Disclaimer: I am writing Ankara blog 3 months later because when I got back to Pakistan, my university started straight away and I never got the time to complete it. Anyways, here’s to 2018 and completing 5 semesters at Lums somehow.
It was well past midnight I was in Konya, I had two days to get back to Istanbul and catch my flight. I planned I would spend a day in Ankara and from there I would take a high speed train to Istanbul. It was around 2 am and I was looking for accommodations on booking.com when I realized that I had several of my high school friends studying in METU, I texted my friend Jalal Khan, if I could stay with him in Ankara. Jalal is my friend from BMI, back then he was regarded as the finest Rabab player in BMI. Not much has changed over the years; he has earned the very same reputation in METU as well. Now, it was quite late in the night and I was exhausted after walking through Konya’s ancient bazars and spending several hours at Rumi’s mausoleum. In the morning I would leave Rumi’s city and catch a bus to Ankara.
I woke up to Jalal’s text that he and some other friends were living on campus and as such outsiders were not allowed to live on campus, however, they could plan something and take me into the campus. And if the plan worked out I would be able to spend a night in METU with the boys. This was going to be fun as long as I didn’t get caught.
I packed up my stuff and left my apartment for Bosna Hersek tram. It was very hot and I had to walk for over 2 km to the station. Bosna Hersek was one of the last stations on Konya’s tram line. It lied in the outskirts of Konya and was a fairly modern settlement. I got off at the Otogar (Turkish for bus station).
Two years ago when I was solo backpacking through Australia, I loved traveling on the Firefly buses and, now, after extensive traveling in Turkey i became a big fan of Kamil Koc bus service. After a three hour bus ride, I entered Ankara. The capital of Turkey, was a bustling city with lots of plazas that towered over the main highway. I was primarily in Ankara to catch up with some friends and visit Anitkabir.
My friends had told me to be careful of the cab drivers, Jalal texted me to get a cab to METU for no more than 25 Liras. After a fair time spent negotiating I got a cab for 25 Liras. The plan was that I would stop my cab outside METU’s gate, where Jalal and his friends will get on the cab and give me a student ID card, I would show the card to the guards at the entrance and enter the university. It was a straight forward equation; the only variable was how carefully the guards would check me. It reminded me of the Linear Algebra class I had taken just a semester ago, where if you got the value wrong for one variable the whole matrice would give the wrong answer. I had a C+ in that ‘straight forward’ course. Safe to say I didn’t have a good history of handling straight forward things very straight forwardly.
Hoping that everything would turn out well, the optimist in me asked the cab driver to stop the moment I saw the boys. We pretended as if we had just met in the morning and I was a student at METU, so that the driver did not have a slightest clue of what was happening. I showed my (Read: not mine) ID card to the guard. The variable played out perfectly; soon we were in the café inside METU having Turkish chai.
In my A’Levels I studied at both Roots and BMI so I had some 15 friends in METU. It was great catching up with all of them. They had their final exam in the morning still they took out time for me. Later a few of us went to Devrim, the sports stadium.
Later in the night some more friends joined us. Had dinner with Daniyal, Abdullah, Jalal and Berfin and we discussed Turkey’s current situation, politically and economically. It was a pleasant surprise for me that the boys had been teaching Urdu to their Turkish friends. It was fun; we discussed the common linguistic heritage of both languages and also the historical connection between the Turks and the Muslims of the subcontinent. Later Jalal found me a room to sleep. It was a great day of catching up with friends and exploring METU. The following day i woke up and had a good little breakfast at the cafe.
Meanwhile, I got a text from dad. He told me to visit the Cinnah cadessi (road). It is one of the most important arteries of traffic and commerce in Ankara. It is named after the founder of ‘Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In Turkish ‘J’ in pronounced by the alphabet ‘C’, hence its pronounced as Jinnah Cadessi. And the funny thing is that the Indian Embassy is situated on this road.
Later in the day, I took a bus from METU to Anitkabir with Jalal and Berfin, they told me the way to navigate through the museum and other worth visit placing inside. I got off the bus and switched to google maps, only to realize that I could see the huge Anitkabir building right over the end of the street, so I just started walking towards it. It looked closer than it actually was, and i had a nice unplanned morning walk.
Anıtkabir (literally, “memorial tomb”) is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. I had developed admiration for Ata Turk as I traveled in Turkey. And it really impressed me how much the Turkish people loved their founder. Every city has a number of monuments depicting Ata turk and every house has paintings of him. Even the flags have his pictures. Anitkabir has a museum in the basement and its a must visit if you are in Ankara.
Turkish history is fascinating. An empire that stretched from the Middle East to the Balkans at its zenith in 16th century shrunk to just the Anatolian region around Ankara after the treaty of Serves at the end of World War 1. Izmir and its surroundings were occupied by Greeks, Konya was taken by the Italians, Istanbul had allied naval ships in the Bosporus and Gallipoli faced serious threats from the ANZACS. At that critical moment in Turkish history, Mustafa kamal, a Turkish General became the face of Turkish struggle and drove the allies out of Anatolia. A time when the Ottoman Sultan was weak and helpless in front of the European powers, Ata Turk emerged as the leader of the Turkish people.
I got to witness the beautiful change of guards’ parade at the monument. I had to catch the train to Istanbul at 6pm. So after spending 3 hours at this beautiful place I got back to METU, picked up my luggage from Jalal. Said good bye and thanked him for his hospitality and we planned to meet in Islamabad when he returns.
Soon I was in a cab to the train station. Time flew in the traffic, i reached the Train station to find out that the train had just left 5 mins ago. It gave me a mini heart attack because I had to get to Istanbul at any cost to catch my flight to Pakistan. The next train was fully reserved as well. The guy at the counter asked me to check 15 mins before the departure, if there was a seat. In that moment I realized what the term ‘fingers crossed’ really meant.
I decided I should get something to eat, I still had an hour. When I sat down for lunch it hit me that the train station was huge. The building was bigger than the buildings of Lahore and (old) Islamabad Airports combined. Simply incredible!
The optimist in me was sure that I would get a seat, and the optimist in me was not disappointed. As I approach the end of my journey in Turkey, I am coming to the conclusion that everything works out somehow. And I have also started to appreciate my strategy of just traveling without plans. So far I have traveled around three thousand kilometers in Turkey and everything has been amazing. On the train to Istanbul, It was dark outside and all I saw in the window were reflections of myself but i am sure we passed through some beautiful Anatolian farmlands. I will reach Istanbul around 11pm and then I will have just half an hour to get the tram before the public transport shuts down.
Good bye till next time