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Elif Shafak reflects on Ankara, Turkey

Ataturk Mausoleum in Ankara

“Mid-1970s Ankara was a grim place. At times the air was so polluted you had to wear a mask, there were long queues for basic necessities, and political strife had become so common, our favorite game as children was “communists versus fascists.” Still there was room for magic. Going to Youth Park on a weekend for a ride on the roller coaster or eating ice cream at the city’s foremost recreation area was a special treat. I adored the two mascots of the city, the Ankara goat that produces the soft wool Angora and the Ankara cat, famous for its long, silky fur and blue eyes.”

via Elif Shafak reflects on Ankara, Turkey – Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Read more

Planting Season at MissAdventures

Dear friends,

I must apologize for the long delay in writing. But, I have been up to big things. First of all, I have been concentrating on my writing and my other blog Italofile.com. I am using Italofile as a way to explore the Italy travel landscape beyond the pages of my books The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy and Michelin’s Green Guide Tuscany. Indeed, Italofile covers all of Italy. So, please have a look.

We are still in Turkey and loving it. While Ankara may not be the most scintillating of cities, we have enjoyed traveling around to many exciting sites in Turkey: Istanbul, Ka?, Safranbolu, and numerous daytrips in Anatolia. Next up is a trip to Ephesus and Selçuk, which I hope to report back on when we return.

I’ve left MissAdventures.com fallow for such a long time that it will be hard to get up and running again. Bear with me. But hopefully having taken a break from this site for a while will have provided more ideas to grow.

One thing that I’d like to do is to take this blog into a slightly new direction: less about me and more about travel ideas to Turkey, India, or wherever I may be next! In other words, less about the “Miss” (or, now, “Mrs.”) and more about the Adventures. I’ve had fun and good feedback on Italofile, so I’d like to extend the creativity and expand the postings on MissAdventures as well.

Thanks a lot for your understanding and patience.

Cheers, Melanie

Beypazari and the Food of Anatolia

Last weekend we went to Beypazar?, a small village an hour and a half by bus from Ankara. Located on the old “Istanbul to Baghdad route,” Beypazar? has been inhabitated by various tribes and peoples, including the Seljuks, who left behind a 12C mosque, and the Ottomans, whose “konak” houses dot the town’s hillside. Beypazar? is known for its silver, especially filigree work, and is responsible for 60% of Turkey’s carrot (havuç) production.

Beypazar?, whose name translates roughly as “gentleman’s market,” struck me as a typical Anatolian village. Off the hot, dusty (but tidy) cobbled streets, old men huddled, drank tea, and played backgammon. A majority of the native women covered their hair with broad, patterned silk scarves that fell to about waist-length. Meanwhile, during the festival, young men wearing finger cymbals danced two-by-two to music that was part Turkish flute (ney) and part techno drumbeat. Near the town’s Ottoman Müze, what appeared to be a high school woodwind quartet played the requisite “Rondo alla Turca” from Mozart’s Sonata No. 11.

While more cosmopolitan parts of Turkey, such as Istanbul, like to play up their historical and geographical connection to mainland Europe, Anatolia looks to its pan-Turkish heritage. And, Beypazar? being the Turkish heartland, it wasn’t a surprise to find a large mosaic map in one town square which highlighted the “Turkic” areas of the world: Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaristan (Bulgaria), Turkmenistan, Uighur Mongolia, etc. Groups of beautiful, dark-haired, light-eyed girls wore the traditional costumes from these regions.

But back to the food. Those famous carrots were a central theme at the Beypazar? Festival. Multiple vendors offered bottles of fresh carrot juice, while others sold carrot helva. Further along, there were stands overflowing with dried fruits (including incredibly sweet sun-dried tomatoes) and nuts, packages of grape leaf dolmas and walnut baklava, and ayran, a yogurt drink not unlike a lassi. We stopped at a döner kebap stand and later watched village women rolling out and cooking gözleme (a bit like a pancake) filled with a hard, white cheese (beyaz peynir) and parsley (maydonoz). Beypazar?’s classic dish, which we didn’t get a chance to taste, is a casserole of lamb, rice, eggplant and earthy, easily attainable ingredients. The village also makes good use of a copious amount of walnuts by preserving them in a “walnut sausage,” a confection that looks exactly like the meat product but is flavored with nuts and sweetened with grape jelly. In addition to ayran and carrot juice, Beypazar? residents wash down their meals with mineral waters from the Inözü Valley.

Only an hour and a half from Ankara, Beypazar? is probably a sleepy town for 364 days per year. But it still merits a visit for its lovely Ottoman houses, gorgeous silver, and honest food. And even though the village is not quite on the tourist route, it has a surprisingly sophisticated, English-language website, helpful for planning a daytrip.

First Impressions: Ankara

No one ever writes anything particularly special about Ankara. Guidebooks don’t dedicate many pages to the capital. And, when I mentioned to people that I was moving to Turkey, their faces lit up:

They: “Istanbul?!”
Me: “No, Ankara.”
They:”Oh, too bad. Istanbul is great.”

My first impressions of Ankara had been quite favorable, up until this past Tuesday, when a bomb exploded in Ulus, killing six. I’m now a bit loathe to go to the old city, as you can imagine. Nevertheless, not even London, Madrid, New York, or Washington is immune to these types of things. For what it’s worth, three days on after a bombing, this city is unshaken. Turkey knows how to handle these situations, it seems.

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