, and so forth.

Mete told us that most people (like 65%) in the city of Ankara worked for the government. His wife even works for the government. I don't know if he was exaggerating or not, but he said that she worked for the Turkish CIA.

Mete took us first to a mausoleum

dedicated to the founding father of Turkey, a guy named Ataturk.

This guy is vastly important to the Turkish Republic. Before World War I, Turkey was controlled by the Ottoman empire, which was the Sultans and their favorites, and Turkey was an Islamic government. During World War I, the Turks sided with the Germans (which surprised me to learn), and of course, the Germans lost to the Allies. Mr. Ataturk served in the Turkish military his whole life, and he freed Turkey from the allies and make Turkey a secular (non-religious) republic. Ataturk's face is plastered on posters and statues all over Turkey, as well as on all their denominations of money. At the mausoleum, we first saw the attached museum, then we saw the casket, and so forth. While we were there, there were some dignitaries from Pakistan visiting and we snuck a few pictures of them.

Afterward, Mete drove us to the Anatola Museum of Civilization, which was very cool. They had a lot of artifacts from the stone age, bronze age, and so forth. For example, they had some of the clay figures from the days of Goddess worship, like it talks about in the book, "When God was a Woman." They had a ton of cool things, including lots of clay tablets from several civilizations with cuneiform writing on them.

We left the museum, walked up a very big hill, and ate lunch at a restaurant. Mete spent the whole time talking about Turkish history, culture and so forth. He talked more at the first museum than our previous guide, Tendu, did the entire trip, so we were very pleased with him.

He also talked about how glad he was to have young, healthy tourists because he had dealt with too many old, frail people, or rude people and/or the usual complainers. Much to our surprise, he said that Australian tourists were the worst: rude, demanding and always complaining. We told him our experience with Australians was completely opposite: friendly, courteous, and helpful.

He also spoke about his previous tour group, where a bunch of beautiful Spanish girls tried to seduce him. Apparently there is a popular movie in Spain about a woman who goes on a trip to Turkey and has an affair with her tour guide. The movie has apparently given many Spanish women the idea to go to Turkey and try to pick up a tour guide. Mete talked about how hard it is to resist these beautiful women, fawning over him, and how his wife doesn't understand. He said that every tour, where he spends a week away from home with tourists, he falls in love with at least one woman, and then it takes him three days to forget her after she goes home. He also said that he loves his wife and is completely dedicated to her, but he is also a man, so his hormones rage as much as everyone else.

He left us at our hotel in the early afternoon, saying he was going to apply for his hunting license. He said that wild boars are very common, and deer are protected. Hunting is very expensive, like a thousand dollars a year, and that doesn't include a fee for each animal you kill.

After we left Mete, we checked into our room, then took a taxi to a mosque where there is also a saint buried, plus some Roman ruins. The mosque also had a beautiful view of the citadel, which we decided not to visit.

After that, we walked to a roman column,

and then to a horse-mounted statue of (you guessed it) Ataturk.

We started to do some more shopping, but we were tired, and my cold was making me very tired, so we took a taxi back to the hotel. I was kind of annoyed at the taxi driver, because he took a roundabout way to our hotel, obviously milking us for more money. Still, taxis are very cheap, like five dollars.

That brings up the subject of money. It's pretty funny, because the Turkish money is the Lira, and there is about 1,350,000 Lira to one dollar. Therefore, when I go to the ATM to get cash, I am instantly a multi-millionaire, and very nearly a billionaire. The last ATM we visited in Istanbul, I took out three hundred million Lira! I bet the show "Who wants to be a millionaire" isn't popular here. Someone told us that the Turkish government has plans to drop several zeros in the future.

Once back in the hotel, I took a nap, my second for the day (being sick on vacation sucks) and then we went out walking. We ate dinner at a small café that we found, but it was very disappointing. Kathy ordered Beef Stroganoff, and it was bad: very tough with lots of gristle. I ordered a cheeseburger and it was alright. Then we walked back toward the hotel, stopped at a small convenience store, spent millions on some coke, candy bars and ice-cream bars. Then we walked to a beautiful new mosque that is near our hotel, and it was all lit up at night. I wanted a photo, but unfortunately, we hadn't brought our cameras to dinner, so we walked all the way back to the hotel and got the cameras, then walked back to the mosque. We spent a long time trying to get the perfect shot of this mosque, but none of the photos turned out very good.

Then went back to the hotel, where I am writing. We're still out of shape. I'm exhausted from all the walking, especially while fighting a cold.

Tomorrow, we are supposed to do a lot of driving, or, rather, Mete will drive. At least we'll get out of the crowded city and into the countryside.