Have you got somewhere in the world that it is just your determination to visit one day?
Our first visit to Istanbul was all back to front. We were there for five days and it was our third day before we even caught sight of Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque) or Süleymaniye Camii (it was our fourth day before we got to visit them). How I ached to get there – but we were being shown the sights by a Taksim-loving friend who dismissed these world famous buildings as ‘tourist sights.’ “I want to show you my Istanbul,” she said.
“But just let us be tourists for a day or two and then after that, we’re all yours and we’ll more than happily sink into your Istanbul life and fall in love with it.”
Because we’re not tourism snobs. If we really want to visit somewhere, we’ll boldly go where millions of others have dared to tread before us. And so, back to our recent travels. We took the high speed train from Eskişehir to Ankara, arrived at Ankara train station and found we had no onward train to Tatvan. Huffing and puffing ensued (we’ll spare you the details of the no-train-saga), the lovely man in tourism information explained how to get to our hostel by underground metro and we trudged through the station and out into a brand new city.
This is the scene that greets you when you emerge from Ankara Gar. That morning, we’d got up early in Eskişehir, walked along the Porsuk River, done a full circle of Kent Park and walked all the way back again to pick up our bags. We were a bit tired and tetchy by now. There’s only so much discovery you can do in one day. “Shall we just get a taxi? I’m really not in the mood for negotiating the underground right now.” I love it when Barry makes suggestions like this.
Taxi drivers: They’ve not got the best reputations, have they? Rightly so in many cases…so praise where it’s due. There’s a taxi rank outside the train station. We felt like lambs to the slaughter as we started to ask the potential price to Kurtuluş, where our hostel was. They gave us an estimate and then asked us which hostel. Han Hostel. The fare went up by a further 2 TL – we didn’t care. We just dumped our bags in the boot and sat in the back seat. Barry put the GPS on then we could make sure we weren’t being given a ‘scenic tour of Ankara’ before being dropped off.
And after a bit of a hairy journey through the jumble of Ankara traffic (it seemed more hectic than the traffic of Istanbul) we were deposited at Han Hostel…with a fare that was 20 kuruş short of the original estimate. Thanks, taxi driver! First impressions of Ankara – favourable! People make a city.
And Han Hostel. A young woman was sat in reception and looked mightily relieved when the two yabancıs who’d just walked in could get by with a bit of Turkish. As with Eskişehir, it was immediately evident that foreign tourism isn’t big here. It was all very smiley and happy, she told us the wifi password and we were shown to the lift to get to our room on the third floor. (We’d already started to make a mess move into the room – as you can see – before I thought to take a photo, but for a hostel room, it was spacious, and so was the bathroom. And it was clean! Perfect.)
First things first – where the hell were we? We only had a short time in Ankara – too short – maybe only one night. We wanted to make the most of it and, all the time, we were determined: Whatever happens, we’re not leaving this city without visiting Anıtkabir. We’re not leaving this city without visiting Anıtkabir. We’re not leaving this city without… Except we had no idea where we were in relation to anything else; nor did we have any idea of the names of Ankara neighbourhoods, or where Anıtkabir was. We were in a place called Kurtuluş. That was as much as we knew.
Our room had a patio door that opened onto a long balcony, so I opened the curtains to see what was visible while Barry hit the internet to do a virtual search.
Oh, Han Hostel we like you! I was expecting a view of streets and rooftops – and that was indeed the view, except there, directly opposite us in the distance was Ankara’s ancient citadel sitting high on the hill. Would we get to visit here? It’s been on our list for a long time, just like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s mausoleum, Anıtkabir. But time was short. We weren’t counting this as our we’ve-been-to-Ankara trip…but even if we didn’t make it to the citadel, we weren’t leaving Ankara without visiting Anıtkabir.
Oh, Han Hostel we like you! If you read this blog a lot, you’ll know that we make use of social media quite a lot and for us, when we’re travelling in Turkey, Foursquare is indispensable. When you’re in Turkey’s second largest city and you’ve only got a few hours to play with, you need to know where to go for a night out. Barry looked where people were checking in on Foursquare. Happy days. Han Hostel is walking distance from Ankara’s busy centre, Kızılay and Foursquare revealed to us a street of bars, all with good reviews. At least we knew we had somewhere to go later on. More about that in another post…
Oh, Han Hostel we like you! The following morning when we woke up, I again went onto the balcony to take some photos. Sharp intake of breath! “Barry, it’s there. I can see it.”
How had I missed this yesterday on a much clearer day? Today was grey, hazy, cold and wet. But there was Anıtkabir, beyond the Ankara rooftops, just visible in the misty distance. For ten years we’d wanted to see this and now we were viewing it past the chimney tops and TV aerials.
We had to get there. We looked online – right at the last minute, our train did indeed exist after all and was leaving Ankara for Tatvan a couple of hours later. We looked at each other – snap decision – we’ll think of a Plan B – and Barry went downstairs to book another night at Han Hostel. We’d waited ten years. We decided to let the train to Tatvan leave without us.
We weren’t leaving Ankara without visiting Anıtkabir…
Han Hostel, Ankara – Useful Information
- Han Hostel is in Camiltepe Mahallesi, on a quiet street, Erdem Sokak
- The hostel is only a 5 minute walk to Kurtuluş metro station
- Ankara’s centre, Kızılay, is around 20 minutes’ walk or you can jump on the metro and go along a couple of stops to Kızılay station