BACKPACKERS SHOULD AVOID GOING TO ANKARA
I have been to Ankara four times. All these three times were for transit to either another country or city. I never traveled to Ankara to see its sightseeing places and enjoy its food, vagabond, or camp.
The first time I came to Ankara was in 2018 while I was hitchhiking from Konya to Istanbul. That time, I just spent a few hours on a road and was picked up by a car that was heading straightly to Istanbul. Thus, I didn't experience the city.
The second time, I came to Ankara because my flight was from Esenboga Ankara airport. I was on a bus and had a lot of time to look at the city, its roads, and buildings.
When I came back to Ankara from that foreign journey, I had to go to Istanbul for some business. I hitchhiked from Ankara to Istanbul.
The fourth time I came to Ankara to take a bus to Aksaray and explore Cappadocia. Thus, every time I came to Ankara was just because I needed to either pass through it or use some of its facilities like the airport and bus terminal.
I didn't like the city. Moreover, I have some negative experiences that I want to share with you. The title of this blog post sounds controversial. Let me explain to you why I think and insist that backpackers should skip visiting Ankara if possible for their benefit. Here are the two main reasons. The second one is more important than the first one.
ANKARA IS MADE OF CONRETE JUNGLES
I feel like this city doesn't have a soul. It consists of concrete jungles which are very high, big, and imposing. Whenever you come to the city, you feel small and meaningless. The city looks like a place from some sci-fi movies. It feels cold even during summer's hottest days.
If you are a backpacker who enjoys communicating with people, walking in pretty and interesting streets, and enjoying the hospitality of locals, then you shouldn't visit Ankara. This city is so emotionally cold. Even Istanbul with its millions of inhabitants seems like a city with a heart and soul if you compare it to Ankara. The capital of Turkey is a soulless place.
AVOID HARASSMENT BY POLICE AND SECURITY AGENTS
There is something negatively special about Ankara you wouldn't find in other cities of the huge country. Since Ankara is the capital of Turkey and it hosts the parliament, all the government organizations, and buildings, Erdogan is using the city's roads to move, and police and state security agents are always on high alert. Thus, harassing foreigners is a common thing in the capital of Turkey.
Even though my presence in Ankara was very short and almost invisible, I couldn't avoid meeting these people. To be honest, I didn't enjoy the experience.
One day, I was hitchhiking in some of the parts of Ankara. The city is huge. Hence, it is difficult to exit it quickly. You will need to drive for hours to finally exit Ankara to a neighboring city. With hitchhiking, this gets even more complicated.
So I was hitchhiking in a very difficult place when a small minivan stopped. I thought it was a driver who wanted to give me a ride. Instead, this minivan belonged to either police or state security agents. One man came out of the car, took my backpack, and put it in the car's backseat.
I sat down in the car. All the men inside had radio devices, guns, and other police tools. The man asked me: "Are you Syrian or Afghanistan and what are you doing in our country?" I told him that I was a backpacker hitchhiking to Istanbul. The man made a photo of my passport and I saw him sending the photo to a certain WhatsApp group on his smartphone.
After a few minutes, the minivan dropped me at a place where I continued hitchhiking. This experience wasn't pleasant. Even though they didn't harass me, you don't want to experience such an attitude while backpacking.
This type of thing has never happened to me in any other city in Turkey. I was hitchhiking and backpacking in dozens of cities in Turkey, and the police always ignored me on the roads. This happened in Ankara because the place is the capital city of Turkey and security measures here are very high.
One day, I arrived in Ankara on a bus to get another bus to Nevsehir to explore Cappadocia. Immediately after my bus stopped at the Ankara bus terminal, I entered the building and bought a ticket to Aksaray. Since the bus would go after a few minutes, I went outside to wait for the bus to come. I stood outside the bus terminal waiting for the bus for a few minutes, and even then, two police officers in simple t-shirts and jeans approached me.
They didn't look as friendly as policemen in Istanbul, Antalya, and other popular tourist cities. One of the policemen had the aura of a person who beat, torture, and kill people. I know I might be exaggerating and this man might not be as bad as I felt, but he looked definitely very tough and gloomy. Not a typical positive and friendly Turkish police officer.
This man showed me his police badge and demanded my passport. I showed him my passport which he photographed. Then he took my smartphone and pressed a combination of numbers to see my Turkish phone number. Finally, I saw him sending the photo of my passport and phone number to a WhatsApp group on his phone.
After two minutes, my bus arrived and I tried to enjoy my upcoming trip to Aksaray. I have no idea what these policemen did with my phone number. I guess they investigated the numbers that called me, or I called them, they also hacked my WhatsApp communication (I used my Turkish number for my WhatsApp). Why else would policemen or security agents get your phone number?! They want to know your every step and future plans.
Thus, all of these negative encounters with Turkish police happened in Ankara. It has never happened before even though I extensively traveled all around Turkey.
I know that I received such an attitude because I am a Muslim and I have a beard. Continents, countries, and nations are brainwashed with an exaggerated threat of terrorism. Thus, every bearded Muslim is a suspect in the eyes of state security officers and policemen. I am actually accustomed to this and I treat it as a necessary part of backpacking and international travel.
I don't say that every backpacker will have the same experience as me in Ankara. First, I am a Muslim with a beard. So I belong to a somehow vulnerable group of people. I think an innocent-looking and cleanly-shaven American or European backpacker won't have any problems in Ankara. At the same time, everything might happen.
Turkish people have a thought that America is constantly plotting against them. Thus, even innocent-looking and cleanly-shaven backpackers from the West might look suspicious to them. Be careful!
ANKARA HAS THE DEADLIEST HITCHHIKING IN TURKEY
Most backpackers love hitchhiking. We try to hitchhike whenever possible. We get very sad at times when hitchhiking isn't working and we have to pay for our own transportation.
Ankara is the worst city for hitchhiking in Turkey. Since it is the capital city with on a constantly high-security alert, drivers are scared of giving a ride to random travelers. They think that a person on a road might be a terrorist, a killer, a fugitive, a criminal, etc. Thus, if a driver is stopped by police and there is a man in his car who is in bad relationships with the police, this driver would have very serious problems such as arrest and jail.
I have hitchhiked in Ankara numerous times. Hitchhiking in this city is very weak. As soon as you leave the city, hitchhiking turns into a normal state and you don't have to wait for too long until you get picked up by a car.
Thus, if you don't want to waste your time standing and hitchhiking for days with no results, it is better to avoid Ankara. What is more, when important people such as the president or prime minister of Turkey have trips inside, to, or from Ankara, the police closes roads. In this case, hitchhiking becomes impossible.
These are my thoughts, my personal experience, and my advice to all backpackers and hitchhikers. Ankara isn't an interesting or exciting place to visit. Thus, I recommend skip visiting it. Of course, if you have a flight from Esenboga airport or you are going to use the Ankara bus terminal station, you are destined to visit this city. Otherwise, I recommend staying away from the capital of the Turkish Republic.
Leave a Comment