Ankara (1230 km)

Ștefan Cândea
Yesterday we entered Ankara. Although the GPS we’re using (Garmin nuvi) doesn’t have the map of Turkey, it does have a general support for the main roads. The car keeps positioning itself parallel to the road, but an approximate direction is somewhat useful outside cities. Once we enter the city, the gadget becomes useless, so the only sense of direction we get is from signalling systems. Which gets us off the track in the first five minutes. We reach a platform of blocks of flats, one of the many we have seen ever since our arrival in Turkey. Up close, nothing seems spectacular anymore: blocks of fifteen storeys and even taller ones with big spaces between them, parking lots and playgrounds. And yet, life on such a platform must be ghastly because of the distance from the city. I have read an interview about two young women who lived on a similar platform near Istanbul – they needed seven hours to go to work and return home every day.

New Ankara

We regained our sense of direction thanks to the locals and headed for the city centre. We got swamped into a chaos similar to the one when crossing Istanbul. Police cars and ambulances do not have right of way. However, we granted a police car, its rotating light on, right of way – the policeman cast a surprised glance at me and very cautiously drove ahead, as if expecting to get ambushed. After two hours in chaotic traffic, we decide to find a paid parking lot and we head off on foot through the town centre – Kizalay (New Ankara). For a couple of hours, we went in search for cheap hotels – until we found the ideal offer. In the evening we learned that it was one of Lonely Planet’s top recommendations (we had decided to avoid the guidebook recommendations).

New Ankara. The town centre is a coloured and noisy mixture of stalls with clothes, paintings, restaurants and superposed terraces. It doesn’t have the air of a tourist attraction, but it is definitely a sight for the locals. Around us, a multitude of youngsters, but no foreign tourists whatsoever. Moreover, no visible signs of religious strictness. We find two streets decorated for Christmas, heavy with wreaths and suspended Christmas lights. Instead of Christmas symbols, overhead we see the logo of Efes Pilsener beer. Most terraces are populated by men. Only in a few places do young women and men drink together and these are rock bar terraces. Otherwise, Tarkan’s music fills the streets, and the blokes maddeningly whistle tunes and clap their hands every evening, no matter if the next day is a work day or the weekend.