Ankara is the capital and the second largest city of Turkey. According to Wikipedia, in 2007 it had a population of 4,751,360. My sources say the numbers are probably much higher than that, due to issues involved with taking the census. Sound familiar?
Ankara is comprised of eight provinces. We live in the province that is also called “Ankara”. Provinces are divided into districts. Our home is in the district of Çankaya. According to Wiki, at the 2000 census “the population of the district was 769,331; of which 758,490 live in the urban center of Çankaya (which swells up to 2 million or more people during the day.) The district covers an area of 268 km2 (103 sq mi), and the urban center lies at an average elevation of 986 m (3,235 ft).” Wow, 2 million in the day time! And I thought parking on Aspen St. was bad!
Turkey>Ankara>Ankara> Çankaya> Aşağı Ayrancı! Each district is broken into neighborhoods. My neighborhood is called Aşağı Ayrancı, literally, “Lower Yogurt Drink Maker/Seller”. Ayran is like Indian Lassi, mostly made of yogurt and water. Delicious – especially with spicy foods! Remind me to tell you about the Lassi I had at Café Spice in Philly, days before I left.
Anyway, Aşağı Ayrancı is a very hip place to be. It is a “mixed” neighborhood. Young and old. Turks and Expats. Blue collars and white. We are surrounded by embassies. America is down the street and Germany is directly behind us. If I am feeling a bit crazy, I can walk around the corner to France. Ooh la la. Unfortunately, the Embassies are surrounded by tall solid walls and men with machine guns. So I haven’t been able to get any pics – except for the German flag which I can see from my balcony. Oncle Georg would be so proud!
My street is mostly residential with a hospital smack in the middle of the block! Believe it or not, parking is actually better than on Aspen St., even with the hospital. It seems that Turks have a little “South Philly” in them. They would rather double-park in front of the hospital (or mall, or grocery store), than park legally at the end of the block and walk. This is not to say that Turks don’t like to walk. They are naturally-born walkers. They just have this thing about parking!
Ankara has 4 seasons like Philadelphia, but the humidity is much lower. It’s very dry with a lot of pavement, causing the city to be a bit grey and dusty. However, the city is riddled with brightly-colored apartment buildings. In Turkey, the building is called an “apartment.” One’s unit is a “home.”
The streets are lined with trees. Most of the flora is similar to the U.S. Although you will never see a tree as large as a redwood here! The cherry trees were blooming when I arrived. The roses are now budding. Lilacs are finishing blooming and the willow trees are a lovely shade of light green.
Aşağı Ayrancı, like most neighborhoods, is full of small family-run businesses and small chain stores. Within walking distance of my home, I can walk to at least a dozen places for fresh vegetables. There are four chain grocery stores within one block. There are also many hardware stores, pharmacies, and hairdressers!
One of the absolute nicest things about Turkey is the ability to buy fresh bread at almost any time of the day! My mother-in-law says our neighborhood is a bit expensive – we can only get 2 loaves of bread for one TL (Turkish Lira.) That’s about 65¢. I love my mother-in-law. I can learn a lot from her about shopping!
The neighborhoods are peppered with minarets. New modern buidings – skyrises, hotels, apartements, and offices – stand side-by-side with with ancient ruins, bazaars, and delapidated housing. Aşağı Ayrancı, like most Turkish urban neighborhoods, is a truly magnificent mixture of new and old, living peacefully together!