Ankara: The unknown charm.
The legend states that Ankara was inhabited by the greedy king of Phrygia, Mida, beside the golden river Pactolus, and his father, the famous Gordios, who tied the famous knot that Alexander the Great cut with his sword. Caravans passed from this land, empires were born and destroyed. Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Seljuks, Mongols, and even Atatürk, the “father of the nation,” whose pictures follow you everywhere in Turkey, loved this place. Today, Ankara, located in the heart of the country, is a piece of “true” Turkey that remains untouched by tourism. It is really at the border where the East meets the West. European influences, combined with those of the Middle East, have painted architecture, gastronomy, the arts, the nightlife.
Different cultures have been merged to build a city of a particular identity. So when one comes to the capital of Turkey, the first thing he feels is – I am allowed the term – “freedom” with the spatial meaning of the word. Ankara is a spacious city with tall buildings that do not besiege you, nor hang on you. Contrary to its awe-inspiring, cosmopolitan Istanbul , Ankara remains unknown and atmospheric and is left in the hands of an experienced traveler to discover it and come to its own conclusions. In this city, it is not self-evident, as elsewhere in Turkey, that you can make your purchases in euros or dollars. Everyone likes pounds. You do not listen to Russian or Chinese in any corner, nor will you encounter annoying huge groups of tourists. In some things, it is more European than Istanbul, in other much more Turkish than other regions. Wherever you look, you’ll meet at Atatürk. Roads, public buildings and squares bear his name. By stamping his uniqueness as a leader, parliament has even voted on the ban on using the name Ataturk, even for his offspring.
Ankara, despite being 2,700 years old, took the capital’s anointing less than a hundred years ago and became the symbol of the Turkish people’s struggle for national liberation and the start of modern reforms and institutional changes in the country and in society. Even back in the days of the sultanate, it was in Ankara that the first national assembly took place in the old parliament, which has now been transformed into a museum. From his balcony, on 29 October 1923, Mustafa Kemal announced the founding of the Republic of Turkey. But why did he choose Ankara as a new capital? First, because it was a turning point in history – the new capital symbolized the transition from the sultanate, capital Istanbul, to a secular state with modern constitution, criminal and civil code, alphabet and education system. Secondly, due to the geographical location of the city. Hundreds of kilometers of scattered land were a natural fortress and protected the city from sudden attacks, unlike Constantinople, which was more vulnerable due to its proximity to the sea. Kocatepe Camii white mosque is the largest in Turkey.
Essentially these are two cities in one. The modern secular state coexists with deep-mindedness. Here is the politically “sacred temple” of Kemalism, the Anitkabir mausoleum at the top of the Rasattepe hill, the Ankara religious landmark, the magnificent Kocatepe Camii (Mediha Eldem Sk., No.67) the largest of Turkey, which is the brightest site of Islamic worship in the country. It is the city of officials, diplomats and students – all major state institutions, government headquarters, embassies, and major universities are here – a modern metropolis built with a very careful street planning and planning. The rapid growth that followed Ankara’s proclamation of new capital, including continued immigration from rural areas, encouraged this unique Eastern modernity. Until then, the provincial town of only 75,000 inhabitants was known exclusively for its beautiful cats and goat (wool from goats).
Cats still enjoy great respect today. Across the city there are vending machines for cattle, which no one needs to buy to buy them. It is enough to place a recyclable item in plastic or glass instead of a coin. Galleries, art studios, and music scenes pop up from everywhere, in every corner, and enhance the thriving local artistic community. Nuri Abac has been one of the most important Turkish artists of Ankara origin. His paintings are desirable: he had painted everyday life, combined with surreal elements of Anatolian folklore and mythology. Finally, few Turkish musicians have been as dear as Baris Manco – from the pioneers of the Anatolian rock, which combined the melodies of popular music with the psychedelic sounds of the 1970s. His 1985 concert in Ankara is still being discussed and mentioned.
A silent witness of an era of ancient battles is the citadel of Ankara (Hisar), built on one of the tallest hills of the city. The outer walls of the fortress date from the 9th century, while the interior walls from the 7th century. When you wander through the fortification through narrow alleys – some of which are still inhabited – you feel that time has stopped.
Old buildings have been turned into colorful browns and small shops with tidy facades. Everything is preserved and maintained with great care. Not far from the south gate of the castle is the minaret of one of the oldest Muslim buildings in the city: the Allaaddin Mosque was built in 1231 and is surrounded by one of the city’s most beautiful gardens, which in spring is at its best. The central market, which combines the covered space with the shopping malls, has been at the same location since the 15th century. It is divided into separate sections, each of which sells different goods, such as skins, jewelry, spices, etc.
The old Ottoman basilica Mahmut Pasa has been renovated and converted into the Museum of Eastern Cultures (Gözcü Sk. No.2). Every corner marks the transition to a different period of Turkish history through a wealth of collections and exhibits (Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Assyrian, Phrygian, Roman, etc.), while at the same time raising a veil of mystery for the visitor. Many of the beautiful Ottoman buildings in the neighborhood of Hamamonos nowadays are home to cafés and restaurants. The small neighborhood of Hamamönü very easily can “plunge” you into the times of the Ottoman Empire. It is a historic quarter with narrow cobblestone streets that turn like a labyrinth, revealing gorgeous Ottoman buildings, which now house numerous small cafes and restaurants that take you to the delicacies of traditional Turkish cuisine: do not forget to taste mante (handmade pasta) and tandoor Lamb meat). Here is the renovated house of poet Mehmet Akif Ersii, author of the verses of Turkey’s national anthem.
Points of interest in Hamamon are many; the 15th-century Hammam Karacabey (Talatpasa Blv No.101) and the Taceddin Sultan Mosque (Mehmet Akif Ersoy Sk. No.5) stand out. Along the Sanat Sokagi Road, visitors can watch various artists and traditional craftsmen at work, having the opportunity to buy their creations. Finish your walk with a stop at Bahcem Cafe (Sarikadi Sokak No.5) for coffee on the chowle and snacks.
• If you are traveling for business, choose the Sogutozu area, the business, political and commercial center of Ankara. The Wyndham Ankara (wyndhamankara.com, from 106 euros per double room) stands out for its comforts and amenities. In addition, the Salix Spa, which among other services offers a traditional Turkish bath, as well as the hotel’s restaurants, known for their gourmet cuisine. Accommodation around the old town offers a cosmopolitan setting, overlooking the historic quarter.
• Divan Cukurhan (divan.com.tr, from 63 euros). City emblematic hotel. It is housed in a beautiful, renovated 16th-century stone building, which served as an Ottoman caravan (inn) for passers-by. • Angora House Hotel (angorahouse.com.tr, from 38 euros). Renovated Ottoman house in the old town. Antique wooden furniture, Turkish rugs and decorative imperial items in the rooms will take you to the 1920’s. The walled courtyard is a great place to enjoy your breakfast.
For reservations regarding your stay, please visit: www.booking.com
• Zenger Pasa Konagi (Doyran Sokak 13). The rustic interiors and the variety of Ottoman objects on the ground floor give a sense of museum. Traditional flavors and dishes cooked in an authentic Ottoman oven, with a variety of appetizers and meats. Sac Kavurma specialties, lamb meat fried in an iron plate.
• Boyacizade Konagi (Berrak Sokak No 7/9). Old Ottoman mansion turned into a restaurant. It serves fish next to classic Turkish cuisine, in a charming setting from the old. Persian carpets, antiques and the smell of spices meet the melodies of fasil, a kind of traditional Turkish music, played live in the restaurant.
• Hattena Hatay Sofrasi (Süleyman Hacıabdullahoglu Cd 41 / A). For traditional dishes from the Hatay region, which is famous for its stunning kebabs and carnival dessert.