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Off to Ankara

snow 1 °C
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There is a plan, that may happen one day, of joining Istanbul and Baku by a high speed train link. It may take some time to come to fruition: at present, it is not even possible to leave Istanbul by train at all, let alone a high speed one. The line has been laid between Kars (in the east of Turkey) and Baku, and the trains to run on it were obtained more than a year ago but the current prediction is that they will not run until late 2019. So the only bit of the high speed line operating is from a station at the end of Istanbul's metro (Pendik) to Ankara, and the train does indeed get up to 250 km/hr. Like many of the metro stations, Pendik station has a number of exits so I am a bit befuddled as to which I am to take. Luckily, a woman starts laughing at me and can eventually explain it is because I look like Santa Claus. Despite her laughter, she is kind enough to take me to the correct exit and point me in the right direction for the 1 km walk to the train station. There, after a quick tea, I go through security very similar to airport security to the train. It is a pretty standard looking thing and the trip is through quite pleasant countryside, with touches of snow.
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The last photo confuses me: out in the middle of nowhere, we would come across collections of highrise buildings, no doubt housing, but with no apparent industry nearby and a fair way from the railway line, so a bit awkward as dormitory towns. Some way through the journey, I read a tweet saying that a train just like the one I am on has crashed into a pillar near Ankara, with several fatalities. I am not sure how it might affect my journey: it turns out that the last 30 km are by bus. Downtown Ankara doesn't do very much for me - there's a mosque near the station, city hall and two blokes who want me to take their photo - although they can't speak a word of English and my Turkish only goes as far as çay, so it is a short encounter.
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Luckily I had booked a place away from downtown, in old Ankara, which happens to be quite a walk uphill in icy conditions, through a maze of tiny streets. It is worth it, however, and I resolve to not leave the hotel at all that day - there's a bar and a restaurant underneath it. I have not made a habit of taking photos of the places i stay in, but this place is special - it is called Divan Çukurhan and the building has quite a history. It was builtin the 16th century as an Ottoman caravanserai - an inn with a market in its courtyard. Sadly, it was virtually destroyed by fire in the 1950's, rebuilt after a fashion but then abandoned. It has only recently been rebuilt, albeit in a modernised fashion. It has a nice bar area, a wonderful library and a business nook.
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Service is a bit odd: the bar was said to operate 24 hours a day, but when I go for a beer, the fellow doesn't seem to know his business. Efes is the major Turkish beer, and it comes in a couple of styles - asking for an Efes Pilsner seems to impose a task beyond his abilities - eventually another fellow shows up with a tray of beers and leaves me to fend for myself (I am not even asked to pay for it). The restaurant, however, is tremendous - big windows all round giving a great view over Ankara - there are too many people for me to attempt a photo. Back in my room, the bathroom is more glam than my house and as big as my office.
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The hotel is directly opposite the entrance to the citadel - very little remains apart from the walls. The inside is now taken up with housing and a few shops.
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There are a couple of interesting streets near the hotel - one runs along the ridge and has several tea shops, cafes and the like. One cafe is above an antique shop, but I do not realise this, so go in to the antique shop and take a seat at one of the (antique) tables. The shopkeeper must have this happen quite a lot, as he points to the lift - the cafe is quaint and run by a sweet old couple: he wants me to sit by the fire since it is so cold out.
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I have another odd tea-related experience: I see an interesting looking tea shop with some street art and a large collection of soft drink, so pop in and ask for a çay. They have to bring it in from a shop across the street so, later on, when it is time for another, I decide to go to the source - a very old looking shop. Yes, they have tea, but have to go across the road for the sugar.
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The other interesting street twists its way down the hill, eventually to the station, so I go for a walk - more tea shops and cafes, and lots of little shops. I am a bit tea-d out by now so don't stop until I get to the station - the map says there is a shopping mall there and I have yet to visit a Turkish shopping mall. I'd say the map is a bit aspirational!
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There is a food court, with some more terrible coffee and a lot of kebab places, but I also spot my favourite American fried chicken chain so I necessarily indulge.
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Posted by NZBarry 12:57 Archived in Turkey Tagged ankara

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