Ankara by Midnight

Posted: Sep 13, 2003 5:58:45 PM

Okay, I've had a tentative few days getting over this very unpleasant stomach bug, and although I am working hard never to be too far away from a decent toilet (a task that is actually somewhat difficult given that even the pay-toilets here are filthy, and usually of the squat variety anyway) I think I'm back now.

I have been causing the bus company I'm using to tour around some small difficulty in the past few days, asking to be dropped off at places that, although they are technically on the route, are not the sort of places that most people stop off at. Hence, there have been some 'situations', when the bus has been unable to find the pick-up point and I have been left waiting for one hour or two wondering if I'm getting a lift or not. This is not a pleasant prospect when one of those pick-ups is due at a closed train station at midnight. But I get ahead of myself.

After the fun Konya stop, I went through Goreme in Cappadocia, which has one of the most incredible, outlandish, alien, and outstanding landscapes I've seen. I would try to describe it, but I think that all descriptions are doomed to failure given the sheer bizarreness of the area. If you're curious do a websearch, and I'm sure that you'll find out what I mean. A particular highlight was a visit to an underground city, and I mean a real underground city, formerly home to approximately five thousand people living up to eight levels below the surface.

After that, it was on to Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. As I've said, it's not exactly the party capital of Turkey, so very few people on my current circuit stop off there, but I really wanted to see the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. Disadvantage: I was dropped off there at half past midnight, without a hotel or hostel reservation.

Fortunately I ran into a very friendly security guard who - although he didn't speak a word of English, and I only speak a few words of Turkish - was very keen to help me out. First we went to his security station, where I had a late dinner of Turkish salad and watermelon with him and the other security guards. None of them spoke English either, but we laughed a lot and they let me hold their pistols (presumably loaded) while we had a group photo taken.

From there it was directly to a hotel, and although it was a little more expensive than I had wanted (possibly a kick-back to the guard was involved) it was one in the morning and I wasn't about to complain. And it had a very good bathroom.

The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations was very impressive, as many of the finds from said underground city, Catalhoyuk, and several other ruins have been housed there. And it had a very good bathroom.

I waited at the same rendezvous point that I was dropped off at two days earlier, and although the bus didn't arrive until one in the morning I was actually very cheerful throughout, even when a cadre of taxi drivers congregated outside the closed train station and (I presume) enquired in very loud voices whether I needed a lift anywhere, as I obviously wasn't catching a train tonight. I presume this is what they were saying because they only spoke Turkish and a little German. Actually I think one of them was showing off to the others that he could speak German, and so was quite put out that I wasn't Teutonically-inclined.

I'm back in Istanbul now, and having been here once before it feels strangely like home; I'm staying in a different hostel tonight; tomorrow I finally visit the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque; the day after, I fly out for Napoli and the next phase of the trip.

But I am mostly thankful for one thing. This hostel has a very good bathroom.


Bosco   Sep 13, 2003 11:42:05 PM

Yay! *beams* Oh yeah, you get to see Italy before me. *slightly miffed at the thought* Oh well, at least they will hopefully have excellent toilets.

lian   Sep 13, 2003 11:51:18 PM

Mwhahahahaaa! You're really in it for the fun, eh? Midnight parties with guards and guns. *shakes head* I'm saddened to hear you're not Teutonically inclined, though. Alas. (Undergroundcity: immediately [underground Sithi city in Hernystir-name??-] springs to mind.)

Anyway, wish you loads of very good bathrooms along the way!

Tamsyn   Sep 14, 2003 1:22:37 AM

More about the underground city, please. MORE. How is it laid out? How old is it? I assume it's tunnelled through rock... How do people live down there?

Good news about the bathrooms though.

Charlotte   Sep 14, 2003 2:16:08 AM

Pfft! Good bathrooms! Soft! It's not a proper OE food poisoning story unless it involves only squat toilets and showering with all your clothes still on and all that kind of fun. *grin* Although I have to admit that I have sussed out all of the places that have western toilets in and around Matsuyama....

I guess the weird landscapes you refer to are the fairy chimneys? Saw them the other day on the 'net when I was trying to find out on a map where exactly you currently were in Turkey. I can only imagine that they are much more spectacular in RL than on the 'net, kind of like bizarre stone mushrooms or funny shaped ice creams, or like giant, er, .....*snickers* hmmmm, but this is a family show!!! I shall spare everyone the vagaries of my imagination.

*sigh* Underground cities. So cool! Anyway, good to hear that you are nearly recovered. I'm looking forward, with a great deal of envy, to hearing about your next lot of adventures.

Morgan   Sep 14, 2003 9:37:17 AM

Heya Damon,

Great to see more posting. The families fine and happier as well now that Frazer is home. Ultimately, not that much is happening here. The media is all over the disappearance of a 6 year old in Featherston.

Its good to hear that, despite the bout of food poisoning, you have had a good journey through Turkey.

Damon   Sep 14, 2003 1:19:29 PM

Yep, fairy chimneys, and much more besides. I'd heard about the girl going missing via - bummer. By not Teutonically-inclined I mean I'm not German. Sorry to disappoint! *amused* And Tamsyn: I have a book that describes / pictures them in great detail that I'll be glad to show you, although you'll have to put up with how extremely badly it is translated.

Actually, everything is badly translated here. I feel like stalking through all the museums and ancient ruins with a big red pen.

Charlotte   Sep 14, 2003 1:38:55 PM

*amused* The teacher correction impulse! I never though it'd happen to me..... *cues spooky music*

Peter   Sep 15, 2003 6:10:06 PM

I am sure Damon travelling across Turkey, red pen in hand, would make for another set of funny stories (though maybe with less bathrooms in it?).

Interestingly, at the hotel I stayed the english translations were quite a bit better than the german translations. Which is interesting because it's an Austrian hotel chain ;)

Anyway, have fun and don't let Italy bug you!

Damon   Sep 15, 2003 6:28:00 PM

Why would Italy bug me? Oh yeah, that's right:


Heh, not really so much a disaster as a major snafu in my plans - I recently established that New Zealanders need a visa to enter Tunisia, and that for NZers (and only NZers) this needs to be applied for in writing beforehand.

I wish that someone had caught this earlier, but no matter. I have two options. 1. go north from Naples to Rome and try to get one from the Tunisian Embassy, leaving me with a mad scramble to see everything I want to see in Sicily and Malta before I fly out of Tunis on October 1st. Not a good option, particularly if Rome pans. 2. Give up on Tunisia, go to England a little earlier (flying out of Naples or thereabouts), and use the extra time to experience the Sahara from Morocco later on in the trip.

I'm inclining towards the second option at this point, although it does mean juggling the flying dates around a bit. Opinions? I'll have to decide in the next couple of days.


Maladroit   Sep 15, 2003 7:34:33 PM

Can you apply in writing while you're visiting other places, and come back to Italy later? Or would it take longer to process than you've got, and generally be more hassle than it's worth?

You're still having more fun than us shmucks.

Bosco   Sep 15, 2003 8:28:09 PM

Dude, that sucks, I'm sorry. Couldn't you just fool around in Naples and Rome for an extra little bit? Not like there's a dearth of things to see, esp. in Rome. Then again if you're really wanting to see the Sahara I guess option 2 is better. Maybe just prioritize hassle vs. missing out?

Charlotte   Sep 16, 2003 1:40:39 AM

Morrocco sounds nice. Is there anyway you can easily get a visa for Tunisia from England? A friend based in London recently went to Tunisia.

Peter   Sep 16, 2003 12:27:36 PM

Juggle around the flight dates and make sure you've got enough time to visit all areas of Europe you'd planned to visit ;)

(this being an completely unbiased opinion...)

((the "don't let Italy bug you" thing was a horrible attempt at a pun involving restrooms))

lian   Sep 16, 2003 5:12:55 PM maybe I'm biased too, but I'd advise you to not get your nerves wrecked in visa-struggles and enjoy a little extra time. It all depends on how urgently you want to see Tunisia, but I'm always a friend of not rushing...not through palces, at least. There's nothing more alien to me than the customary Japanese/American 'Europe in one week' tour. 'But hey, it's so small!' *shudders*

SecretSquirrel   Sep 16, 2003 9:02:01 PM

*nod* I think Morocco sounds like the way to go, too; ditch the visa hassles.

And why are they picking on the Kiwis? Strangeness...

*leaves a box of big red markers*

Tamsyn   Sep 16, 2003 10:12:53 PM

I vote second option. Scrambling around Sicily does NOT sound good! SLOWLY! SLOWLY DOES IT!

And the Sahara sounds like a terrific consolation for missing Tunisia...

fraZ   Sep 17, 2003 1:28:17 AM

you should be happy Damon, the toilets at camp were the worst.The showers came up to my chest. & it wouldnt be un-normal to be showering at the same time as a wild critter. EG: frogs or what have you. ummMMm have you had much food form there? like native food. its pretty good. rock on


Damon   Sep 17, 2003 5:19:36 PM

I was going to see the Sahara in Tunisia anyway, and better than Morocco apparently, but the visa hassles (which appear to only be for NZers) are just too much to deal with. Of course, it'll be no treat trying to negotiate a change of departure city with Lufthansa, as I'm not supposed to do this on the fare I'm using, so if worst comes to worst I may end up getting to England under my own steam (and probably an expensive overnight train).

But I will get there! And I'll see Sicily and Malta as well.

Spent all of today wandering around Pompeii. Feeling a little better. Not trying as much of the local food as I'd like, mainly because I have a craving for a soft bread roll (of all things) and there are only very hard breads here in Naples. Plus the stomach bug has been renewed for its second fantastic week.

David   Sep 17, 2003 6:07:11 PM

Look on the bright side -- at least you don't have a hurricane heading directly for you. :-P

Harlequina   Sep 18, 2003 12:00:30 AM

@Damon: I head off tomorrow. See you in October!

Bosco   Sep 18, 2003 12:02:18 AM

That's so spiffy. I meant to ask you whether you intended to see Pompeii or not. While in Sicily try to see Agrigento, which has the Valley of Temples; in which there are the Temple of Concord, and the Temple of Juno. All Greek, date back to like 450 bc or something. Also they apparently have a lovely beach, which seems to be your thing now. ;D

Tamsyn   Sep 18, 2003 2:25:07 AM


We can take a bus to Stratford-upon-Avon if you like. Or one to Salisbury, to eye up Stonehenge. Or we could see Bath.

Although there is probably plenty here in Oxford to keep you amused for a bit... the haunts of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dodgeson, and Thomas Hardy, to name but a few... the place where they burnt Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer to death in the Broad Street... the Port Meadow, where the Civil War troops were camped, and the ruins of Godstow Abbey, where Fair Rosamonde was shut up... the Castle Mound... a million medieval churches and pubs... Christchurch, Magdalen, Merton, BRASENOSE!

Damon   Sep 19, 2003 4:20:12 PM

I met an English couple who studied law at Oxford, like 40 years ago. I helped them find a museum, so they bought me a (non-alcoholic) drink. They were most delighted that I was visiting someone in Ox., although neither of them went to Brasenose.

Ian, have fun on your trip! I will be there soon (report on various trials and tribulations coming in a moment).

Damon   Sep 19, 2003 4:21:31 PM

Oh, and Pompeii was funky, but Herculaneum was just that bit better I think - not as impressive, but close, and far fewer tourists to wade through! There's far too much to see in Sicily, but I'll put those on the list.

Black Davy Bonney (aka David)   Sep 19, 2003 4:48:16 PM

Arr! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! <>

Avast, Damon, ye will love the new series of Survivor. One lubber steals the other teams shoes and trades them to local villagers for supplies -- and that was just the first episode.

Arr! Safe voyages, ye bilge rat!

Damon   Sep 19, 2003 5:15:21 PM

I love it! I hope it doesn't start in NZ before I get back, or Morgan will have a whole heap of videotaping to deal with (speaking of which, is he recording anything for you while you're in the US?).

Oh, and arr, me hearties. I love the quotation at the bottom of that page - as I have discovered here in Italy, Dante was a very famous pirate, what with his leg-patch, and peg-eyes.

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