Arriving in the late evening in Turkey the taxi ride into the city centre took us through bright and vibrant suburbs into the hustle and bustle of this very modern of cities. Tree-lined boulevards, very reminiscent of many European capitals; and well-lit restaurants and cafes really made us feel we were a long way from home.
On Sunday, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic was a remarkable day. We had planned to visit the Ataturk memorial. We walked from the hotel through increasingly busy streets, many of which were cordoned off to cars. Flags and images of Ataturk were everywhere. People dressed in red and white, carrying flags or wearing anniversary t-shirts, all with happy faces and oozing a real sense of pride and excitement. There was a palatable feeling of patriotism wherever we turned.
When we were within a Kilometre of the memorial we were required to pass through security checks and met with tens of thousands of people queuing to enter. This was not how we wanted to spend the next 2 hours so opted to visit it another day. Sitting in a café in a nearby street drinking coffee, numerous government Mercedes motorcades passed us by. To our surprise, President Erdogan’s entourage was one of the motorcades and people enthusiastically got up to wave flags.
We had an enjoyable walk back to the hotel through the joy-filled crowds, stopping from time to time to watch processions and soak in the atmosphere.
Over the next couple of days, we visited the aforementioned memorial; which proved to be spectacular! We also took in a couple of museums and the castle. The museum that justifies special mention is undoubtably the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. It is immaculate. It is so incredibly well organised and every exhibit is described in Turkish and English, making it easy to navigate and understand. It effortlessly absorbs 2 hours and to finish off they have a nice outdoor café.
One of the highlights of our trip was the amazing Anka Mall. It was absolutely huge! And, importantly for us, within it was a massive kid’s play area which helped pass the time while the chief was shopping! Even shops that are also represented in Cyprus were all supplying clothes at better prices and so a year’s worth of shopping was done in a few hours!
Another highlight was eating out! There are so many really great restaurants in the city. Sadly (for us!) few serve alcohol, but the food was superb. The prices are much cheaper than TRNC and the quality is excellent. Meals mostly included tea and desert.
During our trip, it was immediately clear that prices were generally much better than TRNC. Even though petrol was more expensive than in Cyprus, taxis proved to be very economical, and yellow cabs were all metered; taking away the worry of being ripped off. Chemists were selling the same products as Cyprus but prices were around 20% cheaper. Vegetable prices were as much as 50% cheaper than Cyprus but in general we found supermarkets to be perhaps 5-10% cheaper. However, there was less variety than TRNC (less UK products) and alcohol seemed more expensive.
A shock for us, and such a contrast with TRNC, was the paucity of SUVs and other expensive cars! In 4 days, apart from government officials in their black Mercedes, we saw almost exclusively simple Hatchbacks and Saloons. On the whole trip we saw only one Range Rover, 3 Discoveries and no sports cars! Another aspect that might surprise TRNC inhabitants was the security at Malls, shops, and hotels. Security screening was routine in many places and, where it wasn’t, the paraphernalia was there to enable security to be stepped up quickly.
Ankara airport is large and, when we travelled, pretty much empty. Very little in the way of duty-free, but clean and very efficient. Processing took no more than 15 minutes from bag drop to the duty-free area.
Our short trip was an excellent break and opened our eyes to the wonders of this lovely capital. It is well worth a trip.