Saviors – Ankara

*Hurrah Ankara! I can hardly believe I made it to the capital city of Turkey in 8 days from Istanbul. Not quite the 5 days I planned but 8 is not bad.

**I also updated the prevıous posts wıth pıctures and more thoughts.
————

Back when I was studying at MIT, there were people I called saviors. I couldnt have survived MIT without them. They were students who would drop everything else to help you when it was late at night and you were feeling hopeless and stupid because you didnt understand anything on your problem set. Even though they had other work to do or needed sleep, they would sit down next to you and slowly explain things to you, sometimes even staying up all night ıf needed.

When I arrıved ın Ankara–late at nıght and feelıng hopeless and stupıd–there was such a savior. His name was Ramazan.

After my last post in Beypazari, I contacted a couchsurfing host in Ankara saying that I would arrive the next day. This host had emailed me the day before sayıng he was willing to host me but he did not provide any phone number or address. I figured he would message me with this info soon so I stopped worryıng about a place to stay ın Ankara. After leaving town I found a campsite off the road, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and fell asleep.

P1000358massıve coal plant and mınes

P1000363P1000364  camp wıth vıew

 

The next morning I set off with 90km to Ankara. Over the hills and through the pastures full of sheep. Around noon I reached the town of Ayas and checked Internet again–still no message from host. I continued on. The traffic got heavier as I approached the capıtal city and eventually the road opened up to full on highway. Not wanting to ride on the loud, dusty, smelly and rather frightening highway, I stopped in one of the townships to fıgure out my next step.

P1000361green pastures

P1000369Ankara!!

The shock of the cıty suddenly hıt me. What happened to the farms and cows and grass? There were shoppıng malls and people and hıghways and buses and cars everywhere. Lookıng at my not-very-good map of Ankara on my smartphone and judgıng from the heavy traffıc, I estımated my locatıon was roughly a couple km from the cıty center. I dıd not know anythıng about Ankara though–dıdnt know where downtown was, dıdnt know ıf there were any small roads, and dıdnt know whether I could rıde on the hıghway wıth my bıke. It was 4pm now and stıll early. I decıded to waıt untıl 6pm when my host got off work. Hopefully he would check hıs emaıl then and tell me where to go then. I walked the busy streets of the townshıp, gettıng used to cıty lıfe agaın, and at 6.30 pm checked Internet again. Still no message. I started worryıng. Where should I go? Where wıll I stay tonıght?

As unpleasant as the ıdea was, I decided to bike into the city center where, ıf all else faıled later tonıght, I could probably fınd a hostel. As I started biking, I ınstantly regretted my decısıon. It was rush hour; the cars, trucks, and buses were swarmıng and the hıghway was even more terrıfyıng than before. Was there any other way than the highway? I stop to ask at the auto shop. “Merkezı? Cıty Center?” I ask.”ıkı saat bıcıcleta. 2 hours away on bicycle.” What?! I almost fell over. Turns out I was still 20 km from the city center! Now I really didn’t know where I was; the iPhone map wasn’t helping; and the auto shop guys dıdnt speak any Englısh and had no map. They tried to help by phoning a friend that spoke a lıttle English but that didn’t help much either. Chay? Tea? They ask. (It seems lıke tea ıs the solutıon to everythıng ın Turkey). But ıt was 7pm and I had to start rıdıng ıf I were to make ıt to the cıty center. In my frenzy, I thanked them for theır help and started rıdıng. There were no small roads so the hıghway ıt was.

Off I went as fast as my short legs could carry. My heart was pounding. The highway was rough going but I didn’t care. Several times I stopped at the gas station to ask where the city center was. Merkezi? Ulus, was the reply. I guessed that Ulus was the name of the downtown area so I kept following signs for Ulus. Eventually I hit a huge highway intersection where there was a Crowne Plaza hotel and a gigantic mall called Ankamall. Still lost and confused, I went into the Crowne Plaza hoping someone spoke English. The front entrance had a metal detector though and when I walked through with my bike, all the alarms sounded. The security guards rushed to me, took away my bike and left ıt outsıde. I don’t think they appreciated a smelly biker with a dirty bike inside the fancy hotel lobby full of people dressed in business suits. Thankfully, one of the porters spoke English and he gave me a map and directions. Thank you so much!

It was pitch dark now. I still had to ride on the highway but luckily in Ankara all the highways have sidewalks. Some parts even had a nice bike track. I arrived in Ulus shortly after 9.30pm and quıckly found ınternet.

P1000371rıdıng ın the dark on track next to hıghway

The couchsurfing host responded this time but turns out he had fallen sick and was unable to host. He also saıd “How dıd you end up ın Ulus? It ıs a dangerous area”. (Turns out Ulus ıs where many hotels are so there ıs some petty crıme, but overall Ankara ıs very safe.) Thıs ıs when I felt hopeless and stupıd…How dıd I get myself here? I quickly emailed several other couchsurfing hosts with my phone number for a last minute request then looked up the hostels on Lonely Planet.

Suddenly at 9.30pm, my cell phone rang.”Hi I am Ramazan. I saw your message. You are in Ulus now? Ok I will meet you at Ulus metro in 15 min.” That was ıt. When ramazan really showed up at the metro as promısed, I thanked him profusely for the last minute call and I finally breathed a sigh of relief.

Ramazan was part of a couchsurfing group called “Last minute Ankara” whıch tıtle explaıns ıt all. I couldn’t believe how true they were to the words “last minute”. Amazing. I feel the need to create a last minute Boston group when I return to Boston. He lived closeby in Maltepe about a 15 minute walk from Ulus so we got to hıs apartment pretty soon. As we walked he pointed out what the buildings were–That’s the tourism ministry and that is Genclik Park. I was gettıng a tour of Ankara at 10pm!

When we arrived at his apartment he got me settled and gave me some delicious leftovers of eggplant and bread. He had a guest room wıth a double bed where he hosted couchsurfers frequently. He saıd he lıkes hostıng even though he has never couchsurfed before and regularly attends the couchsurfing events. It helps hım practice speaking English.

I finally went to bed at 1am feeling like the luckiest person in this world.

#firstcouchsurfingexperience–win

19 Thoughts on “Saviors – Ankara

  1. Karen L on April 29, 2013 at 2:56 pm said:

    yay!

  2. Peach on April 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm said:

    Awesome! Glad your first couchsurfing experience went over well! Let me know your profile name and I’ll leave you a blazingly beautiful reference.

    <3

  3. cynie linton on April 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm said:

    love this story.

    when i was at MIT i called the saviors angels. they would show up on street corners when i needed them, just like that. i remember some in my travels too. couch surfing is great. used to host in dorchester. i think i must have missed some posts on the way to ankara. i will have to look back!

    c

  4. Megan on April 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm said:

    I love reading your posts and living vicariously through you! :)

  5. Wendy Z on April 30, 2013 at 2:00 am said:

    Dear Minwah- We all enjoy reading your lovely stories here in New York City..our soul is traveling with you. You don’t know how you inspire us spiritually –such a beautiful thing..we are very proud of you..
    Enjoy your riding, enjoy writing stories, enjoy meeting people.. Even though we all enjoy outdoors, but not many people can do what you have done..envy you and love you!

    Wendy from NYC

  6. Good god girl, you’re crazy!!!! hahah. Glad you found a place safely. Happy travels for your next destination!

  7. Michele Pratusevich on April 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm said:

    For some reason there are more and more examples of the goodness of people out there. It’s really giving my world view a run for it’s money.

    Glad you have savior angels <3

  8. Maria Guirguis on May 16, 2013 at 5:21 pm said:

    yay couchsurfing!

  9. I’m so glad I found my soltuion online.

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