24 January, 2010


Emin and i walked the streets of Ankara, carrying my baggage all the way. It was about twenty minutes walk from Mesnevi street to where we stopped in Kızılay for çay (tea) and simit, a traditional Turkish snack. Simit seems to hold the place of donuts in local cuisine, but it's considerably healthier, rather like a circle of pretzel dough smothered in sesame seeds.

We ventured forth on our way to the bus terminal, but hoping to find me some electrical adaptors for the 2-prong recessed Turkish outlets. On a Sunday afternoon the city was quiet and some establishments were closed, but we eventually found the adaptors in Maltepe Pazarı. The Pazarı is a large open market, populated by stalls of sellers, where one can find eveything from luggage to knockoff Timberlands and A&F clothing. I felt like a marked man, shouldering the Kelty pack and a laptop case, especially when one seller loudly approached - Merhaba! Hoş geldiniz! (Hello, welcome!). At another booth, Emin, always a patient guide instructed me ask the seller his favorite football team. "Hangi football - ?" i stumbled, forgetting the word for team. But the man was tickled by my attempt. "Galatasaray," he chuckled.

Maltepe had a different feeling than Çankaya and Kızılay, a seedy feeling. "Keep a low profile," Emin directed as we crossed a pedestrian bridge behind four young men.

More than the other districts, Maltepe reflected a certain ethos of soulless Eastern-bloc idealism. "Ankara," my guide mused, "is a reaction to Ottomanism." That statement struck a chord of sociological truth: architecture itself can be used to reinforce a vision of the state as a neutral, secular body and disallow alternative worldspaces.

In modern Turkiye, though, Islam is omnipresent. That afternoon we heard the call to prayer over loudspeakers in Ankara's subway mall. Subway mall? "I never thought about it that way," he said. "But, no, i've never seen another subway mall." The Ankara metro is not much of a subway system - but the underground galleria in Kızılay station sets it apart.