To bring you to where we left off, now we are on DAY 2.
Imagine Hubby and I rushing through breakfast to catch a train from Istanbul to Ankara at 9:35am. Instead of calling an Uber, we decided to try the metro for the first time. After a 17-minute walk from the hotel, we arrive at the metro stop “Marmaray Sirkeci Istasyonu” only to struggle to buy a ticket.
The so-called stand-alone ticket machine wasn’t so stand-alone as the instructions weren’t clear. And to make things worse, the only person that offered to help us, unfortunately tricked us as well.
But HEY, let’s look on the bright side, he taught us how to use the machine. So, the trick is to buy a transport card and then top it up with cash depending on your destination.
The machine doesn’t sell individual tickets. It only tops up transport cards.
The card cost 25 TL, we topped up 75 TL, and used 15TL (per person). PS. One transport card can be used by several people as long as you tap-in accordingly (ex: 2 taps = tickets for 2) into a given metro stop.
After that small anecdote, we managed to reach our destination Sogutlucesme Station and catch our train on-time.
The train was beyond amazing. We booked first class but there was also business class that included a private cabin. The ticket price included train catering (14 EUR per person). We were served food & drinks during the trip using a food cart similar to the ones used in an airplane.
After roughly 5 hours, we arrive at the Ankara Central Station. Lost, we went to the help desk to ask for the location of metro Baskentray direction Kayas. The kind lady directed us towards the old side of the station where we found the metro stop and the stand-alone ticket machine.
While waiting in-line for our turn to buy the ticket; the machine bugs for some reason and stops working. We were told that an alternative way of buying a ticket was by taping-in our credit card on metro platform (entrance).
Several people were in the same situation as us. One by one, they were taping-in their credit cards and succeeding. For some reason, our visa card didn’t want to work. After a couple of minutes of struggling, a kind local tapped us in using his credit card and made sure that we were on the right platform and even asked us for our metro stop (Kurtulus).
The kindness shown from this man made-up for the wickedness of the other one. Reminding us that somehow good always balances out evil.
ANKARA, the capital that no one talks about…
We arrived around 3pm at the New Park Hotel. We were welcomed by Ms. Ayday, the Guest Relations Manager who made sure our stay was comfortable. She even organized a last-minute out-of-this-world SPA experience for us while taking into account our personal constraints.
The SPA was scheduled for 8:30 pm. To kill time, we decided to grab a bite and explore a neighboring chill area frequented by locals.
While on the hunt for food, we discovered this traditional Uyghur restaurant called “Urumçi Uygur”. Inspired by our culinary curiosity and affection for Central Asia, we decided to check it out. The spicy tofu dish with a couple of bread-like dumplings did not fail us.
Crossing the street however, wasn’t that straightforward. It was like need-for-speed. The traffic light stayed green for a couple of seconds before turning red. Like the locals, we crossed the road running.
Now full and alive, we went to Hamamönü, a pedestrian historic district filled with Ottoman houses, restaurants, & cafés. A good place to tryout for dessert: YAKUB.
With the clock ticking, we decided to head back to the Hotel to get ready for our SPA session. We opted for, two massages each :
- 2 Turkish Baths (Peel & Foam) – 200 TL/person (30 mins)
- 1 Relaxing massage (for hubby) – 350 TL (50 mins)
- 1 Bali massage (for me) – 425 TL (50 mins)
Relaxed and satisfied, we went to bed.
After a heartily breakfast, we rushing out, in order to fit in a touristic visit before our bus ride scheduled for 12pm. Basically we had an hour to visit Anıtkabir (see image below) and get to the Ankara bus station.
Crazy as it may seem, we went for it.
To wrap up DAY 2 & the beginning of DAY 3, here are some useful tips:
- Accommodation: New Park Hotel (excellent value for money, amazing staff, diverse breakfast buffet)
- Transportation in Istanbul: Marmaray metro
- Transportation in Ankara: Baskentray metro
- Tip 1: Individual tickets for Marmaray metro aren’t always available.
- Tip 2: One Istanbul transportation card can be used by several people.
- Tip 3: If possible, try the Turkish bath outside of Istanbul, it will be much cheaper.
- Tip 4: when lost, look for the nearest Helpdesk. Don’t waste your time asking around if you don’t want to be misled as most locals don’t speak English.
NOTE TO SELF: Blog post has been written on the road. Started on 29/05 (Day 5) and finished on 30/05 (Day 6)