Sunday, 4 October 2009


Wednesday 30 September: The old city way of life survives in the 9th century AD Byzantine-built citadel. Older columns and broken marble statues have been reworked into the fortifications. Beneath the walls the chronologically organised national Museum of Anatolian Civilisations has superb artefacts from all over Anatolia including many female idols of worship spanning the centuries - nothing new there.
The vast expanse of Kemal Atatürk's Mausoleum (Anıt Kabir) with it's heavily armed guards and tight security indicate the esteem for which the founder of modern Turkey is still held. Fascinating museum too of his life and military campaigns (no photos - strictly enforced).
Fine Painting and Sculpture Museum and even a great Open-Air Steam Train Museum where you can clamber all over the engines, every schoolboy's dream - yes I had time to kill in Ankara . . .
The Iran Visa Comedy of Errors:
Wednesday 30 September: Arrived Ankara in the early morning, booked into my hotel and went straight to Iran Embassy on the other side of town. Tried the door, locked and
the intercom wires hanging in mid-air. Opening times 12:00 - 8:30, so I went for a walk and came back at 12:30. Tried the door again, locked. Rattled the door, locked. The penny dropped that Persian is written from right to left so the Embassy is open mornings from 8:30 to 12:00 midday!
Thursday 1 October: Went back in the morning, rattled the door, locked. Waited bemused when two Iranians walked up "you need to rattle the door hard the intercom is broken". They shook the door hard for a minute or so and it clicked open - I entered a plush, comfortable reception area with helpful smiling staff but no record of my visa application approval. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran is closed for the Iranian weekend on Thursdays and Fridays and we are closed for the Turkish weekend Saturday and Sunday - if only you had come in yesterday we could have sorted it out straight away. Come back on Monday."
Monday 5 October: Intercom on the door is fixed and after phone calls and faxes to Tehran approval is eventually given (it had been sent to the London Embassy) and I rush off to the Embassy bank, nearby, to deposit payment (90 Euro) and return with a receipt. It's Monday and there is a long queue. I get back to the Embassy just before midday. The intercom crackles "Embassy closed, come back tomorrow."
Tuesday 6: Helpful staff provide visa in minutes and finally I depart Ankara in a very comfortable overnight 1st class sleeper (16 hours) with elegant breakfast car. Next stop Malatya.

Pictures of Ankara.

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