Trip Start May 03, 2013
10Trip End May 22, 2013
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"Leaving Cappadocia this morning we travel to the Hittite site of Hattusha, former capital of the Hittite empire dating to the 2nd millennium BCE and known for its thoughtful urban layout. We tour this UNESCO site then continue on to Ankara. "
We depart the fairyland of Cappadocia this morning, heading toward Ankara, the modern capital of Turkey. There's a little more blue in the sky and some balloons still floating by as we leave Pigeon Valley. This portion of our journey will cover less than 200 miles. We bus from sunshine to rain and the landscape evolves to hills and cattle.
We stop for lunch at another tourist enclave outside the Hattusha park. The owner's photo is on the wall and he stops by to check on our service
There isn't a lot left of Hattusha, the ancient capital of the Hittites, mostly just stone outlining the bases of buildings. We first visit Yazilikaya, an interesting holy site that consists of wall carvings in a narrow grotto. One character looks a lot like the modern concept of a wizard, with high coned hat and shoes with pointy toes that curl up.
We head further uphill to the ancient Lion Gate. Only one ancient lion is in attendance. I gather the other one has been hustled off to a museum. The hilltop gives us a spectacular view of the valley and the town below.
We continue our drive on to Ankara and check into our hotel. In the early evening, Mustafa leads a group in a walk down the main drag of a high end shopping district in the area and points out some dining spots. I like the looks of an outdoor coffee shop, but we're looking for something more 'dinner-ish'. Groups spin off as they spot places they'd like to eat. Jeanne and I end up at a pizza joint. A nice Efes beer and a couple of slices later, we're sitting in a outdoor balcony enjoying a lovely pastel sunset glow
Thursday May 16 Day 14: Ankara
"This morning we visit the Atatürk Mausoleum, honoring the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk; and the notable Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which chronicles the history of Asia Minor. Our afternoon is at leisure before tonight’s farewell dinner at our hotel."
Nice late start this last day of the main tour. Tomorrow we start the extension to Izmir. This morning we begin with a drive across the bustling, modern city to the mausoleum of Atatürk. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is to Turkey what George Washington is to the USA. But more so. He was a highly successful military officer in the Ottoman Empire, hero of the Battle of Gallipoli, and member of the Young Turks who pushed for a constitutional monarchy. After WWI, when the Allies partitioned the lands of the former Ottoman Empire, he worked for establishment of a Turkish Republic and headed the War of Independence. He's revered and, for a Muslem country, somewhat deified. He was given the honorific of Atatürk ('father of the Turks) by the Turkish parliament. There are statues and photos of him everywhere in Turkey. It is somewhat anachronistic though that a man who emphasized the secular aspect of the new nation and the separation of church and state has not lost his aura in a modern Turkey as it moves toward a Muslem state. The mausoleum is quite impressive, built on a hill top with a view of the city below. It includes a museum with displays of Ataturk's life, WWI, and the War of Independence. There are quite a few student groups here for a visit that add a lively touch to what otherwise would be a very solemn event. Not at all comparable to the visit we made in Viet Nam to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum with its enforced solemnity
Afterwards, we head out to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. It's surrounded by a lovely garden-in-progress recently stoked with manure. I'm rather surprised by how small the museum actually is. It's housed primarily in what once was the Mahmut Paşa bazaar storage building and Kurşunlu Han or Inn. The buildings date to the 15th Century during the Ottoman era.They have been nicely restored to house the amazing archaeological displays that cover a time frame beginning with the Paleolithic period, on through the Assyrian and Hittite periods to the more 'modern' Greek, Roman, and Byzantine eras. It doesn't take us much time to make it through the museum. I actually make the self-guided tour two times.
We return to the hotel in time for lunch. A small group of us head back up the street to the coffee shop for a nice lunch accompanied by Coke in little bottles and topped off with some great ice cream.
That night we have our farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant. Not too special a location or meal, but a nice last gathering of the large group. Tomorrow 12 of us will travel on to Izmir.
The evening mood is disrupted by the discovery that the hotel can't find my laundry. Again, I have to involve Mustafa in a search for my lost belongings. He just might be thinking I'm a little jinxed!