This trip by bus and train isn’t exactly a place but any journey is a series of places and I certainly have a lot to say on the subject of the series of places between Goreme in central turkey, where I started out Monday morning and Izmir on the Aegean coast where I arrived Tuesday morning. My whilwind trip to Cappadocia and back has made it clear to me just how large Turkey is. Large and largely empty much at all except endless rolling hills and/or sandy looking flat areas. Any number of sheep have rolled past. But very little populated area. What people there are seem to be clustered in very compactly vertical development. Anatolia does not screw around with suburbs. There are green fallow pastures and then (bang) there are clusters of 6 story buildings. In fact pretty much the only single family dwellings I’ve seen in Anatolia at all have been informal (slum) housing set cobbled together out of a patchwork of materials on steep ground within cities – and usually in the process of being encroached on by new construction (six story buildings). There’s also a lot of new construction in Anatolia. A lot of visible concrete and rebar and a lot of as-yet-empty but finished looking glassy retail space. I do wonder what they plan to put into it all but everywhere I’ve been seems pretty full of people so perhaps the gravitational pull of the cities really does make it all necessary.
The trip to Ankara was smooth – although the bus did pick me up 20 minutes late which made me question its existence for a while – and I made it pretty smoothly from the bus station at the edge of town to the train station at the center (via metro), got my ticket and left my luggage and then went off to find the Museum of Anatolian Civilization which I’d read was well worth seeing. In fact it was, despite having three of five exhibit halls closed. Most of the collection on display were stone wall decorations from the neo-Hitite period (about 700 BC) showing animals, soldiers and hieroglyphic writing in greater or lesser states of being eroded flat. The age of the stuff was amazing and the style was not entirely familiar to me from either my baseline museum experience or my recent travels so it was a very satisfying afternoon.
After collecting snack food and staples at a covered market I headed back to the train station for my amazingly luxurious (for me) sleeper car trip to Izmir. The infinitely useful Seat61.com (a great train travel website – check it out) led me to believe there were two night trains to Izmir and one of them had sharable couchette compartments but in fact when I got to the station there was only the one with a) seats or b) private rooms. Since I didn’t want to change my plan and I knew I wouldn’t sleep sitting up I decided to spring for the room. I only wish I had someone to share it with because it really is quite the amazing little setup. I sat on one of the two seats with my feet up on the little shelving unit for a while After a few hours I decided I wanted to experiment so I pulled down the lower bed over the seats. The experience of lying stretched out with my head on two large good pillows and my feet pointed at a 3′ by 6′ window all my own with the rolling Anatolian hills passing by beyond them was quite delightful. I woke up rested and happy and three hours from Izmir with plenty of time to enjoy the morning journey and take more pictures. Here are some: