I didn’t. Leaving Sungurlu I still felt a bit under the weather and murderous towards my lovely Kona bicycle, so decided I’d take the bus to the next big town, Kırıkkale.
Sean set off nice and early to get to there by bike… Tackling a mere 96km in hotter than hell heat. As you do! Luckily though he made a friend.
Rather then get the bus early and hang around doing nothing in the next town, I decided to go to Hattuşa, the capital of the Hittite Empire which reined over central Anatolia between 1700 – 1200 BC.
The name Hittite actually comes from the Bible. Almost nothing was known about them – except for a few references in the Bible and some Ancient Egyptian manuscripts – until excavations by a French chap at nearby Boğazkale in the late 19th century led to the discovery of the Hittite capital.
Once I purchased my ticket at the ticket office, my taxi driver started taking me on the loop to see all the ruins. (Also, in case you’re interested, I found the taxi driver in Sungurlu town centre and paid 200 lira for the drive to Hattuşa, a drive around it, a visit to nearby Yazılıkaya, and the return trip to Sungurlu. I probably could have bartered but some days, you just can’t be arsed.)
Lonely Planet Turkey‘s advice was that you might need to use your imagination. That ain’t putting it lightly! Most of the places you visit show the outlines of rock walls, or replicas (as the originals are usually in museums). It was built millennia ago though so I’m not judging.
What you do get is the sense of scale of the place – and the effort of dragging all those rocks from quarries miles away to create the city’s massive fortifications and defensive walls. Altogether, the walls are over 6km in length, and there was housing for 15,000 people, gatehouses, artificial damns, and tens and tens of temples dedicated to their different gods.
There’s a fair few places to see with signs in English. My taxi driver was a funny chap – kept asking if I wanted pictures in front of the ruins. But once you’ve got one picture of yourself in front of some ruins, it’s hard to justify 10 more sets.
That was lucky for a Turkish lad who ended up tagging along with us and driving to each site when we did – as he wanted about 40 shots of himself in front of each place, and my taxi driver was happy to oblige! I just looked away, morosely.
After driving around Hattuşa we went to Yazılıkaya, which means ‘inscribed rock’ and the place does exactly what it says on the tin. I found this section quite interesting as the rock carvings are very well preserved.
The first one you see was the Hittites’ holiest sanctuary (how do people even know this?!) and shows a load of gods having some kind of get together.
The second rock gallery shows some underworld gods with weapons. Groovy.
Then without further ado, my taxi driver whisked me off back to Sungurlu to the bus station, where in a rare stroke of good fortune there was already a bus waiting that was going to Kırıkkale. And in less than an hour, I was there!
I headed straight to the next Öğretmenevi, which was another corker, and when Sean came rolling in we perused the town in the afternoon, before having dinner amongst a load of umbrellas.
Kırıkkale to Elmadağ to Ankara
The next day we were up bright and early to cycle halfway to Ankara, Turkey’s capital. However we dramatically underestimated the hills, again! And compounded with the bad weather that was forecast, we made a detour into the town of Elmadağ to try and get a night’s hotel.
However there was no hotel in Elmadağ, which is crackers cause it was pretty big, and we had to go back to our original plan of wild camping. Yet again we stumbled on another winner – a camping spot combining thumping dance tracks, young Turks getting pissed, loads of cow shit, and close proximity to a 24-hour quarry.
It wasn’t all bad though – we had a nice dinner of mushrooms fried in butter with Georgian spices and a round of packet noodles each. I had chicken flavour he had curry… just, FYI.
The next day got up early and scarpered, and for the first time in yonks enjoyed a pretty straightforward cycle, all the way to Ankara.
It’s a planned city, so there are nice wide roads everywhere and the drivers were very courteous. We’d already planned to stay with a friend of a friend, and I’d told her we’d be round at 4pm.
As we got in a lot earlier than we originally thought, I suggested cycling to get some gourmet cuisine, ie McDonalds, and we managed to get in there just before an absolutely apocalyptic thunderstorm started.
It was so bad a bloody tree had been ripped apart!
All in all we spent about two hours in the Maccies waiting for the thunderstorm to stop. A dreamy afternoon for moi.
We then quickly cycled to our host Filiz’s house and I’m happy to report the woman was another legend. After settling in, we had dinner together with her younger brother, and spent the evening watching Ladybird (which we all enjoyed), before being introduced to Rick and Morty (which is now both Sean and I’s new favourite show).
24 hours in Ankara
The next day we got up and had a traditional Turkish Starbucks (I’ve missed my American food chains, OK?!), and walked to Anıtkabir – Attaturk’s mausoleum.
It’s quite a beautiful, imposing and serene space all at once, with towers, boulevards, parks, statues and the mausoleum itself.
There were students graduating who seemed to parade into the mausoleum in respect, and also officious looking goings on and school trips. Also every time some music played everyone had to stop walking, which we nearly missed doing ourselves!
We then went to a mall to buy some bits, before heading to the Hamamonu Historic Area to visit the Historic Karacabey Hammam.
Jeeeeesus wept. Let’s just say we both had an experience. We had to go in separate areas, and when I’d gone down those fateful stone steps, past the receptionist who did not give one f*ck, I was ushered into a wooden room to change into my knickers before being herded to the main sauna room and was confronted by multiple centenarians in various complex poses being scrubbed to within an inch of their very long lives.
I quickly and discreetly washed myself, then made the mistake of sitting down (with my back towards all the old boobs). A lady came sauntering over, popped a plastic clogged leg on the stone bench next to me – obviously with the fanny pointing towards my startled face – and started chatting in Turkish.
When I said I don’t speak Turkish, she asked if I was English. And low and behold, she was based in the bloody UK! She explained she was over to visit her mother, and loved doing the hammams when she was back. She said she was 39 and I was absolutely blown away. She looked around 30. Which is a big advert for the old hammams!
Eventually my hammam lady found me and took me through to the ‘cold’ room, where she scrubbed me with a mitt – completely removing my tan and most layers of my epidermis – before completing a soap massage which was really good.
She then took me to a shower and scrubbed me down some more. She kept tugging at my knickers, I think they annoyed her. But I’m British love, and they are staying on!!
Sean’s experience was hilarious. He was getting a scrub down from some chap, when a big lad came over and started making light conversation. Suddenly, the first chap backed down, and the lad started jumping and heaving himself down on Sean’s side repeatedly like some twisted, naked, WWE move. Sean did say overall he enjoyed the experience. Should I be worried?
After we’d wandered round the district and had a few bevs, and went to meet Filiz at a restaurant called Basic Kitchen. It was lovely! Ankara is great. Filiz is great. And this is where I’m gonna end the blog. Night! Xx