First Impressions of Ankara, Turkey
Well, after 3 flights and 30 hours of travel time, I’ve finally arrived in Turkey!
I’ve forgotten how time consuming blogging can be while on the road. It’s difficult to find a moment to actually sit down and think about what I want to say, every moment on the computer is time that could be spent enjoying the trip. But I promised myself I would get something posted while it’s still top of mind!
I’m currently in Ankara, Turkey. Many people I’ve spoken to can’t point out Ankara on a map and have little knowledge about Turkey other than Istanbul.
Though often confused with Istanbul, Ankara is actually the capital of Turkey and is the centre of the Turkish government. It is the main city of Central Anatolia and has played an important role in shaping modern day Turkey. It was once a fortified stronghold during the Byzantine era before falling to the Slejuk Turks and ultimately the powerful Ottoman Empire.
Long story short, there’s a lot of history in Ankara!
As my flight approached the city, I couldn’t help but marvel at the distinctive landscapes. Rolling brown carpeted hills with hundreds of tiny villages scattered across the vast land. I was surprised at how many rural villages there were, each separated by only a few kilometres of windy, vacant roads. Anatolia looks very simple and peaceful from high above.
The plane touched down at Esenboğa International Airport and pulled into the terminal. I found it strange that the terminal was virtually empty, with only one other plane in sight. It felt like I had arrived in a very remote town in the middle of nowhere, but this perception quickly changed as we traveled into Ankara’s congested city centre.
The first order of business was to pay the ridiculous US$60 that Canadians are required to pay before entering Turkey. I’m not sure what Canada did to warrant being the highest entry fee given to a country, considering Americans, Aussies and Russians only have to pay US$20.
Talk about getting gauged at the border!
My first impressions of Ankara have been great, though I must admit it’s not what I had originally expected. I’m not really sure what I expected though.
To keep things fresh, I made it a point to do very little research prior to my departure and hadn’t even seen a picture of the city before my arrival. I think the biggest surprise was its size. At over 4.5 million in population, it’s larger than most cities in Canada!
Ankara is quite a bustling and dense metropolis with heavy traffic and endless people flowing in every direction. It’s sprawled out over a wide valley, surrounded by large hills.
The city is fairly easy to navigate, aside from the confusing language and twisting one way streets that seem to take you in circles.
Having traveled to Istanbul just last year, I had somewhat of an idea of what Turkish culture was like. Though technically a Middle Eastern country, Turkey feels much more European (and apparently Turks do not like to be grouped with the “Middle East” label). It’s clean, modern and developed and it’s rich in history, culture and tradition (and the food is delicious!). It’s also one the proudest nation I’ve ever visited with red and white Turkish flags hanging just about everywhere.
I’m staying with my mother at her temporary apartment in Cankaya, an area heavily populated with diplomats, embassies and expats. Her apartment is situated on a fairly steep hill and has a balcony that overlooks the hazy urban valley below.
Within moments of arriving at the apartment, I was greeted by the enchanting Muslim Call to Prayer that vibrates across the city five times daily. It was a familiar and soothing sound that I was looking forward to hearing again, although the person chosen to lead the call to prayer at the nearby mosque seems to shout rather than sing.
The plan for the next few days is to wander through Ankara, check out the sights and indulge in Turkish culinary delights.
Stay tuned for some photos from my first day of sightseeing…