Before we came to Ankara, Danny and I had decided that we would use our first long weekend in country to take a short trip somewhere, just to get out and see something of the country. As it happened, our first long weekend happened before our car got here, so the weekend away turned into a weekend touristing around our new home town (for the next few years anyway). We set Friday aside to explore a few different areas of the city, and in the process to get a good long walk in as we were both feeling a little sedentary after a few weeks without running shoes or the opportunity to really do anything with them.

We had a leisurely breakfast and let Stephen take his morning nap at the apartment in his crib, and just before lunch we set out on our great adventure. We took a cab down to Kuğulu Parkı (Swan park) at the south end of Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi, and went to an Iskender kebab restaurant. For the uninitiated, Iskender kebab is basically a plate of flat bread with thinly sliced lamb on top and yogurt on the side. What really makes it special in Danny’s eyes is the saucepan of clarified butter that comes to the table and constitutes the “sauce” for the kebab. No joke, the waiter pours melted butter all over your plate. It soaks into the bread…Danny decided he was allowed to have it again on Friday as he hadn’t eaten it since Wednesday. He proposed going to a different Iskender restaurant for lunch today as well, but I vetoed that one. I will say that the Iskender kebab is good, but if you didn’t like butter it would really not be a great option.

After lunch, we walked up a good portion of Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi, which is about as swank as Ankara gets. I was personally excited to see the Nine West store, and there was of course a Starbucks and a McDonalds, but as if to balance out all of this sophistication there was a mostly destroyed simitçi cart (simitçi carts are sort of reminiscent of carnival popcorn carts but selling sesame seed studded bread rings called simit). It looked as though the cart had gotten into a fight with an oncoming car and had fared poorly in the altercation.

We made our way over to the Kocatepe mosque, which is huge and can be seen from most of the major roads leading down into Ankara. I’m not sure if there’s actually a direct correlation between the size of the mosque and the number of minarets, but this is a four-minaret mosque and it’s massive. Since it was Friday and all of my headscarves are in our household goods shipment that’s not arriving for another month, we didn’t go any closer to the mosque than across the street, but it was really cool to see it up close. And lest you wonder why I have a collection of headscarves, I would point out that a) I’ve lived in the Middle East for a combined four years, and b) if you don’t bring your own headscarf to mosques they give you the gross communal use ones at the door, which is really just a good way to catch some head lice.

We also checked out Kızılay, a massive pedestrian shopping area that was a bit overwhelming for us so we sort of walked straight through, and found a street full of used book vendors that we had read about in one of our guidebooks. Unfortunately, the only English books were a couple of Cliff’s Notes and some English textbooks. Interesting, there were also TOEFL prep books in English. Call me crazy, but I feel like if one can read and understand a whole TOEFL prep book in English, one probably doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to the test.

On our way up to the citadel (which is supposedly the most noteworthy thing to see in Ankara, and we never actually did see it), we walked through the university but were thwarted in our attempt to find the bookstore and score an Ankara U hoodie by some security guards who apparently thought we looked too suspicious to allow onto the campus. I’m pretty sure it was Danny’s beard that did it, given the recent turmoil over religious symbols on university campuses. Shortly thereafter, Stephen decided it had been far too long since his last meal, and was really rather insistent that we rectify the situation immediately. I picked out a nice shady patch of grass in a mostly out-of-the-way area, and only after Stephen had already started nursing did we notice that we were sitting at the edge of a mosque’s courtyard (may I remind you that it was Friday). Oops. Luckily, I was fairly discreet and other than the mosque custodian picking up litter, no one even came near us. International/interfaith incident avoided.

We continued in what we thought was the direction of the citadel (basically straight uphill), and found an awesome area of tiny cobblestone streets filled with antique stores, carpet sellers, and sundry other shops catering to the few tourists that make their way to Ankara. We ended up talking to an English-speaking kilim seller for a good long while, drinking tea and showing off how adorable Stephen is. Turks LOVE babies. We also checked out a couple of carpet stores, including one that had some pretty phenomenal kilims, carpets, and embroidered pieces from Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Once our things get here and we can get some good measurements of our rooms, we definitely want to go back there, because he had some really unique pieces.

By that time, despite the fact that we still hadn’t found the citadel, we were ready to head back in the direction of home. We took a cab to Atakule (the tower sort of similar to the one in Seattle, on the right side of the picture), which is a shopping mall and tower with a revolving restaurant at the top. I was hoping to find a swimming suit, since mine is in our household goods shipment and our apartment building has an indoor pool. We didn’t find the suit, but we did walk by a street vendor selling mussels. Somehow, that did not seem like a good idea. I mean, shellfish from a street vendor in general is pretty scary, and when you factor in how far it is to the nearest body of salt water…yikes.

We walked from Atakule up to Kolay, a so-called outlet store that advertised their “Bikini bazaar.” Outlet store my foot, their bikinis were all $50 and up, but after a full day of walking around in the blazing heat, I was desperate and Stephen was quickly losing patience. I guessed what I thought would be my size (38? 40? 42? what do those numbers even mean?) and we walked the rest of the way home.

We changed into our suits, put Stephen in a makeshift swim diaper (read: disposable diaper we got for free on Lufthansa), and headed down to test out the pool for the first time. Stephen was, shall we say, less than impressed with the giant cold bathtub. In fact, the minute I lowered his legs into the water his lower lip stuck straight out in a pout, and when I handed him to Danny and his bare belly left mine and hit the water, he let loose with a full-out wail. We took that as a sign that it was time to bring him upstairs for an abbreviated warm bath and bedtime.

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