Trabzon to Agri

Monday 20th July – Trabzon to Agri.

After a quiet Sunday, spent mainly on researching accommodation options in Iran, we were up early on Monday morning, getting ready for our 500km ride to Agri, 132km west of the Iranian border.

Our first stop of the day was to call in at Ihan’s Moto Garaj, opposite the Otogar (bus station) to collect the TKC80 tyres we had previously ordered from Bora in Bandirma. Fortunately I’d used Google Maps to locate the garage, as the GPS couldn’t find the street, and it was almost sheer luck we stumbled across it, tucked up a little alley behind some other workshops.

Ihan and his assistant were very helpful – we only wanted the rear tyre fitting as the front still has about 6,000km use left in it, so Ihan removed the rear wheel, and put it and the new rear tyre in a customer’s pick-up truck to take them around to a tyre fitter. In the meantime James – another customer of Ihan’s – had pulled up on his 1150RT and pointed out the transmission oil pissing out from the rear seal. I’d taken some photos from Google Images of the tyre pressure sensor inside the rim and showed these to Ihan, so despite the language gap he was made aware that the rim had a sensor inside.

When Ihan drove off with the tyres James invited us for breakfast, and so we walked back to the main road and had a bowl of soup with a piece of lamb in it, and a cup of chia. James showed us photos on his iPhone of his recent holiday trip to Europe, and pointing to an advert for high rise buildings in the daily paper explained that he owned that construction company. James insisted on paying for our breakfast before he walked off down the street, and we walked back to the garage.

Ihan had returned at this stage, so we strapped our new spare front tyre to the top box, thanked Ihan for his great service (20TL for the fitting), and a round of photos, we wobbled off down the road as I acclimatised to the additional load on the bike.

We retraced our path towards Sumela Monastery, but at the turn-off we continued south on the main road towards Ezerum. The road initially swept through green mountains before the countryside started to dry out and become more barren. We pushed on for about 100km before I started looking for fuel as at that stage we only had another 100km range, and after the first servo we stopped at said they had no benzine, the next one a few km the road did, so we filled up there and had a cold drink and a cup of chia.

We pushed on the next 200km or so towards Ezerum where we planned to stop for lunch, but the townsite was off the main road so we just pulled in to a servo for fuel and lunch at the adjacent restaurant. When we entered the large and largely vacant restaurant an Iranian gentleman and his wife waved to us, and a short while later they were inviting Karen and I to visit them in Qom, south of Tehran. They were lovely to chat with and we are looking forwards to accepting their invitation.

From Ezerum the road turns east and heads towards the border. We had another 200km to ride to Agri, where I’d again made an arrangement with Bora – this time to pick up a new rear tyre so I could carry that as a spare. Arriving in Agri just before 5:20pm I quickly pulled the iPad out to check on the address of the Continental tyre dealer in Agri, but then incorrectly entered the street number into the GPS, so that sparked a bit of a wild goose chase for a while. We were directed toward the correct street, but I couldn’t get onto it as it was a pedestrian mall, so then I tried to work my way around to it but was blocked at various times by one way streets, one way streets equipped with tyre-shredding metal teeth set in grates in the road, a contingent of police armed with automatic weapons massing in side street near a water cannon, and other obstacles. Once we’d navigated these and I’d got as close as possible to the location before I couldn’t ride any further I got off and walked whilst Karen guarded the bike, but I quickly realised that Number 28 was a mosque and not a tyre dealer, so it was back on the bike and off again in the crazy traffic to the right location.

Having found the dealer – the GPS was taking us in the right direction but Karen spotted the shop well in advance of where the GPS thought the shop was, collecting the tyre and having another round of photos taken, we wobbled even more precariously to our hotel, which ironically was only about 50m from where I’d stopped to go walkabout. Some men pointed out that I was trying to go up a one-way street the wrong way but I pointed to the hotel just 20m on the other side of a tyre-shredder, so they bent a street sign out of the way so I could squeeze the bike past without snagging the tyres.

We unloaded the bike and hauled our gear upstairs to our roasting room – no air conditioning and a baking afternoon sun had turned it into a sauna. A while later I was told that I could move the bike into an underground car park around the corner, so I shifted the bike and later that evening I was grateful that it was off the street, as around midnight there were young street kids running amuck outside, causing a bit of mayhem. Dinner that evening was the driest and most uninspiring doner kebab I’d ever endured in Turkey, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for tomorrow – as tomorrow we leave Turkey behind after almost four weeks here and cross into Iran !!!

Today we had an off bike day and a lovely lay in….didn’t get out of bed until around half past eight….very luxurious! We had a simple village breakfast – to be honest getting a bit past it all ……would kill for some bacon and eggs, toast and tea!

We had booked a tour through Eyce Tours for 30 TL each, to go to the Sumela Monastery, and they were due to collect us at 10.00am. A bus did arrive but it wasn’t ours ….not speaking Turkish makes things very confusing to work out what’s what and few people here speak English. At 10.20am a man came in saying “Sumela” and we figured that was us and followed him up the narrow cobbled road to where a bus was parked….it couldn’t get down the road due to a traffic jam….common place here as they really have no idea how to drive and no one gives an inch!

It was about a 46km drive and we soon found ourselves lined up in a row of traffic waiting to pay the entry fee for the Park. Luckily Vince had thought earlier to bring our Museum Cards …as the entry to the actual Monastery was not covered in our tour…way to go Vince I knew there was a reason I married him!

We struggled up the mountain in our bus…. as there were many traffic “incidents”blocking our way….. and in the end our bus stopped and we had to get out and walk the remainder of the way….this was worse on the way back where we had to go even further on foot (about 4 km) to get to the restaurant lower down and dodge both oncoming and cars approaching from the rear…..it was crazy and at times I thought we were done for they came so close and fast….unbelievable! NOT HAPPY JAN!!!!!!!

The Sumela Monastery is a 1600 year old Greek Orthodox church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is built into a steep cliff at 1200m (3900ft) on the Western Slope of the Altindere Valley within the Altindere National Park. It is within the Trabzon provincial borders (Macka) near the Eastern Black Sea Region. The monastery is constructed on rocks reached by a path through the forest…(see pics)….. but the 18th Century frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the Rock Church were very impressive and well worth the steep hike up to see them…as was the sacred water spring.

The site was abandoned as a monastery in 1923 and became a museum….it’s a very popular tourist attraction…it was packed today…with people pushing and shoving in front of you, cars blocking the road 4 abreast in some places….it was total chaos. It eventually got to the point I decided that if you can’t beat them join them, and took to mimicking their “bulldozer behaviour” to get through the crowds……politeness and taking turns have no meaning here!……I have to say it did detract somewhat from the actual experience of seeing the Monastery. We had a harrowing ride in the bus back to Trabzon…..Vince thought it was all hillarious….but I could have well done without it….thank goodness I have blood pressure medication…..the traffic here is trying to kill us!

[Vince’s addition – the traffic out of the Sumela Monastery was crazy to the point of ridiculous. There’s one road in, barely wide enough for one car in places, but generally two cars wide in most places. This was all fine when we drove up the steep mountain road in the morning to get to the monastery, but leaving in the afternoon was a completely different story. The surge of visitors through the day had resulted in the road verges being used for car parking, narrowing the road. Added to this mix was a constant stream of cars coming up the hill, and our tour bus was trying to squeeze through the narrow gaps going down the hill. And whenever we got blocked by oncoming traffic, additional cars would just join the queue below and make it even harder to unravel. Rather than help themselves and other drivers, everyone just seemed hellbent on adding to the mayhem by joining the traffic jam, unwilling to not participate in the farce. Eventually however some pedestrians intervened and started directing the traffic, shouting at drivers to reverse down the hill and let the bus move forwards. I wish I could have seen the traffic jam behind us, as I’m sure it was being repeated over and over again.]

A quick village breakfast and with a little help to carry our luggage, from the insistent hotel staff, the ANIMAL was loaded and we were on our way around 9.00am from Samsun to Trabzon (300km). As Vince was sorting out the bike a Turkish family came over to him and chatted for a while – they live in the Netherlands and had returned to Turkey for a holiday. The streets of Samsun were deserted with not a soul to be seen – everyone was indoors enjoying their festive day.

Just out of Samsun the grey skies opened up and the rain started to fall, quite heavily at times. The road became quite slippery in the rain – it possibly hasn’t rained here for ages and the oil deposited from the cars and trucks lifted up and became a slick mess. Neither of us have our jacket linings in and it wasn’t long before we were wet to the skin and feeling the cold.

Even in ‘rain’ mode Vince managed to get the back-end of the bike sliding around on the slippery road under brakes at one stage, which added a bit of excitement to the ride. Traffic on the road was reasonably light – probably again because of the festive day – but what few drivers were out on the road this morning all wanted to be Wacky Racers and some of them were downright stupid – like the Audi car driver who insisted on splitting lanes every time he arrived at a red light. He’d just squeeze between the trucks and cars, and race off to the next red light and do it all again. Patience is not an admired virtue over here.

The D010 coastal route from Samsun to Trabzon is a four lane (2 lanes in either direction, with a centre strip and barriers separating the oncoming traffic), and in most places it’s a comfortable 110kmh ride, but in many towns it passes through it grinds to a halt at traffic lights, so we couldn’t really maintain a steady pace for the ride.

And on the subject of red lights – many of them give a red+amber warning for a split second before turning green, which gives car drivers the opportunity to beep their horns at the cars in front, perhaps encouraging them to start moving, or maybe to show how fast their reaction times are. Whatever the reason – every green light brings on an orchestra of honking cars.

The road follows along the southern coast of the Black Sea however it looked more blue to us, with rock sea walls and patches of brownish grit for beaches. In some places little onion-shaped huts had been installed, kiosks serving goodies for beach-goers, not that we saw anyone at the beach today.

We arrived around 1.30pm at Trabzon and found our hotel without too much bother, though the cobbled streets were crowded and the GPS may have instructed Vince to ride the wrong way down a one-way street – or maybe the locals just wanted to have the whole road to themselves. At 50 Euro per night however our tiny room (so tiny that the small double bed was set sideways against a wall in the middle of the room… as the room was not wide enough to fit the headboard against the wall!) was disappointing. Our “sea view room” was non existent …we overlook an alleyway…the “private parking” is just the street in front of the hotel and the free internet does not work….can we pick them or what!

Today was a scheduled off-bike day, after we clocked up 700km yesterday in our ride from Goreme to Samsun via Ankara. Karen was lauding the number of big rides we do, but I pointed out that based on a current sample of eight days we were only going to ride on four of the days, with a maximum distance of 700km in a single day and an average of 400km on a riding day. From the first moment that the 1200cc engine on the BM fires up and I click it into gear it just wants to keep on moving.

We had a small sleep-in today as we were both tired from yesterday’s long day, and had a pleasant Turkish village breakfast before heading out into Samsun, searching for the Archeological and Ethnographic Museum. I couldn’t find that museum but instead we stumbled across the Gazi Muzesi – Samsun’s museum in honour of Atuturk. Atuturk landed at Samsun in 1919 at the outset of the War of Independence, and the museum featured a lot of local memorabilia from his visits to the area.

After soaking up the history in the museum we wandered through the busy streets – they were absolutely jam-packed with people bustling around. Today is the last day of Ramazan I believe, and a festive spirit seemed to fill the air.

In addition to the shops that had laid out goods on trestle tables in front of their stores, a lot of the back-alleys had been converted into temporary markets, and we strolled down a number of these, taking in the sights and sounds. Some stalls sold chocolates by weight out of huge wicker baskets, and Karen bought a small assortment of these for us to nibble on, but Cadbury’s they weren’t.

Lunch was a tasty chicken, pasta and salad plate in a small bistro. Unable to read the menu as it was only written in Turkish, I did a bit of improv as we ordered – mimicking a cow and a chicken to help us help the waiter in figuring out what was what.

We stumbled across a shabby-looking cinema and enquired inside, but Terminator was only screening in Turkish, without any subtitles, so we passed on that idea.

During the heat of the afternoon we caught up on some emails and a bit of research, looking into accommodation in Iran which is usually organised by telephone as few places have websites or email, and then as the day started to cool we had another pleasant exploration of the street-side shopping district nearby, before finding an upstairs doner restaurant from which we could look over our balcony and see the chaotic mayhem in the street below.

During our walk we stopped at one of the many Islamic clothing stores where Karen had spotted a Mantou she liked….the sales girl came to assist and although none of them could speak English they were happy to help. When we explained we were going to Iran they became quite excited and very concerned with Karen’s hair …she managed to explain she already had a Hijab. They soon had Karen in a change room trying on sizes. When she emerged she did a bit of a mime act of “smiley face – thumbs up” or “sad face – crossed hands” ….they all gave her the “smiley face – thumbs up”…..I liked it too….so we parted with 80TL deal done. We thanked them for their help and Karen asked if she could take a photo….this made them all very excited and the girl who actually served us was hugging Karen. She will have to wear the Hijab and Mantou whilst we are travelling in Iran and Pakistan…we still have to figure out the quick change act from her helmet to Hijab as its too hot and not practical to wear under her helmet.

We’ve got a short ride tomorrow – only 300km – and that will take us to Trabzon, further east and also situated on the coast. Saturday and Sunday will be rest days – though with that said we’ll slip out to the Sumela Monastery 70km south of Trabzon on one of those days, and then on Monday morning we’ll have a new rear tyre fitted and then start making our way towards the border crossing between Turkey and Iran. Yesterday we clocked up 17,000km on our trip so far – so that’s three rear tyres we’ve gone through already.

What a difference a day makes….we set off after breakfast for our long journey today (700Km plus) to Samsun via Ankara (to collect our bike parts that we ordered in at BMW via Brock) and were on the road by 9.00am. We stopped off breifly at the lookout above Cappadocia and took a few more photos…including Mt Erciyes (Argaues) as we left by a different road (towards Uchasir Castle) than the one we had come in on.

We stopped at a fuel stop along the way but they didn’t have any petrol so we continued on to another stop. When we stopped there was great interest in the ANIMAL and Vince chatted briefly to some interested attendants. We had a drink and a Snickers bar (no Mars on offer here) and a “pit stop” and were soon on our way again.

Along the way (105 km northeast of Konya, 150 km south-southeast of Ankara) we passed an interesting Salt Lake (Tuz Golu), which was PINK . I later Googled this…..and found out the colour is caused by algae (Dunaliella alina), which can live in salinities as high as 35% NaCl (Sodium Chloride )…. salt water is only 3%….. and a pink bacterium (Halobacterium cutirumbrum) which can live in  the salt crust at the bottom of the lake. The intensity of the colour is due to the balance between the two organisms and also increases as the lake dries out in summer.  With the higher salinity, temperature and light the alga builds up more red carotenoid pigment (beta carotene). Tuz Golu is the second largest lake in Turkey and the group of islands on the southern part of the lake is the main breeding colony of the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus). We saw a number of people out on the lake but is was unclear what they were actually doing.

We arrived in Ankara around 12.30pm and picked up our parts and passed on our thanks to Brock for all his assistance. We then stopped at the BMW cafe to have some coffee/tea and cake before starting back on the road around 1.30pm.

Our second stop for fuel was in Sungurlu, where we met a retired school teacher who spoke some English and we were invited to sit with him and his journalist friend, Ozer. We chatted to them as best we could, answering their questions about the bike, where we were from, our ages and occupations, where we had travelled etc. We gave them a couple of our stickers before bidding them farewell and hit the road again, as it was around 4.30pm and we still had several hundred km to go.

We arrived in Samsun a bit after 7.00pm and found our 2 star hotel without too much problem. We freshened up and set out to find some food as we were both very hungry. The reception staff, who don’t speak English, had directed us down a street and to turn left for food …after my miming act. But along the way we passed a Muslem woman who drew me a disapproving look….I was wearing a t-shirt and my long cargo pants….but she made it very clear without a word that she thought I was inappropriately dressed. This was the first time this has happened in Turkey….elsewhere in Turkey, whilst some Women do wear a brightly coloured Hijab or scarf and are covered up….. the vast majority of women are dressed very casually and in far less than I was wearing….often showing shoulders, chest, legs etc.

We proceeded further to try to find food but all of the little cafes seemed to be gearing up for the breaking of the feast from Ramadan….so they did not really look like they would cater for tourists. We continued on and Vince found a Kebab shop….but to be honest I couldn’t face yet another kebab …so we kept looking. I spotted the word RESTAURANT so we went in there……..we had to go up a flight of stairs and when we entered there was almost a hush in the otherwise bustling room….all the Women were Muslem and wearing Hijabs  or scarfs, and I felt all eyes staring at me in disapproval. We quickly spoke to a waiter….as best we could as he spoke very little English….and he redirected us upstairs. The same thing happened…..all heads turned and eyes to me…with looks of daggers from the women. The waiter there attempted to redirect us back to where we had just come from….but luckily we were intercepted by a Manager who spoke some English, he asked us where we were from and took us down two flights of stairs to the bottom floor, where there were local people eating and not all the women were wearing head coverings. Vince thought we were lucky to get out unscathed.

Our waiter assisted us as best he could by taking me to the kitchen and pointing out options. We eventually had a tasty (but not cheap…64TL) meal including soup, salad, rice and meat. The only problem here seemed to be that this floor was where everyone came down to pay….so all the people from upstairs came down in dribs and drabs, each giving me their disapproving looks as the passed or just simply staring at me. There was one young teenage boy who seemed most fascinated with me much to his mother’s annoyance…which she directed at me not him! I have to say that it would never be my intent to set out to offend anyone….but everywhere else in Turkey is not like this…..I was made to feel very uncomfortable and could not wait to finish our meal and go straight back to our hotel…..I can’t wait to leave Samsun as I have not felt welcome since setting foot outside our hotel……but unfortunately we have already booked two nights… as we wanted a rest day tomorrow after the long ride today…….what a difference a day makes!

Cappadocia Ballooning

We didn’t get much sleep as we were both excited about our Hot Air Balloon Trip today….and anxious that we didn’t want to miss our alarm….just as well my husband is a bit OCD and set the alarm…. as our promised wake up call never came and only by chance did we venture outside our hotel at 3.50am to discover the van waiting at the end of the road for us!!!! Communication is an issue in Turkey…even when they speak English!
Soon on our way, we were taken to the Breakfast Saloon for Kapdadokya Kaya Balloons (not the company Albi had told us previously) and had a coffee/tea and a bread bun, along with some little lemon wafers that were delicious…if not a little bit strange to be eating at breakfast!
We were in bus 2, and there was no shortage of balloons or buses. We watched with interest as they filled the balloons up….set in the surreal, almost lunar landscape, it was strange watching them come to life and become upright above their baskets. We were in the World Heritage Academy balloon and were the first to take off. I was actually the first to get aboard…as you have to get in one by one and they match up people’s weights and distribution. The basket was quite deep so I felt a little bit claustrophobic when I first descended into it …but the feeling was fleeting.
Our take off was as smooth as silk…..so peaceful and serene….MAGICAL….and romantic in the pre dawn light. We got up to a maximum of 750m above sea level….it was awesome! We lifted off at around 5.05am and we flew for just over and hour. Our pilot was very experienced and explained not only safety things about the balloon, but some good information about the things we could see… Cappadocia, the Volcano, the variety of rock formations and the valleys we went down into. At times things were so close you could almost touch them! AMAZING! The ballooning experience itself was a thrill …but to do it in this foreign landscape was just out of this world…..a truly special experience to share with my husband, on our honeymoon.
Cappadocia (UNESCO World Heritage Site), in the central Anatolian highlands of Turkey, was formed 30 million years ago from three volcanoes– Mt Erciyes ( ancient Argaeus), Hasan and Melendiz Dağları when they erupted  over the former  plateau of Ürgüp. The compressed volcanic ash is called tuff (tufa). This soft stone has been eroded to form valleys and when mixed with local basalt it created the curious rock formations such as the famous “fairy chimney”.

During our flight we saw the peak of Mt Erciyes (Argaues) which is the highest in Central Anatolia at 3,916m. We went low into several valleys, including Pigeon Valley (Guvercinlik Vadisi) situated between Goreme and Uchisar. It used to house thousands of pigeon houses that were carved from the soft tuff (tufa)….pigeons have long been a source of food and fertiliser for the Cappadocian Troglodytes (Cave Dwellers). We also went down into White Valley (Akvadi) and Honey (Love) Valley (Baglidere) which are situated between Uchisar and Cavusin, passing Goreme on the North side. Honey Valley has the amazing fairy chimneys and there a hundreds of phallic shaped rocks everywhere. We also saw Uchasir Castle build into the rock.

The plan for this morning was simple – 07:15am wake up and breakfast, 08:30am call the local BMW dealer re spare parts for the bike (oil filter and crush washer), 09:00am attend local BMW dealer and purchase or order spare parts, 10:00am attend Indian Embassy and apply for visas, 11:00am return to Best Western Otel 2000 and pack bike ready for the 300km ride south to Goreme & Cappadocia.

As usual however, not everything goes exactly according to plan. No one was answering the phone at the local – Cankaya – BMW shop so we jumped into a taxi after showing four different people the address I wanted to go to, and we still got taken to a completely different BMW location – BMW Balgat – but that worked out in our favour as we met the very helpful Brock who (not only speaks great English after living in the USA for 12 years but also) helped order the parts I required (I need to do an oil change in Iran and you can’t get  BMW parts there). Brock was extremely helpful and courteous – I’m sure spare parts ordering aren’t his job, but he was very helpful and efficient. Have I mentioned how helpful Brock was?

We then took a taxi to the Indian Embassy, waited thirty minutes for them to open, and then waited another 60 seconds to get our second Indian-visa knock-back. What is it with India? Once again we were told to apply for the electronic visa-on-arrival – even though my reading of their website suggests that VOA is only valid if you enter India at one of nine stated airports – and given that we’ll be entering overland from Pakistan via the Wagah-Attari border crossing – I’m not so sure VOA will be accepted. Nevertheless we picked up our paperwork and passports sans Indian visa stamps and toddled off to get a taxi back to our hotel.

On the upside we were loaded up and ready to depart the Best Western at 11:00am – about an hour earlier than anticipated. We said farewell to Bora – manager of the hotel – as he’d provided great personal assistance as had all of his staff, and then we were off into the push and shove of Ankara’s traffic. We picked up a major road heading of town and I spotted BMW Balgat where Brock had assisted us with ordering our spare parts a couple of hours earlier so we popped in to see if they were ready for collection – which they weren’t – so we headed off after arranging to pick them up on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning before they close for the upcoming religious festival.

The ride down to Goreme was very pleasant – cruising on quiet country roads through the rolling farmlands on 110kmh – no interest in chatting to the Polis today – and a mild 24 degree ambient temperature  made for a relaxing ride, for a lot of the way if not all of the way. As usual I’d looked for a scenic alternative to the main road and once I’d found the start of this bypass we had a very bumpy and pot-holed ride for a good stretch before we rejoined the main road. I’m sure Karen loves these scenic diversions as she stops talking to me whenever we venture down them, engrossed I’m sure in the spectacular beauty of the countryside we are passing through.

This rural backroad passed through a number of small villages, collections of mud-brick houses that hark back to a much earlier period in time, sporadically populated with shawled women who didn’t flinch a muscle as we waved to them, but there’s always someone ready to wave back and that was the old gentleman sitting on a bench opposite the small cemetery just around the corner.

Before we went venturing down our scenic bypass we’d gone venturing off the main road through a large town – Kirsehir – in search of lunch. A loop along the main street showed how busy the town centre was but didn’t reveal any obvious lunch spots, so we rejoined the main road and peeled off a fraction later at a servo to refuel and get a snack. Here we met a bunch of servo attendents who were very friendly, and between them could scrape up enough English for us all to have an entertaining chat whilst we munched on our fresh bread rolls. The guys were very helpful and it was a pleasure to spend a bit of time with them, explaining our plans and showing them our route so far by pointing to the flags on Karen’s pannier.

Approaching Goreme we started to see the earth chimneys and other pointy-looking things that are synonymous with this area. We entered the touristic village of Goreme and struggled a bit to locate our accommodation – streets seem to branch and fork at times and each fork retains the street name, but a local man out walking with his son & puppy showed us the way, and a short while later we were unpacking our gear into our cave-like room.

After a quick shower we wandered the short distance into the town centre and had an early dinner at the Anatolyian Kitchen. We have an 03:50am wake-up tomorrow morning for our balloon flight so tonight will be an early night. I’ve been dreaming about flying over Cappadocia in a balloon ever since I first saw video of this amazing spectacle, and I can’t wait to experience it first-hand 🙂

Anıtkabir (literally, “memorial tomb”) is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Pasha). It was designed by architects Professor Eminent Onat and Assistant Professor Ahmet Orhan Arda, who won a government competition in 1941 for the design of a “monumental tomb” for Atatürk. The site is also the final resting place of Ismet Inonu, the second President of Turkey who was interred there in 1973. His tomb faces the Atatürk Mausoleum, on the opposite side of the Ceremonial Ground. The mausoleum was depicted on various Turkish banknotes during 1966–1987 and 1997–2009.
Mustafa Kemal (Pasha) Atatürk (born 19 May 1881 in Salonika Vilayet Ottoman Empire, now Thessaloniki, Greece) was a revolutionary who became the first president of Turkey and held office from 29th Oct 1923 until his death on 10 Nov 1938 at Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul. He died from complications of cirrhosis of the liver. He is credited as being the founder of the Republic of Turkey. His surname, Ataturk means “Father of Turks” was granted in 1934 and forbidden to be used by anyone else under Turkish law. Atatürk’s funeral raised both sorrow and pride in Turkey, and 17 countries sent special representatives, while nine contributed armed detachments to the cortege. His remains were originally laid to rest in the Ethnography Museum of Ankara but were transferred on 10 November 1953, 15 years after his death in a 42-ton sarcophagus to the Anitkabir.

His father was a minor official and later a timber merchant. When Atatürk was 12, he was sent to military school and then to the military academy in Istanbul, graduating in 1905. In 1911, he served against the Italians in Libya and then in the Balkan Wars (1912 – 1913). He made his military reputation repelling the Allied invasion at the Dardanelles in 1915. In May 1919, Atatürk began a nationalist revolution in Anatolia, organising resistance to the peace settlement imposed on Turkey by the victorious Allies. This was particularly focused on resisting Greek attempts to seize Smyrna and its hinterland. Victory over the Greeks enabled him to secure revision of the peace settlement in the Treaty of Lausanne.

He was a highly decorated military officer during WWI and following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire he led the Turkish National Movement in the Turkish War of Indepencence. He established a provisional government in Ankara and defeated the allied forces…..that includes us!

In Australia, the Kemal Atatürk Memorial is directly opposite the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Parade, the principal memorial and ceremonial parade in our capital, Canberra. It is named after Mustafa Kemal (1881–1938) who then, as a Lieutenant Colonel, commanded the Turkish 19th Infantry Division when it resisted the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Ari Burnu, on the Gallipoli peninsula, in 1915 during WWI. In 1985, seventy years after the Gallipoli campaign, the Turkish Government agreed to recognise the name “ANZAC Cove” for the place on the peninsula where our troops landed on 25 April 1915. In return for this gesture, the Australian Government established the memorial garden, around the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, that honours the heroism and self-sacrifice of the Turkish and ANZAC soldiers who took part in that bitterly fought campaign. This is the only memorial to an enemy commander on Anzac Parade. Closer to home in Western Australia, as part of the same reciprocal agreement in 1985, the channel leading into Princess Harbour in Albany (were our troups sailed from) was officially named “Ataturk Channel” whilst the Turkish Government officially named the beach at Gallipoli, “Anzac Cove”. In 2002, a life size statue of Mustafa Kamal Atatürk was erected overlooking this Channel on the scenic boardwalk leading from Albany to Middleton Beach. Access to the memorial is from the beach side at Ellen Cove Boardwalk (Middleton) or walking along Stirling Terrace from the CBD.

In 1921, Atatürk established a provisional government in Ankara. The following year the Ottoman Sultanate was formally abolished and, in 1923, Turkey became a secular republic with Atatürk as its president. He established a single party regime that lasted almost without interruption until 1945. After winning the War of Independence , he launched a programme of revolutionary social and political reform to modernise Turkey. These reforms included the emancipation of women, the abolition of all Islamic institutions and the introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar and alphabet, replacing the Arabic script with a Latin one. Abroad he pursued a policy of neutrality, establishing friendly relations with Turkey’s neighbours. He wanted to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. Under his leadership, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights. The principles of his reforms upon which modern Turkey was established, are referred to as Kemalism.

The Anıtkabir museum is composed of three sections. The first section is the Atatürk Museum, in which are exhibited Atatürk’s civil and official clothes, his personal belongings, various gifts presented to him, and many assorted documents and photos. The second section depicts the Çanakkale (Dardanelle) War. Audiovisual effects and objects such as rocks, cannons, rifles, guns and shells have been added to this section in order to give a 3 dimensional effect. The other panoramas depicting the Sakarya Meydan Savaşı and Büyük Taarruz (two of the most important battles of the War of Independence) have also been displayed in the same way. The third section is composed of recreations of events that took place from the time of the War of Independence (1919) until the death of Ataturk (1938).

Vince and I have been totally stunned at the number and variety of generations of people visiting (many local) and in general the great esteem with which this man is obviously revered throughout our travels through Turkey….his portraits and statues are everywhere. I read that each year at the exact time of his death, on every 10 November, at 09:05 am, vehicles and people in the country’s streets pause for one minute in remembrance….having seen the spectacle today, I can well believe it. Never have we seen such pride, idealisation and devotion to a public figure so openly displayed and widespread throughout a nation.

We had an unintended, but welcome, sleep in until 8.30am….the curtains in our hotel room are so dark we could not see daylight! After breakfast we set off in a taxi for the Anatolian Civilisations Museum…about 15 min ride to the old town and cost us around 20TL. We were unable to use our Museum Passes here….we have discovered they should have offered us all of Turkey for 105TL instead of the Aegean at 75TL….we tried to convince the clerk to exchange it and we would pay the difference….but he wasn’t having that and so we had to part with 210TL for new passes….and 10TL each for audio guides…Bugger! We spend a good 4 hours walking through the museum and it was exceptional….it won awards in 1997 as the European Museum of the Year. The museum is on the south side of Ankara Castle in the Atpazari area. An old Ottoman Bazaar Storage building houses the collection. They start with the Paleolithic era, and continue chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods. There is also an extensive collection of artifacts from the excavations at Karain, Catalhoyuk, Hailer, Canhasan, Beyce Sultan, Alacanhoyuk, Kultepe, Acemhoyuk, Boğazköy (Gordion), Pazarli, Altintepe, Adilcevaz and Patnos as well as several other places.

The exhibits of gold, silver, glass, marble and bronze works date back as far as the second half of the first millennium BC. The coin collections, with examples ranging from the first minted money to modern times are truly rare and amazing. We especially enjoyed seeing some of the most rare pieces on display as well as just taking some pictures of things we liked…..and some Vince thought might look good in our living room back home…LOL!

I’ve uploaded some of our favourites including but not limited to: The first homo sapien skull found in Kadipinari Cave, Seated Goddess Figurine flanked by two leapards/lionesses from Caralhoyuk, Stag statuette – symbol of a Hittite male god, Bronze tablet from Çorum-Boğazköy dating from 1235 BC, Kabzali Dagger with Handle (Iron and Gold), Pyrygain Cybele statuette, Hasanoglan Female Statue in Electrum and Gold (3rd Millennium BC), King Anitta Dagger from Kultepe (18th Century BC), Ceremonial Bronze Situla from Gordion 740BC, Hurri and Serri (Bulls of Teshup – Storm God) from Bogazkoy (16th Century BC), King Midas’ Skull, Vase with face from Partinos (9th – 8th Century BC), Marble Statue of Godess Athena (Roman), Bronze Statue of Dionysos (Roman), Marble Boar Hunt Statue (Roman), Marble Statue of an Emperor (Roman), Jewellery from Troy….so much history in Turkey!!!!

We took our life in our hands on the taxi ride back and stopped short of our hotel before walking back to the little tailor shop where thankfully my jacket was complete with new zip! Later that evening we got dropped off at what was supposed to be a Cinema…but “near, next door, down the road etc” ….all have different meanings in Turkey! We walked for a while and did eventually find two cinemas….but neither had anything showing in English….so we stopped in a nearby cafe for dinner (38TL in total) before taking a walk home and absorbing the richness of the hustle and bustle of Turkish life. An interesting observation was walking along the streets littered with the business cards (including photographs) of the variety of “Working Girls” available. They also have these weird little shops where you can sit and watch big screen sport or engage in PlayStation games – Guitar Hero seems to be a favourite….they are everywhere!

With our Iranian Visas in the bag, Vince is now busy working on our Indian Visa paperwork!

Everyone we’ve spoken to have been absolutely glowing in their accounts of how much they have loved visiting Iran and meeting the friendly and generous Iranian people, and today our dreams of visiting this vast country came one huge step closer as we obtained our Iranian visa stamps at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara.

After our long ride yesterday we woke up early, refreshed completely by the luxurious bed and pillows at our Best Western 2000 Otel in Ankara, just a short 20 minute walk away from the Iranian Embassy.

Breakfast was enjoyed quickly, and then we made our way up to the Embassy. I’d read on an online forum that during Ramadan the Consulate Section opens at 09:30, an hour later than usual, but when we arrived at 09:10 there were already people waiting to be served.

Within ten minutes I’d discussed the purpose of our visit with an official, and we left the Embassy to make the necessary deposit at a nearby bank (100 Euros each for the visa plus an additional 50E/each for same day processing), before returning to the Embassy with the deposit slips as proof, before leaving our application forms and passports with the courteous and helpful official. As a footnote here I’d previously obtained the requisite Visa Reference Number, without which visa applications cannot be processed.

We were given receipts for our passports and instructed to return at 4:30pm, so we left the Embassy and had a coffee or coke at a nearby cafe, before dropping Karen’s DriRider adventure jacket in at a local tailors as recommended by the hotel staff, as the zip has broken and she hasn’t been able to close the jacket up for a few weeks now. We’ll collect the jacket tomorrow afternoon – either with a new zip, or perhaps the tailor may have misunderstood our request and converted it into six fabric place mats – as language was an issue and we were all communicating using sign language and pantomime.

After a cheap lunch in a small lunch bar not far from the tailor’s we returned to our hotel so I could work on the online application for our India visas – we’ll visit the Indian Consulate on Monday morning and submit our visa applications there, with hopefully more success than what we achieved in Geneva a few weeks ago.

About 4:20pm we collected our passports from the Iranian Embassy and were both thrilled – each passport now sports an Iranian visa stamp!

We walked back down the Main Street past the shops and all the cars – the street is three cars wide and the two right hand lanes are used for parking cars in, and only the left-hand lane is used for moving traffic. Parking ‘helpers’ usher car drivers into vacant slots, and then shuffle the cars around so that kerbside cars can get out if they are blocked by cars parked in the centre lane. It looks a little chaotic at first glance but upon closer inspection the system seems to work well, and all the locals seem quite adept at using it.

Dinner was a shared platter at ‘Professors’ – just up the road from our hotel, and this evening will be a quiet one as we plan our Ankara sightseeing for Saturday and Sunday. Today has been a huge success – numerous comments online suggest that it’s difficult and taxing to try and obtain visas for Iran, but we’ve followed the necessary steps and we’ve achieved our aim.