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    Benedicts in Turkey: Ankara

    Even though the family drove from Istanbul to Ankara and got into the apartment around 3:00 am, they were troopers and woke up for church the next (same?) morning. It was the last Sunday David led worship. It was an emotional service. We were excited to introduce our family to our Turkey family, but we also had another round of goodbyes. The service included three baptisms, which was a joy to celebrate!


    David playing guitar at church


    After church, we had lunch at Arjantin Kebap, one of our favorites. It was the family’s first taste of Turkish food and çay.


    Lunch at Arjantin Kebap


    After lunch, we showed them our local pazar. We picked up a few goodies, though not a lot since we had a two-week trip ahead of us. They got a kick out of the vacuum accessories for sale.


    Balgat Pazar vegetables


    Pazar vacuum parts


    They napped that afternoon, the boys played sports at the school, and we spent the evening with some friends. We had showed them around the farm in Michigan two summers ago, so it was fun for the families to connect on the other side of the globe. During sports, someone made the comment: “The Benedict boys are a lot like the Puckett boys!” We enjoyed an evening of fellowship and the guys played a few dangerous rounds of sting pong. I’ll spare you the photos.


    Benedicts and Pucketts


    The next day, we put everyone on a dolumuş and took them to Ulus. Our friend Rex came with us. We showed them the Temple of Augustus, had manti and gözleme at Certioğlu Konağı Kafeterya, and walked up to the castle. We finished our time in Ulus with shopping at Yöre for pottery. David left us early to get the rental car, picked us up and took us back to the apartment.


    Ride in a dolmus


    Ulus street markets


    Lunch in Ulus




    Mom waving on the Ankara Castle


    Benedicts in the Ulus Castle


    Boys overlooking Ankara


    Rooftops in Ulus, Ankara


    Ulus metal workers


    It was fun for us to see Turkey through our family’s eyes. For Dad, Sam, and Ben, it was their first time over the Pacific and it was Ben’s first time out of the country.

    That evening, we packed up as much as we could before our drive to Göreme (Cappadocia) in the morning!



    Adventures in Ankara

    On a recent Saturday, a couple of friends and I visited the Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi (Anatolian Civilizations Museum). The museum is located inside of the castle in Ulus.

    I took the opportunity to renew my Müzekart. By the way, if you are living in Turkey and have a residence permit or Turkish ID, the Müzekart is the way to go. I purchased one for 50 Turkish Lira (about $20 USD) and it grants me access to over 300 historical sites in Turkey. Given that the Anatolian Civilizations Museum costs 15 TL (General Admission) and the Hagia Sophia costs 30 TL, the Müzekart is quite the deal if you plan on traveling during your time in Turkey. If you don’t have a residence permit or Turkish ID, there is now a Museum Pass Müzekart available for Istanbul. There is a three day pass (72 TL) and a five day pass  (115 TL). Both of these passes are good for many different sites and attractions around Istanbul.

    All of the artifacts at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum were rather interesting. This painting of a deer was from the village of Çatalhöyük, not too far from Ankara. This is thought to be one of the first agricultural villages known, dating back to around 6,000 B.C. I really liked this piece because of the deer. I like to think that one of my fellow country boys painted it thousands of years ago.


    Painting of animal on rock


    One of the displays I found most interesting was the terracotta tablet exhibit. While the display itself was not very big, I was intrigued to see all of the detail that was put into these tablets. This specific tablet is a property donation deed. Sometimes when I think of early civilizations, I think of them as unsophisticated grunting human beings. However, all evidence points to the contrary. Although they didn’t have all the tech gadgets we do today, it seems like they had sophisticated and set ways of doing things. Based on the detail in the tablet below, it appears lawyers were just as meticulous about the wording of legal documents thousands of years ago as they are now.

    One tablet that stuck out to me was a letter on terracotta from Naptera (wife of Ramses II, Egypt 13th Century). She wrote to Puduhepa (wife of Hattusili III, King of the Hittites) about relations and politics between the two nations. Super cool!


    Donation deed


    Sun discs were used by the Hittites for celebratory and religious ceremonies. I have become accustomed to seeing these Hittite symbols around Ankara. This particular design with the deer, is one of my favorites.


    Hittite stand


    Hittite artifacts


    This is a statue of King Mutallu, a king that was reliant on Sargon II (King of Assyria). It’s hard to believe how well some of these relics are preserved, this one dating back several hundred years B.C. I particularly like the ceiling in this section of the museum. Cylindrical and made of brick, it reminds me of certain parts of the Grand Bazaar.


    Kral Mutallu statue


    Maybe it’s a little weird, but I found it super interesting that the Phyrgian King Midas’ (8th Century B.C.) skull is kept in the museum. His tomb has been found in Gordion, Turkey and this skull has been used to do a facial recreation of Midas.




    After we finished at the museum, we walked down to the Pazar to get some lunch. Turkish street food has become one of my favorite cuisines. I love to eat a fish sandwich fresh off of an open grill or a delicious döner dürüm straight off of the rotisserie.

    One of the street foods I’ve been wanting to try is kokoreç. Kokoreç is lamb intestines cooked on a rotisserie. After the intestines are cooked, they chop a delicious array of spices into the meat, before putting it on bread. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I think the fact that the delicacy is lamb intestines put some unfair presumptions of kokoreç in my mind. Mixed with all of the spices, it kind of tastes like a delicious sausage sandwich.

    Click the arrow below to play a video of the kokoreç  stand:



    Kokoreç stand




    After I payed for my kokoreç, the cashier gave me this small orange ticket. Since Ulus is busy during lunch time, I had to (as I tell Leah) “shoulder up” to get my order in with the chop masters. After kokoreç, we walked by a fish sandwich stand and I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had to get an alabalık ekmek (trout sandwich) as well.


    Kokoreç token


    Belly full of lamb intestines and trout sandwich, I headed to Anıtkabir (Leah visited Anıtkabir without me in 2013). Anıtkabir  is a memorial and mausoleum for Turkey’s founding father Ataturk. It definitely does not lack grandiose and honors Ataturk well.

    Anıtkabir  was built in a way that it can be seen from almost anywhere in Ankara. Consequently, it offers some awesome views of the surrounding city.




    The mausoleum reminded me of the Lincoln memorial.


    David at Anitkabir


    Anitkabir Mausoleum


    One of the things to do at the mausoleum is watch the changing of the guards ceremony. There are guards that stand watch over the mausoleum throughout the day and they periodically change. We got there just as the relieved guards were marching off the grounds, so we did not get to see the actual change.


    Anitkabir Soldier


    It was definitely a day of adventures in Ankara. I hope to explore more of this beautiful city in the months to come. And I have every intention of stopping by Ulus again for a delicious kokoreç sandwich.



    Ulus with Mom

    After checking out the Roman ruins, we began the uphill walk to the castle. The foundations of castle were laid by the Galatians and later completed by the Romans.


    Ankara castle on a hill


    There were lots of shops and restaurants along the way:


    Outdoor seating


    We took Mom to Certioğlu Konağı Kafeterya for lunch. Something feels so authentic about sitting on the floor cushions and eating off of the Anatolian-style copper tables.


    Eating lunch on the floor


    We ordered manti, potato gözleme, and içli köfte. And for dessert? Honey walnut gözleme. Yum.


    Turkish food for lunch


    After lunch, we went up to the castle. It was cold! We had our first snowfall last week. The snow in town didn’t last longer than a day or two, but the mountains in the distance were still snow capped:


    Ankara snowline


    Mom and Leah at the castle


    Castle window


    The view from the castle is one of the best! (Although, we’re also partial to the view from our apartment). We spent the rest of our afternoon shopping. It was a lot of fun showing Mom around Ulus.



    Roman Ruins in Ankara

    After Mom returned from her Seven Churches tour, we took her to Ulus, a neighborhood of Ankara. One of our friends told us about some Roman ruins, and we wanted to see them for ourselves.

    Ankara was one of the cities along the Roman road. Emperor Julianus (Julian) visited Ankara (then called Ancyra) in 362 AD. Whoever was living in this area at the time built a column in his honor and it stands today.


    Julianus Column plaque


    Julianus Column


    When walking up the hill from the Atatürk statue, you can see some of the Roman road to the left along with some broken columns. Another section of the road has been preserved, but it is difficult to see it beneath the dirty glass. The Roman road display is across the street to the right of the column (if you’re looking at it from this angle). The road was discovered in 1995.


    Julianus Column


    Not far from the column is the Temple of Augustus. It is also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum and was built between 25 BC – 20 BC following the conquest of Central Anatolia by the Roman Empire and the formation of the Roman province of Galatia [source].


    Temple of Augustus sign


    The building was first a pagan temple around 20–25 BC. During the 4th or 5th century, the temple was used as a Byzantine Christian church. Today, the temple is connected to the Hacı Bayram Camii (mosque).


    Temple of Augustus


    Temple of Augustus side


    This temple holds major historical significance. Inscribed on the walls are a speech listing the acts of Emperor Augustus. The outside of the temple has Augustus’ speech written in Greek and the interior has the speech written in Latin. These inscriptions are the primary surviving source of the speech. The acts of Augustus include several censuses (Chapter 8.1), which may include the one that made Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. –Luke 2:1


    List of Augustus' Accomplishments


    Temple of Augustus wall




    Temple of Augustus in Ankara


    I love how you can always find something new (…or old?) in Turkey. We’ve visited Ulus many times and never knew we were walking by such history. We love touring other places, but sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in your own city!



    Where to Find English Books in Ankara

    Part of my job as a librarian in Turkey is adding new English books to our catalog. And our students love to read new books.


    English books in Ankara


    I have brought at least a couple hundred books from the States. But really, there’s only so many books you can fit into a suitcase when you’re trying to make room for all of your personal items, too. Mailing books to Turkey is not the greatest option. We do purchase some books online from the UK, but the shipping takes forever.

    Fortunately, English books are becoming more and more available. Here’s my guide to purchasing English books in Ankara. (All of these stores have plenty of adult fiction. My notes are more for parents and students.)

     Arkadas Bookstore {Image Source}

    Arkadaş Kitabevi (Kentpark Mall, top floor) Eskişehir Highway No: 164, Çankaya
    Phone: (0312) 219 9244
    Arkadaş is my favorite place to find English books in Ankara. They have a large English section in the back that includes a wall of classics, recent bestsellers, a young adult fiction section, as well as several non-fiction books. Near the front of the store by the windows is an impressive children’s section including picture books, step books, activity books, and non-fiction books.



    Bookish bookstore{Image Source}

    Filistin Sokak No: 17/A, Gaziosmanpaşa 06700
    Phone: (0312) 447‑4734
    Bookish is a great stop for high school students for both fiction and non-fiction books. There is a small selection of picture books, juvenile literature, and several English magazines.



    D&R Bookstore{Image Source}

    D&R Stores
    D&R Stores are in several of the malls including Taurus, Cepa, Armada, Ankamall, Next Level, and Panora. You can typically find popular and bestselling novels here. Many carry a few juvenile novels, as well as English magazines. The D&R with the best selection is located in Tunali. It is across from Kuğulu Park and is several stories tall. (You can’t miss it!) The basement floor has a small section of English picture books. You can find a large wall of novels on the level below the café.



     Homer Bookstore{Image Source}

    Homer Kitabevi
    Bestekar Sokak No: 35, Küçükesat
    Phone: (0312) 426‑0777
    This store has an excellent children’s section in the back full of picture books (fiction and non-fiction) for elementary students. They also have several step leveled readers. There is a small selection of juvenile chapter books (but not as many as the Arkadaş). There is a huge wall of English novels that may be appropriate for secondary students. When we visited, almost everything in the basement was discounted.



    Remzi bookstore{Image Source}

    Remzi Kitabevi (Armada Mall, across from Starbucks)
    Eskişehir Yolu Armada Alışveriş Ve İş Merkezi No: 6 D: 38, Söğütözü
    Phone: (0312) 219‑1112
    English books can be found on the left side of the store. Remzi carries recent bestsellers and some classics. They have a small section of juvenile chapter books, plenty of travel guides, non-fiction books, and some English magazines.


    Another something worth mentioning: most Turkish DVDs have English as a viewing option (just check the back of the case). I’ve purchased several Disney classics for 10TL (around $5USD)! Make sure you have a universal DVD player, otherwise, you might not be able to play them because of region code issues.

    Are there other stores in Ankara where you’ve found English books?



    Lightning Strikes

    We’ve had a few thunderstorms in Ankara the past two weeks. I love the storms because they bring cooler weather and clear the air!

    David gets excited when there’s a storm because he loves to photograph lightning. He shared a post during our first year in Turkey of lightning photos he took with his point-and-shoot camera. Since then, we’ve moved 9 stories higher and got a nicer camera. Here’s a few shots from the August 28 storm:


    Ankara lightning5 sec, F4, ISO 125, 18 mm


    Ankara lightning4 sec, F5, ISO 320, 18 mm


    Ankara lightning5 sec, F4, ISO 125, 18mm


    Ankara lightning30 sec, F18, ISO 400, 18 mm


    Ankara lightning5 sec, F4, ISO 125, 18 mm


    Ankara lightning10 sec, F8, ISO 400, 24 mm


    We have rain in the forecast for this week, too. Bring it on!



    Ice Skating Field Trip

    I have really enjoyed teaching my sixth grade students this year. My class is hard working and full of energy. A few weeks ago, we went on a field trip to Lozanpark Buz Pisti (Lozanpark Ice Rink).

    Now, ice skating is something fairly common to a Michigander like myself. However, some of my kids are from countries with a warm climate and several had never even seen an ice skating rink before.


    Falling down


    Prior to the field trip, we took an in depth look at ice skating from a scientific perspective. I introduced Newton’s laws of motion and we discussed how these related to ice skating. We also watched a National Geographic I Didn’t Know That video that discussed the possible reasons why ice skating works. The kids were excited and talkative on the bus ride to the rink.


    Ice skating in the rink



    We had forty minutes of skate time. I was impressed. Everyone attempted to skate and the students were so good at helping each other. We had lots of fun falling down, getting back up, and sliding around the ice. At the end of the forty minutes, we were all worn out.


    Group shot


    Silly group shot


    After taking off our skates and an intense game of tabletop foosball, we headed to a local mall for lunch.


    Conquered skating!


    I was so impressed by the way the students conducted themselves. They followed directions, got along with one another, and were smiling and laughing throughout the entire trip.


    Ready to skate


    It was refreshing to spend time with my students outside of the formal classroom setting. I enjoy my time in the classroom, but events like these give me a chance to connect with my students in a more personal way. It’s often easy to get distracted by the regimented schedule. I forget how important it is to show my students I enjoy having fun just like them. While I still maintained the position of teacher, I had a blast goofing off on the ice and laughing with my students when we ran into each other or fell down.


    Massage chairs