October 7, 2014

Jena's first world problems

Ankara. I don't know it's official tagline, but if I could write one, it would be

Ankara: city of freeways.

Man alive! (Nice Midwestern expression, huh?) Ankara is a crazy city. The roads are mind boggling to me. Basically the freeways are based on where they end up, that is, other cities. So, Konya Yolu (Konya way) leads one to Konya. Eskişehir Yolu has a similar path to its namesake. This I can deal with, as my Turkish geography is getting better, but these names seem to only apply to maps, not to the roads as you are driving on them. Signs on the roadway indicate that you are traveling toward Istanbul, Eskişehir, and three other places, but the don't tell you which road you are on. In general, I'd say that Turkey isn't big on street signs, so the lack of signage indicating names for the big roads doesn't surprise me much. Suprise, no. Irritate, yes. As designated navigator for the trip, I totally failed due to confusing signage, lack of labeling, and minimal knowledge of the area.

Trying to find our hotel took well over an hour because we were lost three separate times. A kind gentlemen eventually gave us pretty good directions, but it was still a challenge to figure out when to exit the freeway. By the way, turning around on Turkish freeways isn't as simple as the American Interstate system. The overpasses don't really work like that. If you get on the wrong street, you might be going that direction for a while. You might even end up in Istanbul if you really mess up. That's my attempt at a geography and city planning joke for Ankara's mess of freeways.

Anyway, we arrived at the JW Marriot in Ankara not a moment too soon as we were both fried from the exhausting navigation and traffic. We had earned a free stay from our credit card, so it seemed like a good excuse to "put on the ritz" for a night. Our room had a cute box of Turkish delights and handmade chocolates waiting for us, as well as a bathtub, shower cabinet, plush robes, and view from the 18th floor. The hotel was probably the nicest I've ever stayed in.

One important reason I had wanted to go to Ankara was that they have şarap evleri (= literally, wine houses). I scoped out one on Google, and we, by some miracle and good directions, were able to find it. The ambience was perfect. Miniature red lights cast a warm glow over the outdoor seating. The menu was great and the wine selection was excellent (I guess. I'm no expert on Turkish wine). I picked out a steak and paired it with a red wine. A local Cabernet Sauvignon. I don't have a refined wine pallet, but I do enjoy drinking wine, especially the red stuff. In Kayseri, I don't drink much wine (because it's pretty hard to come by), so I was really excited to drink a real glass of wine with my dinner.

Our meals and drinks arrived. We toasted, and I took a sip. Wine snob alert...

Parents, if you are reading this, you may want to cover your eyes.

The wine was a frosty, fresh-from-the-fridge temperature. Seriously?

I don't know much, but I think I know that dry red wine is almost always served at just barely cooler than room temperature. Ultimately, I know that temperature is a preference thing. There's nothing wrong with a chilled red, but I think it changes the flavor and the way it goes with the food.

I cupped my hands around the glass to try to warm it up, but eventually resigned myself to a much colder than usual glass of wine. There is a punchline, "first world problems" meaning that my complaints are absolutely ridiculous when compared to the problems faced by people in the developing world. I think the temperature of my wine in Ankara definitely falls into this category, but nevertheless, I pretty much chose the restaurant based on the idea of a great glass of wine. It fell short.

After the wine experience, we went back to the hotel to explore the swimming pool. Unfortunately, no one is allowed in the pool without a swim cap, but the Turkish steam room, hamam, jacuzzi, and amazing shower area are open to all, swim cap or not. After steaming, soaking and laying on a hot slab for an hour, Alan and I were thoroughly spa-ed. We snuggled into real down pillows and comforters and slept soundly.

The next morning, we explored a small section of Ankara. We ate a tasty breakfast and walked around, hoping to find a guitar shop.

Here comes an anticlimactic ending to the post:

After fighting the traffic and freeways again, we were on our way back to Kayseri. No additional wine temperature incidents or spa time. We did get chips at a rest area. They were very delicious.

Home sweet home.