Ataturk: Ankara and Cappadocia

Originally post July 22, 2013 by Svetopolis

Last night I was in Ankara on my way from Cappodocia in central Turkey to Safranbolu near the Black Sea. Even with its 4.5 million people, there isn’t too much to see as far as tourism and sightseeing in Ankara, since most of it is a fairly new city built up since Ataturk moved the capital here in the 1920s.  Nonetheless, it is nice to wander the streets a bit and take in a more “authentic” Turkey, away from the hordes of tourists. I like to do this from time to time while I travel, to just take in a city or neighborhood away from the tour groups and the sales people hawking kitschy junk at you. Wandering the Kizilay (university area where we are staying) was nice and pleasant. American pop music and traditional Turkish tunes coming from apartments blend together with the honks and beeps and revs of car engines and busses. Young men eat a large dinner together on curbside tables, perhaps breaking the Ramadan fast with the Iftar dinner. Old men play backgammon and drink tea in cafes. Grocers close up shop. A young boy in Levis takes a stroll with a girl wearing a headscarf and ripoff Converse. Groups of women with shopping bags head home from a day out and about. Seeing these things is what I like about traveling. I like to just see how people live and interact, and outside the US, while there are differences, it makes me think that more often than not we are more the same than different.  This something we usually don’t like to admit…

Although there isn’t a lot to see in Ankara, there are a few things and I tried to see one of them, the Anit Kabir or Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s tomb. Ataturk is considered the father of modern Turkey. (In fact that’s what Ataturk means, Father Turk.) He was among a group of military intellectuals that led Turkey out of the ruins of WWI, deposing the Ottoman sultan and establishing the secular Turkish nation. Today, 70 years or so after his death, his likeness (somewhat akin to the grandfather from the Munsters) can be found everywhere: on statues, posters, flags, money, the back of dolmus and busses, in every office, in stores, side of buildings, etc. To Americans it may be strange to see this sort of demagoguery. (I believe it is illegal to say anything against Ataturk.) While I think we have our fair share of “founding father” worshiping, nothing comes close to the extent of Turkey and Ataturk. Now this isn’t the first that I have seen this sort of leader worship. Go to Kazakhstan and you’ll see the likeness of their president Nazarbaev everywhere, but that seems a bit more propaganda than worship. In Turkey 70 + years of this has produced some interesting results. It’s a fun game to play to see just where Ataturk will pop up. (My favorite one was on the side of a food stall selling “corn in a cup.”) Anyways, to make a long story short, I tried to go to his mausoleum in Ankara, but got there 45 minutes too late and the whole park/complex was closed…

  •  Admission to the Anit Kabir = free (just make sure you arrive before closing time at 5 pm)
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Ataturk

Five hours by bus to the southeast from Ankara is the region of Cappadocia (Kap-a-dok-ya). The area is famous for its Utah-like landscapes (ala Bryce Canyon), houses and churches built in caves (similar to Mesa Verde) and ancient underground cities. Waking up from our overnight bus to the strange landscape of Cappodocia was unusual, since it is a place that doesn’t seem like it’s real at first–-especially when you’re groggy and rushed off the bus at 6:30 am.

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We stayed in a small town called Göreme and it was in the center of most of the main tourist sites in the region. The town was built in the middle of this valley with the most unusual rock formations. Like areas of Utah or Arizona (Bryce Canyon, Moab or Monument Valley), the rocks have interesting colorings of reds and yellows and whites, and weird rock formations (some being very phallic like). Some of the town was built into the valley walls and the rock monoliths. Nearby is the “Open Air Museum” which was a Christian monastery built into rock caves. Above Göreme is another town Uçhisar with a “castle” built out of the highest rock with great views of the valleys and canyons below.

Once you leave small Göreme and its valleys, though, the landscape returns to more “normal” settings. It looks more Californian, I suppose. About an hour’s drive to the southeast in the towns of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are underground cities. The Christian people built them in the 7th and 8th centuries in order to escape the Arab and Persian Islamic invasions and marauding armies.

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Underground City

While in Cappodocia, I was able to get dinner with some of the Australians, the South African and South Korean that were on my gulet cruise. I think Cappodocia’s tourist industry has really developed in the last 20 years or so, and Cappodocia is on most Turkey travelers’ lists of places to go. Being able to meet my fellow passenger from the gulet cruise hundreds of miles inland is a testament to this. Be warned for those travelers hoping to get an “off-the-beaten-track” experience. Cappadocia is well tracked.

  •  Open Air Museum = 15 tl (Takes about 45 minutes to see it. It got wearing after 15 minutes with an invasion of the tour groups crowding the churches. A good way to escape the tourist frenzy is to walk the road up the hill from the museum running east. There you can find a few of the valleys–Rose, Kiliçlar, etc.–for good views an walks that end on the main road just south of Göreme.)
  • Uçhisar Castle = 5 tl (Worth the views. You can also walk back to Göreme through the Pigeon or Long Valleys.)
  • Underground cities = 15 tl (Crowded and a bit of a trek to get there from Göreme but interesting way to keep busy for an hour.)

Svetopolis Comment July 31, 2013 at 09:37

Rock Valley Pansion: When we first arrived, we followed Google Maps’ directions and it led us north in the opposite direction of the hotel–which was totally not where it was supposed to be. We eventually asked someone for directions and they helped us out. The hostel is located behind the mosque. Keep following the “river” going south (up the valley) on the left hand side. You’ll pass an airport shuttle service and a small playground. It’s located at the end of the street. the dorm room is fairly big with 6 beds. However, there is only one toilet and shower for the other rooms to share. There is also a pool area.

  • 11€ (breakfast included, including French toast)

 Svetopolis Comment July 31, 2013 at 09:37

Deeps Hostel is located conveniently near the “Kolej” metro stop and a couple of blocks from the Kizalay neighborhood. There is a kitchen, which was a nice plus for us in being able to make our own dinner. (Seems like many of the hostels in Turkey lack kitchens to make your own food.) The hostel wasn’t anything too special, but being one of very few, if any, hostels in Ankara, it did the job.

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