Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ulus, the place I'll miss the most

My stay in Ankara is slowly coming to an end - hard to believe that one year, which seemed a time to me before I came, is almost over. I made a list of things without doing of which I definitely can't leave the city. Having a lot of free time in my hands these days yesterday I decided to combine business with pleasure, took my Portuguese notes and went to study on the top of Ankara Kalesi and stay there for the sunset - first check-off on my to-do list.

The castle is located on the top of a hill that marks the highest point of Ankara, in Ulus ("nation" in Turkish), the historical center and one of the oldest parts of the city. Even nowadays the this neighborhood still retains its importance. Like elderly people used to their old city center I also prefer visiting Ulus over hanging around in too-posh-for-me Kızılay. Compared to the latter, where you seek for exciting nightlife, fancy restaurants and brand stores, Ulus is full of street sellers of everything, from simits and other pastries, through tacky souvenirs and clothes, to kaçak cigarettes and electronics. It's the rough-cut part of Ankara which hasn't been prettied up and sterilized for the tourists. But that's what makes the place authentic and pulsating with life; it's the time-unaffected Asian side of Turkey that lives in its own pace. To me Kızılay, which could easily be taken for a shopping district of any big European city, misses it by a mile...

The first time I went to Ulus was with my housemates Elisa and Michał, just a few days following my arrival to Ankara. We arrived quite late and didn't manage to see a lot, but I already knew that would be the place where I'd take my future couchsurfers and other guests. The first opportunity presented itself just before Christmas, when I received Stasia (Russia), Taylor (Canada) and Stefan (Australia). Climbing Ankara Kalesi, not even knowing if we were following the right route among dilapidating gecekondular, eating dumpster dived food, helping my guests to communicate with the locals, making sure the food Taylor wanted to buy in the market was vegan, local vendors staring in amazement while Stasia and Taylor were juggling, Taylor's joy because he "got these dried apricots for 10 kuruş less for a kilo!" Still such vivid memories...

After that, I've been coming over and over - with new housemates, with kochanie, on my own. I adore standing atop the perilous ruins (no guardrails of any kind!) and recognizing different parts of the city, reaching with my eye from the surrounding ghettos of Ankara even as far as my neighborhood. Yesterday I wasn't very lucky with the views - the air seemed extremely polluted and instead of bright sky I had the horizon covered by a thick layer of gray/brown dust but at least my studying was more productive than at home, where I always get distracted by internet and other things around me.

After sunset I directed my steps to Ulus market which, in spite of being loud, dirty and packed to the brim with people, unquestionably stands as my favorite place to stock up on fruits and vegetables, usually costing much less here than in chain supermarkets. I also love the bright colors of various spices and grains and the way the sellers arrange them. The local vendors are incessantly attracting their customers and calling out what they have on sale and how cheap you can get it. They are also quite friendly and usually happy to exchange a few words with a customer - at least when they hear my foreign accent, they get curious, start guessing what I'm doing in Turkey (ha, some even make up a story of my life themselves) and praising my Turkish skills after hearing just a few sentences. That doesn't happen to me often in bigger stores where workers usually do nothing except for doing their job and rarely pay much attention to people just passing by.

As much as I'm slowly getting tired of many aspects of living in busy and disorganized Ankara and sometimes wishing myself in more undisturbed place, Ulus is probably the only part of this havoc that I'd happily move wherever I get to live in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful places it is.... I like the image and article.... I Like Your Post...... Nice Images

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