Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Touring Ankara - 11/6/2009

(Sorry for the delay in postings. The travel schedule got very busy at the end and then I got sick. I am feeling a little better at the moment, so I thought I would seize the moment.)

I got up around 8 am and we all had a nice breakfast together that Vildan’s mother had prepared for us. After eating and getting ready to go, we went across the street from Levent’s apartment to catch the bus. We rode the bus to the subway and took the subway downtown to Levent’s office. There we met Omer, who was lending us his car for the day. By that time, it was almost noon and Levent had wanted to take us to the big Kocotepe mosque in the downtown area. We parked in a garage underneath the Mosque complex and passed through an underground mall and then up to the surface area where the Mosque entrance was. The building was very impressive. It was patterned after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, though it wasn’t as old.

We went inside for the prayers and I was able to take some pictures during the prayers. The interior of the Mosque was as amazing as the exterior, very awe-inspiring.

After prayers, we walked to downtown Ankara. We did a little bit of shopping, though, Jeff only ended up buying some pictures of Ataturk. Then went stopped in a little restaurant and ate some Simit. This was basically bread with cheese baked into the inside. We also had plates of cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes to go with the bread. After lunch we began to head back to the parking garage where the car was parked. Along the way, we ran into a large number of police in riot gear standing near a small demonstration. Levent said it was some kind of student rights thing. He said that apparently the police we expecting bigger crowds, as there were several large columns of police as well as armored vehicles. It was pretty cool and I got a number of pictures while I was there. We finally arrived back at the car in the parking garage.

After that, we went to the famous Ankara fort in the middle of the old town. It is a very old Ottoman fort that is built on a hill. There are several old sets of wall built down the side of the hill. We drove up to the gate of the fort and found that inside of the gates there were a large number of old houses, which had been occupied for a long time. This was a very poor area Ankara and most of the homes were in significant disrepair. The streets and the houses reminded me very much of places that Shanna & I had visited in Peru. This included the many poor children that we roaming around, reciting (poorly) a memorized english script talking about the fort and then asking for a lyra. I gave one boy some spare change, maybe 35 cents. We climbed up to the fort and walked along the upper wall. It was the highest point and we could see all around us for a great distance. There were many of the old houses piled on each other and built into the fort wall. We walked around a bit, and then returned the way that we came. We had passed a very only Mosque on the way up to the fort, but couldn’t get inside to see it. On our walk back, we found another small Mosque that was very small and simple. The shopkeeper across the street opened the lock and let us go inside. After we left the fort, we traveled back down the road and stopped in front of a museum of ancient civilization. It was closed, but we were able to peek through the gates and see many ancient statues on the grounds of the museum.

We left the Ankara fort and drove to another local sight with a large artifical waterfall, and reproduction of an Ottoman fort. There were also tram cars that you could ride to see the city below. We parked the car and climbed the many steps up to the fort. Inside there was a nice museum of some traditional scenes from Turkish life and various artifacts from Turkish history. We finished the museum, and then went to a traditional Uzbek tea house that just across the way from the fort. The tea house is round and everyone basically just sits on cushions, instead of chairs. In the next room there were some young Turkish people dancing a sort of traditional dance that looked sort of like a bird soaring around. We drank our tea, and by that time we needed to be leaving to Omer’s office and pick him up.

We drove across town back to the same office we had visited the previous evening and met Omer. We needed to go to a friends house and pick up a 15 passenger van that he was lending us to make the trip to Konya. We got there and then waited around in a little community park for the friend to arrive. We then traveled to another part of town to find the van as it wasn’t parked at the owner’s home. Finally, we had the van and we headed off to Omer’s house.

After a long time of navigating downtown Ankara’s evening rush hour traffic, we finally came to the apartment of Omer. This was the first time that we had seen Nese or Ali on the trip, so it was really nice. We also met Omer’s sister-in-law and his brother, as well as Omer’s nephew Ali who had spent some time in North Carolina earlier in the year. Omer’s mother (-in-law I think) was there as well. It was quite a reunion for us all. The men all sat down together in the dining room and we had the typical (for this trip) feast of food. We followed that up with some tea and Turkish sweets. We spent a while talking and catching up and then skyped with Shanna, Amy & Merl back in the states. At the same time, Jeff was using an application called Fring on Omer’s phone to call Sheila. During the skype call, we gave some of the gifts that we had brought with us. It was getting late, almost midnight by that time, so we got ready to go back to Levent’s home to go to sleep.

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