A Tale in Red: Ankara, The Capital

23 February 2011

Who would want to leave a fairy-tale place to go to a bureaucratic full of politicians’ city? Certainly not me. I was refusing to leave Cappadocia, the guide insisted we have to leave since there were lots of things to see and places to visit. “We have to see more nine places. Come on!” 

It was a cold morning when I said my farewell to Cappadocia with a promise to return. The mood was like the one you feel when someone you love left the city to move far, and meetings become something complicated regulated by each other free time and economic issues. I was sad, knowing we were going to Ankara did nothing to lift my bad mood.

I was listening to the music thinking about what we had ahead and how I would miss Turkey and the life I was experiencing. Suddenly, the car just makes a 90-degree curve, crossing the other way road and entered in a narrow secondary path. After feeling scared to the core, I asked what the hell was going on. “You have to see the lake.”

“The lake” was Tuz Gölü or Salt Lake. It is the third-largest lake in Turkey and one of the largest salt lakes in the world. It occupies an area of 1,500 km2, but its depth varies, most of the time, from 0.5 to 1 m. It is a source of salt for the region. I never had seen such a big lake with such high salinity, and the water depth was not that deep! You can walk on the lake having only your ankles inside the water. “It’s not always like that, when summer comes, with the snow turning to water and rain, the lake depth increases.” Said the guide.  At the lake’s shores, it’s possible to buy salt, cosmetics and souvenirs made of the slat. We stopped at the local restaurant to rest and have a çay before heading to Ankara.

A big city is a big city. Ankara is a big city. Turkey’s capital hasn’t the charm of the Bosphorus and so many historic and meaningful sites like Istanbul. Like all big city, Ankara was difficult: indomitable traffic, lack of a softer personality, the rush coldness everywhere. You could see people running through the town, noising cars honking, distressed faces, and a more formal way to live.  If you had visited Istanbul like me, you certainly would miss some laziness and warmth. But, as I said, it’s the capital and, Ankara has no time for kindness and simple things.

However, this first impression probably was created by the fact that I have left Kapadokya – magical and mysterious Cappadocia – and the change in landscape and people was a shock.

Ankara is the city to be explored, especially for those who appreciate the modernity. It has a history and monuments, like the tomb of Atatürk, probably the most visited part of the capital, museums, shopping malls, restaurants. It’s a lively and busy city, day and night not much different from London or Sao Paulo.

Our first stop was a restaurant. The place was full of people who worked at the government or in the companies around the city. People on their suits and heels, mobile phones and fashion style eating salads, lahmacun, and some European dishes while talking and having a juice or çay. It was apparent Fırat didn’t feel comfortable with those people showing a wild, taciturn, reserved mood making clear he hated – that’s the word – posh people.

After lunch, we went to Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Atartük. For those not familiar with the recent history of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founder, creator, father of the Republic of Turkey. I want to make a post about it, because as many presidents with centralised tendencies, Atatürk made the mistake to think he was invincible, immortal and did not prepare anybody to carry on his plan for the future of Turkey.  Atatürk died on 10 November 1938 and left as a heritage a country moving toward modernity but conflicted and divided. On 1943-1954 was built the mausoleum in Ankara, where his tomb is. The place is magnificent. Established not to forget the enormity of the Atatürk’s deed, but also everything that the Turkish people have pride in their successful history.

From there we went to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. It was interesting to discover that at the very beginning, there was a goddess – not a male god, but a female one – and see the ways the ancient civilisation expressed their religiosity. 

We were passing by one civilisation to another: the Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Persian, Greeks, Assyrians, Armenians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans … A trip through thousands of years in Anatolia

We left with a hot chocolate in hand, and the task of finding the hotel, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture had reserved for me. After the hotel check-in, we left for dinner and play some billiard in a place nearby. During our return to the hotel, we discuss it was better to visit other sites near Ankara or continue exploring the city. I decide to go elsewhere. It would be proved the right choice.

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