As we continued eastward, the golds, oranges, and reds of the fields of western Anatolia turned into dry, sandy plains with one or two tiny scrub bushes rolling about in the strong winds over the desolate plateau. Mountains, volcanic peaks, and ravines punctuate the undulating plains, while golden wheat fields dominate the dusty steppe, denuded of trees. We passed a few lonely sunflowers. A solid majesty reigns over the whole.
On the evening of our third anniversary, we reached Ankara by the Golbachi road, and went to a kebab joint to celebrate. Ankara is Ataturk’s city, a monument to his efforts to modernize and secularize Turkey. He is a national hero, respected and well loved by all Turks. His image is everywhere, from business offices to boutiques to gas stations to restaurants. A bust or statue of him is in every park, and extracts from his speeches or writings adorn all public buildings. His image represents modern Turkey, and no city illustrates it better than the capital of Ankara.
We took a bus 200 km. east of Ankara to see the sites of Hattusa and Yazilikaya, Hittite ruins classified by the UNESCO. To read about these World Heritage sites, please click on the section entitled “UNESCO sites” under the Turkish flag.
From Ankara, we biked south towards Cappadocia, following the shores of the Tuz Golu, the “Salt Lake.” From the capital to Tuz Golu, the landscape was one of flat, brown plains, a few sunflower fields, and little mosques built for the truckers next to small gas stations. Tuz Golu appeared on the horizon as a hazy, white, frothy foam stretching as far as the eye could see. A sliver of blue shone through in the middle, and every once in a while you could distinguish a pale shade of pink. The white “foam” was just masses of salt. The whole picture was flatter than flat – somewhat of a shock after the mountains of Anatolia and the Marmara Sea Coast.
We passed the hazy, white stuff and goatherds, then mountains appeared and we navigated an unbelievably steep one in the city of Aksaray as the night was approaching. As we reached the top several miles later, it was pitch black. Not having many choices at that time of night, we pitched it just off the busy main road right across the street from the city’s 5-star hotel. A real winner of a spot. Cappadocia was just around the corner.