Shopping, Turkish style.

There is very little to do in Ankara other than food and shopping. Fact. If you are not out trying yet another restaurant here, you can probably be found in one of the many shopping malls or on one of the high streets. Sad life indeed. Out of everywhere you’ve been, Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi (Avenue) must be an absolute favourite. A mixture of Turkish brands as well as international ones, it has everything one needs: from shoes to spices to wedding dresses. Walking down the street, you can see a group of old men drinking their çay (tea) at one of the cafés while enjoying a smoke probably talking about the changing politics of Turkey and how it used to be in their days. In front of you, a young woman wearing high heels is struggling to carry her heavy Mango shopping bags – you make a mental note to check out the latest indirim (sales) over there. Elizabeth (fictional Starbucks name she uses so they don’t butcher her real one) makes a quick comment about showing the said woman how it should be done really. For one, one shouldn’t really be wearing heels if you’re out on a shopping trip but then you’ve noticed quite often that Turkish women tend to favour style over comfort. Quick snicker before we both overtake her to go find a place to eat, happy that your Turkish classes finishes late enough for you guys to miss lunchtime rush hour. Smiling as you observe all the office workers hurrying back to work, you make your way through the still busy café trying to find a way to sit.

Café of the Day: Elizinn | Tunalı Hilmi Cd 81/A, Kavaklıdere/Ankara

Mostly famous for its desserts, chocolates and cookies which we’re usually getting to accompany our coffee, it also does lunches and dinners including an open buffet (₺ 27). Since you’ve always been happy with their desserts – you keep thinking of that time you had this delish mille feuille you had which left you begging for more – you thought it was time to test its, lack of another word, “normal” food, and that’s where you went wrong. After spending what seemed like hours trying to catch the attention of one of the waiters, you finally managed to order: whole-grain penne with tomato sauce and light white cheese (₺ 16.50) from the light menu supposedly containing only 400 calories – not that you’re counting, one of the few veggie options they have – and an omelette with cheese and sujuk (₺ 16.50) for Elizabeth, accompanied by Jasmine tea (₺ 7.50). There was nothing light about the penne put in front of you – first of all, you seriously doubt it was whole grain, instead of the expected shredded white cheese you got a a few small cubes which looked liked left overs from the breakfast menu and there was no way that the portion you got – enough for two people – had less that 500 calories. Elizabeth was as lucky as I was, hers was a poor excuse of an omelette and hardly looked appetising. Bottomline, disappointing and overpriced, lesson learned.

Your not-so-good lunch experience put behind you, it’s time to hit the shops even if there is nothing on your shopping list. You’re not much of a list person anyway. Opposite the café is Yargıcı, a Turkish franchise. While their clothes cost more than you can possibly afford (you live on a tight budget if you’re gonna travel this much), their accesories range is to die for and quite affordable (starting price ₺ 9.90) You already own two of their bracelets, a leather one and a threaded one and have your eyes on one of their leather strap watches. An early birthday present perhaps? Past Bambi, a Turkish shoe store from which you got your classic black knee-boots and more recently your mocassins in preparation for spring a summer (on indirim of course) to The Body Stop, you make a note of the new offers mentioning to Elizabeth that their HoneyMania range smells more like vanilla than honey – you’re more of a nut person anyway. Grabbing your monthly National Geographic and GEO magazines which came with the 2014 Travelling Trends from one of the bookshops further down the street, it’s time for gossip and giggles times. Thank god most people cannot understand what you’re saying – no one wants to hear the logistics of going to the loo when wearing a onesie or how your camisole makes you look as if you actually have boobs. Too much information.

What next? Off to Konya this weekend!

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