Ankara Travel Guide
Kizilay Square © Ahmetan
East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey's capital of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among office buildings, shopping malls and government offices. The city is imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth, this being a student town filled with language schools, universities, colleges and military bases. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia, this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and has been a part of historic events through several great civilisations, including the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greek, Romans, Galatians and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today's tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city's historic attractions.
With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a deserving capital city, aptly named as the 'anchor' of Turkey, perhaps not always sought after by tourists but certainly entertaining hordes of business travellers and those seriously intrigued with ancient history.
The old heart of the city (Ulus) is centred on an ancient citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been restored, many having been turned into restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices and jewellery. From the heart outwards, the city spreads across various hills in modern splendour, carefully planned by the city fathers after Turkey's independence fighter, Ataturk, set up provisional government in what was just a small dusty town back in 1920, after the first World War. Ataturk brought in European urban planners to create his proclaimed capital, and he lies here today in his lofty mausoleum, the Anitkabir, in a green 'peace' park, amid the wide boulevards he created.
Apart from archaeological sites, the most interesting things to see in Ankara are the many museums, and the beautiful parks, like Kugulu Park, renowned for its graceful swans, and the Genclik Park with its rowing pond and botanical garden.