Death to Fascism Mural in the National Historical Museum, Tirana

The complete mural

The complete mural

More on Albania ……

Death to Fascism Mural in the National Historical Museum, Tirana

The mural that covers the whole of one wall in the room of the National Historical Museum in Tirana that’s devoted to the War of Liberation against the invading fascists of 1939 to 1944 is one of the few which can still be appreciated at leisure by any visitor. There’s another which can be seen, but not fully understood, as it’s in a room which is undergoing renovation at the moment. Whether it will be covered in some way as part of this renovation is unknown – but hopefully not.

Since the end of the 1990s, when relative stability was regained in the country, various Albanian governments of various colours have sought to slowly but surely eradicate the period of the construction of Socialism, from 1944 to 1990, as if it had never existed. Those of the neo-fascist right (some of whom were even members of the Party of Labour of Albania for many years but changed their allegiance once the opportunity presented itself – therefore justifying the idea of Joseph Stalin that the Party constantly needs to purge itself of opportunist elements) want the past eradicated so that their names cannot be associated with those actions and tactics which they now deny.

Those of the opportunist now social-democratic ‘left’ don’t want to show themselves in their true colours, offering ‘easy’ options to difficult problems and denying that the efforts to construct a wholly new world order had any value whatsoever. They look for comfort in the ‘tinkering’ of the system as they are totally inadequate in the task of substantially changing society forever. Efforts by those who have tried to do so in the past – whatever the failings and the mistakes that might have been made – only show them up for the weak and cowardly opportunists that they are.

Capitalism has, in the last hundred years, constantly criticised Socialist states of ‘re-writing history’. This is not the place to argue the truth of such accusations but what is certain is that this ‘holier than thou’ approach is mainly used as a smokescreen for the oppressive and exploitative system to justify the way it has, still does and will until the days it is destroyed forever, interpreted history in a manner which portrays capitalism and imperialism as the only possible system that can exist throughout the world – despite the innumerable crimes it has, still does and will commit in the future.

But back to the mural.

This one depicts images from the war against German Nazism. It does not pretend to be a view of a particular battle at a particular time and place. It’s more of a montage with images that attempt to record, in a visual manner, the struggle of the Communist-led Albanian Partisans against the Nazi invader.

It seeks to portray the Partisans as fearless and determined fighters who will do any and everything to rid their country of the invaders. In doing so the painter (and this has been repeated in an number of other places, both in paintings and in the sculptures of the Albanian lapidars) effectively has dehumanised the German soldiers.

This ‘dehumanisation’ is necessary to stress the difference between the moral authority of the Partisan fighters in resisting the invaders and the lack of such authority of the German forces who sought to dominate and enslave the Albanian population.

The depiction of the Nazis as no more than unprincipled and vicious animals also seeks to remind the Albanian people of the atrocities that were perpetrated by the invaders during their time in the country. In their frustration against their inability to defeat the Partisans (who carried out for the first part of the organised armed struggle after the formation of the National Liberation Front in Peze in 1942 a guerrilla war against first the Italian and then the German armies) the Germans carried out a total war which, among other things, involved such actions as the massacre and annihilation of the village and people of Borove after a particularly successful and stinging ambush carried out near-by.

The painting seeks to remind the viewer, in one relatively small space, of all of that and to value the sacrifice of those Partisans who gave their lives for the freedom of their country.

The fact that now, seemingly, the majority of the population of Albania don’t give a toss about that sacrifice is neither hear nor there. The reality of the struggle in Albania is that it was the Communist Partisans who liberated their country from the invaders without the assistance (other than material) of any external major ‘power’.

The mural tells that story by the use of images which can be seen in various lapidars throughout the country.

The armed, fighting, fearless, female, Communist Partisan

The armed, fighting, fearless, female, Communist Partisan

The principal and central character is a female Partisan. It is around her that all the action takes place. She’s physically the largest representation and in her image she tells a lot about the history of the success of the Albanians against the fascist invaders.

What I consider the most important aspect of the manner in which she has been portrayed is that she is armed, heavily. This is an aspect I have seen in visiting all those lapidars (monuments) and other art works produced during the Socialist period (from 1944-1990) – such as bas reliefs and mosaics – in that if a woman is represented in a military context she is always armed.

This can be seen in the wonderful mosaic (The Albanians) at the front of the very same building as well as in the Martyr’s Cemeteries in Lushnje and Fier, to name just a few.

Not only is this depiction of the female Partisan as an active armed fighter for the liberation of her country a recognition of the role that women played in the victory in Albania it also stresses what Mao Tse-tung expressed so succinctly ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’. True ‘female liberation’ will not be achieved until workers have freed themselves from oppression and exploitation and the system of patriarchy that has been strengthened and perpetuated under the economic system of capitalism. It won’t come naturally even then but will never happen unless this pre-requisite is achieved.

We don’t know if she’s the leader of this Partisan group but she’s in the vanguard of the attack and although she is moving forward she looks back to those behind and with her left arm she is signalling for others to hurry as the battle is being waged. The speed of her onward rush is captured by her cape, her long, black hair and her scarf which fly out behind her.

In her right hand she holds a light machine gun, she has a couple of stick grenades (captured from the enemy in a previous attack) tucked under the belt that holds ammunition pouches and there’s another ammunition belt across her chest. She’s also the only one of the Partisan fighters who wears what resembles a uniform.

The Communist calls for the attack

The Communist calls for the attack

We know she’s a Communist as she proudly displays the red star on her cap and the red scarf around her neck reinforces that declaration of political allegiance.

In fact the use of red in this painting is quite interesting. In general the palette used is quite mute but the bright red appears only from the dress and symbols of the Partisans – apart from a flash of flame from the machine gun being fired by the Partisan on the extreme right and the flames from the burning Nazi tank on the extreme left. Even the blood of the dead and dying Nazis is a dull, lacklustre red.

Traditional footwear in a modern war

Traditional footwear in a modern war

We also know she’s from the countryside, as most Partisans would have been at the time, by her footwear – sandals and the colourful woollen socks. This is in contrast to the heavy boots being worn by the Germans and even those of two of her male comrades.

Forward always

Forward always

To the right of the female Partisan is a young male. In his right hand, stretched out in front of him giving the impression of his rushing forward to join in the attack, is a rifle. His stance is of one who is fighting in mountainous terrain, with his right leg bent and his left stretched out behind him to give his forward movement more force. This is a stance that is very reminiscent of that of the Partisan statue on the Durres seafront.

But his role in the picture is not as a fighter but as a bearer of the symbol of the Albanian Partisans. He is the flag bearer and in his left hand flutters the rallying point of the Communists.

The Albanian Communist Banner

The Albanian Communist Banner

This is the red flag on which is the black, double-headed eagle with a gold, five pointed star embroidered above the two heads. This was to become the national flag of Albania after the declaration of Independence on 29th November 1944.

This would normally be of a brighter red – as the red stars on the caps and the red scarves – but I assume that the artist didn’t want to detract from their flashes of colour which a large expanse of red in the middle of the picture. So he has chosen more of a purple colour for the flag.

He knows where he's going

He knows where he’s going

Apart from him being responsible for the flag we also know his political allegiance, again, by the red scarf that’s around his neck.

Her red scarf, her sacrifice blood

Her red scarf, her sacrifice blood

Behind him, and slightly in the background, we are reminded that victory in anything, especially war, comes at a cost. And here we see the cost being paid by a young female Partisan who is shown at the time of death, her back arched as she is about to fall. We don’t see her face but we sense the pain as the bullet that kills her enters her body. She has no weapon but there is spare ammunition in her belt and her red scarf singles her out as a Communist.

Shooting down from the mountains

Shooting down from the mountains

The Partisan in the extreme right corner shows the extent of the population that joined the National Front against the fascist invaders. He is older, also from the countryside but here almost certainly from one of the mountainous regions of Albania.

He is also a Communist, with a red star on his fez, but in place of a scarf around his neck he has it wrapped around his hat. Typically at the time men from the mountains had moustaches and he sports a dark, black one.

A Communist peasant from the mountains

A Communist peasant from the mountains

He shows his physical strength by firing a moderately heavy machine gun but without the need of the normal tripod. His proximity to the dying woman also gives the impression of him taking revenge for the loss of a comrade. His machine gun spits fire and the bullets fall in a shower down by his feet.

The British contribution

The British contribution

It’s true that the British did supply the Communists Partisans with war material during the War of Liberation. They would rather have given the supplies to the Nationalist forces but 1) British representatives on the ground realised, and advised, that the Communist forces were the more effective and 2) the Nationalists eventually tried to pull the German Nazis out of the mire they had dug themselves into by attending a Quisling Assembly in 1944. The answer of the Communist Partisans was to drag a canon up the hills above Tirana and deliver a response to this traitorous act in the shape of a shell. It was exactly the same type of cannon that is seen, slightly in the background, in the centre of this painting.

A number of British died in Albania during the war and there’s now a small cemetery in Tirana Park – bizarrely using the old grave stone which was denied Enver Hoxha (when his remains were removed from the National Martyrs’ Cemetery and re-interred in the city cemetery at Kombinat) when the counter-revolutionaries gained control in the 1990s.

For some reason the British thought (whether it be the government of Churchill during the war or the government of Atlee after it) that because they had provided a few weapons they had the right to determine the future of the country. This led to Britain, in concert with the Americans, attempting to achieve ‘regime change’ before the term became popular. This included the aggression that was later referred to as the ‘Corfu Incident’.

They also constantly winged about their assistance not being recognised by the ‘ungrateful’ Communists. However, there are any number of paintings and sculptures where the Mills bomb (grenade) is depicted – to the best of my knowledge only, in that particular style, being produced by the British.

Bullets and sandals

Bullets and sandals

It’s strange when I think of it but as I’ve tried to understand the stories told by Albanian Socialist Realist paintings and sculpture I’ve learnt that the detail the artists have placed in their work when it comes to what people wear (or sometimes don’t wear – as in the great arch at Drashovice) can tell a great deal about the politics of the time. Here we have another example where the Partisan wears what he had worn from his youth – hand made shoes of his area and not the industrial production of western capitalist states. Probably made the fighting more comfortable.

Spitting fire and death

Spitting fire and death

Once you get to know Albania as a country you get to understand how hard it must have been – for both sides – to fight in such terrain. An incredibly beautiful country with its mountains and ravines are a different kettle of fish in a war situation. Now, obviously, war isn’t easy at any time but when you enter mountainous terrain into the equation it becomes even more difficult. Especially for the invader.

What the Americans, and the French before them, discovered later in Vietnam, the Italian and German Fascists discovered in Albania during then Second World War. Whatever material advantage you might have on paper it’s as nothing if you can’t dominate the terrain. The Albanian Partisans did in their country, the Vietminh did so in theirs.

And that fact of mountain fighting is represented in many works of Socialist Realist Art in Albania. As here the Partisan is firing down – into a valley, into a road during an ambush from a high point. The Partisans always controlled the high ground and that was one of the aspects of the Liberation War that ensured them success.

The battle continues in the background

The battle continues in the background

There are only a handful of ‘actors’ in the foreground to tell the story of the struggle but obviously there were many more involved and here they are depicted almost as ‘ghosts’ in the background – as can be seen in the previous couple of pictures.

The mountains are a protagonist

The mountains are a protagonist

Because the mountains of Albania played such a crucial role in the battle between the Partisans and the Fascists they are also often represented in works of art that tell the story of the struggle. Often, if it is of a particular battle it will be the mountains that would have been near-by and recognisable by the locals. These seem to be ‘generic’ mountains but they might have meant something to the artist.

Death to Nazism!

Death to Nazism!

Not all fighting in a war is at a distance and from time to time it comes to a hand to hand struggle. This is where we find the final, identifiable Partisan in the painting. Just to the left of the female Partisan we see a life and death struggle between another Communist Partisan and a Nazi soldier. We don’t see the face of the Partisan, just a glimpse of the side of his face, but we do see the Nazi. His eyes are wide open in horror as the Partisan has his left hand grasping his throat and in his right hand he has a dagger which is about to end the horror for the German soldier. This soldier is depicted almost as a demon, the human characteristics being erased from his features. This approach can also be seen on the lapidar at Berzhite.

Dead Nazis and dead Fascist Panzer Tank

Dead Nazis and dead Fascist Panzer Tank

Apart from a few ghostly and shadowy figures in the background the invader is confined to the extreme left of the painting and along the bottom, where their dead litter the ground.

The Nazi red is either flames or blood

The Nazi red is either flames or blood

Their tank is of no help, the flames leaping from the turret and the clouds of smoke indicating the crew are probably dead and unable to use the superior fire power. And anyway, in the terrain where the fighting took place in Albania tanks wouldn’t have been much use, the uneven ground and lack of any clear shots would have meant they did more damage to the mountain than the Partisans.

Those who are about to die ....

Those who are about to die ….

Those that are still alive and prepared to continue the fight are depicted as featureless, only the shapes of their faces in profile being seen. Here again the artist has stripped them of their humanity. They are killing machines so don’t merit individuality.

Faceless Nazis fighting for their lives

Faceless Nazis fighting for their lives

And in the case of one of them he is shown as no more than a shadow, a dark shape in the background.

The Nazi banner and the Nazi dead

The Nazi banner and the Nazi dead

Whereas the Communist banner flies high and proud the banner of the fascist invaders with its swastika symbol lies in the dirt, tattered and torn, the hand of a dead Nazi touching it reinforcing it as a symbol of death but one that itself is in the process of dying.

(The fact that this symbol is seeing a resurgence at the moment is down to a number of factors – amongst them being the betrayal of the Revisionists in those countries that had achieved the Socialist Revolution (including in Albania) and the failure of the working class in the industrialised countries to take power into their own hands. They might, some day, rue the consequences of their cowardice and pusillanimity as they suffer the death and destruction that accompanies fascism when it gains momentum.)

Arrogance pays its price

Arrogance pays its price

The remaining images of the invader are all of death. Fittingly the soldier that was so surprised of death knocking at his door that he has his mouth open is lying on the ground directly beneath the foot of the principal female Partisan.

The Iron Cross is no saviour against a Communist

The Iron Cross is no saviour against a Communist

And even the holder of an Iron Cross is no match for the onslaught of the Communist Partisans.

The Artist

Unfortunately I can’t say who is the artist of this mural. There’s no signature and I can’t definitively identify the artist by comparing his (there seem to have been few female artists whose work was displayed in museums and art galleries throughout Albania – I don’t know why that was the case) style with other paintings I might have seen.

However, I assume that it was created for the opening of the Museum in 1982.

More on Albania ……

Istanbul to Ankara by ‘High Speed Train’

Turkish High Speed Trains - YHT - in Ankara Station

Turkish High Speed Trains – YHT – in Ankara Station

Istanbul to Ankara by ‘High Speed Train

or all you need to know about travelling on intercity trains in Turkey …. well perhaps not all but enough for you to get by before you really understand how the system works.

This post (and the one that follows) will concentrate on a couple of journeys made (the first from Istanbul to Ankara on the High Speed Train, the second the overnight train from Ankara to Kars) at the end of September 2019. I plan to provide enough information for the first time visitor to Turkey and someone who doesn’t have a word of the language.

Obviously the internet makes life much easier now but there are always little snippets of information that you only acquire by luck or circumstance – the latter being knowledge gained after you had made a mistake (if only we knew then what we know now).

Booking

There are different routes to booking websites whatever you want to buy. However, I have found that many of those routes lead to a dead end, especially if you want to go to a page in a language other than the native one.

I found this TCDD link the one that worked for me.

High Speed Train from Istanbul to Ankara

Book as long in advance as possible. I’m not talking about months as the tickets aren’t released until a few weeks but if you leave it to a matter of days then you will be pushed for choice. I ended getting the last seat in the Business Plus class.

It was not really the last seat but the last seat that a male could buy. When booking train seats in Turkey you have to declare your gender. Of the two seats in the car one was a double seat where a female had already booked. When I clicked on that one it refused the request. When I clicked on the lone seat, at the end of the carriage by the entrance/exit to the next carriage, all was OK.

So the process:

Once on the site click on ‘English’ in the top tight corner. If it doesn’t go to English try until it does. Then choose your starting point and destination, the date of departure then whether you want single or return and, if so, the date. Click Continue.

This brings up the available trains on your date. Decide a time, click on the arrow for the drop down menu for class of travel, i.e., economy, business or business plus and choose. Click select. The price for your class of travel will be shown. Click Continue at the bottom of the page.

Then will come up a diagrammatic representation of the carriage with the class you selected. Click on your choice of seat WITHOUT a cartoon face of a man or woman. Remember what I said above about the system not liking a male to choose a seat next to a female who had booked before you. (Here, I assume, there is no problem if a woman is comfortable sitting next to a man.)

You will be asked to select your gender and if the system likes you the seat will be selected for you. Scroll down and fill in your personal details. Once completed click continue.

This will take you to the payment page. Remember – at least those from EU countries (and even the UK as it is about to leave) if you attempt to make a payment with a debit/credit card from now on you will get a code sent to your registered mobile number so have your phone handy. The code is only valid for about 10 minutes. Complete all transactions requested and you will receive confirmation of a ticket. This will also be sent to your email address.

However, you do not need to print the ticket. At the station of departure you will be asked for your Passport/ID and if the name appears on the system you will be given a small print out with your carriage and seat number.

Cost

Economy TL71

Business TL103

Business Plus TL127.50

As far as I can see these prices don’t change depending upon when you book – as is the case in the UK.

Journey Time

I was planning to continue on from Ankara on the overnight train to Kars. The ideal train – for a shorter waiting time in Ankara Station – would have been the 11.45, arriving at 16.10. However, I left booking a little late and had to catch the earlier 09.15. That was scheduled to arrive in Ankara Gar at 13.52. As it was it was about 15 minutes late. All trains from Istanbul to Ankara with the high speed train (YHT-TCDD) take, more or less, 4 and a half hours.

Arrival at Söğütlüçeşme

Söğütlüçeşme is on the ‘Asian’ side of Istanbul and the departure station to Ankara. Wherever you are staying in Istanbul get to the Marmaray Metro line and head east. The Bosphorus are indicated with a blue lake on the destination board. From the old part of Istanbul, where most people will be staying, it’s only 3 or 4 stops, say 10 to 15 minutes.

On arrival at Söğütlüçeşme go down the escalator/stairs to the lower concourse. Near to the southern entrance to the station you will see an X-ray machine and metal detector gates. Also security. You can’t go through here at any time unless there’s a train about to depart.

Put all your bags on the conveyor for the machine and go through the metal detector gate. Immediately in front of your are a couple of desks. Show your Passport/ID and if your name comes up you will be given a little ticket, as stated above.

Head upstairs and look for your carriage and then your seat. It leaves promptly.

Wifi on the train

At least in the Business class carriage there’s free wifi and (the tunnels not withstanding) quite fast. You have to register on a TCDD log-in page with the PNR number that was on your booking confirmation (so remember to make a note of that) as well as your seat number. If the two match up you will be connected. (The PNR number is also on the slip given to you downstairs.)

Power socket

All seats have a two round pin socket just below the seat. I didn’t see any USB sockets.

What do you get for the extra you pay for the Business Plus?

About 30 minutes after departure the catering staff came around with aircraft style food trolleys. They offered the passengers in those seats a little tray with; three small pieces of cheese (one of them spreadable; a few cherry tomatoes, a small dish of olives; a small dish with dried apricots and chopped walnuts; a small bread roll; a piece of baklava with a small jar of honey; a small container of still water; and the choice of tea or coffee. As well as the hot drinks you could also ask for more water or fruit juices.

I thought that for the TL24 extra on top of the business class price that was quite good. Just over £3.00, and brought to your seat. Also the staff came around on two further occasions during the trip with the offer of more cold and/or hot drinks. As I had an early start and missed breakfast it arrived at a good time.

I assume the Business class passengers get the offer of free drinks but not the food.

Cafe/shop on board

If you don’t do Business Plus and haven’t brought anything to eat/drink with you there’s a small bar in carriage No 2. These trains operate as units and this should always be the case. They didn’t have a big selection but you could get sandwiches, biscuits and other sweet things, as well as drinks. I didn’t buy anything so can’t give a price. But as with all transport throughout the world the cost will be greater than if you bought the same stuff in a supermarket before arriving at the station.

High Speed Train?

Yes – and no. We had been travelling for more than an hour before the train reached a speed of 100 km/h. There’s a screen in the back of the seat in front of you as well as two or three bigger ones from the ceiling along the length of the carriage. They become quiet hypnotic – especially when the speeds start to pick up.

It would be better to call it an Express Train with the capability of being a truly High Speed Train like the TGV in France, the AVE in Spain or the HSR in China.

But that fact made it a more pleasant and interesting journey.

I thought it might be ‘light the blue torch paper and stand back’. But it was nothing of the kind. It’s quite a convoluted circuit to get out of a city that was built long before high speed trains were thought of. The line is a dedicated track but it is not always possible for it to reach the potential speeds of the motor itself.

There were also three pick-up stations quite close to the start so those who may be living further east than Söğütlüçeşme station don’t need to go to there to catch the train.

As it weaves its way through the suburbs you start to get a view of life you probably wouldn’t have seen if you were there as a incidental tourist. It passes through rich areas, close to the sea, where there are large yachts in the marinas. There are small holiday resorts with bars and restaurants that look out on to the Mediterranean.

Later it passes through industrial areas where there are various factories, docks – both for small cargo ships and then there’s a major container terminal – it also passes right through the middle of two not insignificant oil refineries – which I didn’t think would happen in countries further west in Europe.

At times the line ran within a few metres of the water line and you could look out and see freighters of various sizes, from those that just plied the coast of Turkey to bigger, ocean going container ships. There were even a couple of small warships.

The line passed under the bridge that spans the Sea of Mamara.

For most of that time the maximum speed was little more than 50-60 km/h but then, quite suddenly it sped up and reached a speed of 230 km/h for a few minutes before having to slow again as the line twisted and turned (but without going significantly higher) through small mountains and river systems.

There were a number of station stops but they were very quick, barely enough time for nicotine addicts to get their fix.

The route then left the urbanisation and industrialisation of Istanbul behind and the scenes became more rural, passing through small villages and quite intensive agriculture. A lot of maize and then a sizeable amount of autumn fruits; pomegranates, apples, plums, chestnuts, some grapes.

It was also possible to see that the year was changing. Although the temperatures were still in the mid to high 20s it was noticeable that the leaves on the trees in the hills and mountains on either side of the line were starting to turn. Autumn may not be here quite yet but it’s not that far away.

Speeds started to pick up and the top speed of 250 km/h was being reached on more and more occasions – and for longer stretches. This was even through significantly long tunnels where the train didn’t slow at all but still remained in the dark for a few minutes. And there were quite a few of them at various parts of the route.

Together with the motorway system, which the train line at times parallels and at others crosses, there has obviously been a major investment in the transport infrastructure of this part of eastern Turkey. Whether that extends beyond Ankara I will find out in due course.

The achievements of the navvies in the construction of first the canal system and then the railways in the UK at the end of the 18th and into the middle of the 19th centuries were amazing achievements as all the cuttings and embankments were constructed by sheer force of muscle. But the new projects show what huge advances there have been in earth moving technology and huge cuttings are the norm rather than the exception.

The name ‘High Speed Train’ came into its own during the last hour or so of the journey. Once past the town of Eskisehir, the route went through a Plain. Flat as a pancake and seeming to go on forever – on all sides. Here sustained speeds of 240-250 km/h became the norm and, apart from one stop half way through this stretch, continued until reaching a commuter town for Ankara.

This plain was dominated by maize production as well as that of other cereal crops, many of them already harvested. I was a little surprised to see no real evidence of livestock rearing, apart from the occasional small flock of sheep.

I wouldn’t say it was a bleak landscape but there were a few blocks of relatively new flats on the outskirts of a town about 30 minutes from Ankara. Everything around the buildings was brown, dusty and parched with no greenery. Perhaps that changes with the coming autumn and winter but at the end of summer it looked sparse.

What else to say?

Perhaps all the locals are used to it but at regular intervals it felt as if something had hit the bottom of the carriage. This banging was, if I’ve got it right, the hydraulic brake system resetting itself but you hear, and feel, this thump all along the route.

As the British are obsessed with the state of the toilets I can reveal here that there were as good as any you’ll find on the British railway system – and probably better than some.

Finally, in regards the journey. There’s a stop in a small town about 15 minutes from the centre of Ankara. My train arrived at that stop at the time it was scheduled to arrive in Ankara Gar. Just a warning that it would cause problems if you got out thinking you had reached the end of the journey. Unfortunately, Turkish stations don’t seem to be very well signed on the platforms – although the name of the station comes up on the digital display board at the end of the carriage.

Arrival at Ankara Gar

The YHT station is separate from the general station. It’s a huge building, underused and obviously some sort of vanity project for some politician or political party which is just too big for the amount of traffic that passes through it – or will ever pass through it.

Within this structure, as well as access to the platforms there are shops, cafes and the ubiquitous fast food chains – some international some national. And a lot of empty space.

If the weather is good and you have time to spare you could do worse than go up to the top (second floor British) and go out on the huge veranda that looks down on the older station as well as a sizeable chunk of Ankara disappearing away into the hills on the horizon. Won’t, personally, be seeing much more of Ankara than the station myself on this visit but can’t say I’m over-impressed by what I’ve seen so far.

Now have to wait a few hours now before the next stage of the journey begins.