Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the second largest city after Istanbul. Apart from being the capital of Turkey, Ankara which was known until 1923 as Angora is known the world over for a species of cat found here called the Angora cat as well as the angora wool which is produced from a species of rabbit native to Ankara. The Angora goat whose hair is used to make mohair wool is found here as well.
The dusty city is situated on the confluence of important trade routes and came in to prominence when Kamal Ataturk in 1923 appointed it the capital of Turkey because of its position deep in the interior of Turkey’s hinterland. The advantage of its location deep within Anatolia deterred invaders who for centuries had attacked Istanbul. The city is located on a precipitous hill on the banks of the Enguri Su which is a tributary of the Sangarius River.
The history of this commercial and industrial capital of Turkey can be traced back to the Bronze Age when it was occupied by the Hatti civilization; they were followed by the Hitties in the 2nd millennium BC, thereafter the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Macedonians, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines and the Turks. World War 1 ensured the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the Allies occupied Istanbul and Anatolia with the view to dividing and carving up the country amongst the various Allied nations. Kamal Atatürk a Turkish nationalist leader led the Turkish resistance after establishing Ankara as the headquarters of the resistance movement in1920. After the Turkish War of Independence which raged from 1919 to 1922, Atatürk established Ankara as the capital city of the Republic of Turkey on October 13, 1923 replacing the former capital city of Istanbul.
After its declaration as the capital of the country, Ankara was divided into two sections the older section called Ulus which contains the ruins of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires within its narrow twisted streets and the new section called Yenişehir which is the modern section of the city with wide streets, hotels, restaurants, government buildings and diplomatic missions of foreign countries. Ankara apart from being a capital city has several good Universities and technical colleges as well as the largest library in the country. It is also the cultural capital of Turkey being the center of opera, ballet, jazz and modern dance.
The weather in Ankara is characterized by arid hot summers and cold winters when snowfall is common. The average daily temperatures in the summer months May to August are in 30°C(80° F) while temperatures in the winter months hover close to freezing point around 0°C(32°F). Rains come to the city in seasons of spring and autumn.
Turkish is the official language spoken in Ankara as is in the rest of Turkey but English is widely spoken and understood.
The new Turkish Lire was introduced in 2005 and is made up of 100 kurųs. ATMs are easily available through out the city and credit and debit cards are widely accepted as well.
Getting to Ankara
The city is served by an airport which is located 33km (21 miles) away from the city center. Ankara’s airport is called Esenboga Airport. Lufthansa the German airline has one of the best and most regular services to Ankara. Cypriot Turkish airlines fly from Ankara to Standsted Airport in London everyday. The countries own carrier Turkish Airlines also flies to several international destinations in Europe and America.
Internal flights to other Turkish cities are operated by Turkish Airlines (Turk Hava Yollari), Onur Air, Atlas Jet and Fly Air. An airport bus called Havas Airport Bus operates between the Airport and Ankara’s mammoth bus station called ASTI. The Airport Bus makes a stop at the main rail station of Ankara Gar as well.
ASTI is the acronym for Ankara Sehirlerarasi Terminal Isletmesi.. It is located 5km to the south west of the city center. The Bus terminal has buses going to other Turkish cities and towns. It has several facilities for passengers such as left luggage counters, internet kiosks, restaurants, snack cafes, book shops and even a mosque in addition to the ticket counters. The Bus station has its own Ankaray subway station
Ankara Gar is Ankara’s main train station. It is built in a style that was the typical style of the 1930’s Bauhaus style of architecture. From Ankara Gar there are overnight trains to other cities of Turkey such as Istanbul and Izmir. There are two train services to East Turkey the Erzurum Ekspresi and the Dogu Ekspresi. It also has suburban commuter trains which start their service to and from Ankara’s suburbs early in the morning. The historic railway station is equipped with ticket counters, snack stalls, ATMs, a waiting room, restrooms and even a restaurant. Unfortunately no left luggage facilities exist at the station.
Traveling within the city
One need not brave the fierce traffic of Ankara for public transportation is a viable option and comprises of public bus, dolmus, taxis and subways.
Ankara is served by two types of buses. One called Belediye Otobüsü which is run by the municipality and these buses are colored either red or blue and covered with blue stripes. To travel on this service one requires an electronic ticket which has to be purchased in advance. The other service is a private service called Halk Otobüsü and for this service once has to pay cash. These buses are green or blue double decker buses which are sometimes covered with advertisements.
The Ankara metro consists of two lines the underground which is called the Metro and the light rail which is called Ankaray. The Metro runs from the suburb of Batikent in the north of the city to Kizlay which is the city center and the Ankaray which runs from ASTI the bus terminus in the western part of the city and passes through Kizlay and ends in Dikimevi. The electronic bus tickets are valid on the subway which runs from six in the morning to midnight.
This is a unique collective taxi which is peculiar to Turkey. The service is operated by the municipality which fixes the relatively cheap fares. The community taxi serves groups of passengers who each pay a fare according to the distance they travel. The taxi vehicle may be a car or even a minibus. Destinations and fares are displayed within the vehicle.
Taxis in Ankara and other Turkish cities are painted yellow with a sign proclaiming the word Taksi on the roof of the vehicle. The initial flag fall in the day is 1.3 Turkish lire and the day fare is called ‘gündüz’ while the night rate is called ‘gece’ and starts at 1.95. Turkish Lire. The night fare is applicable from midnight to six in the morning.
There is a suburban train service between Sincan on the eastern side of Ankara to Kayaş on the west. The trains are not very clean and often crowded as they provide a means to beat the horrendous traffic. Single tickets as well as monthly discount cards can be purchased at the station itself.
Ankara Citadel, Ulus
The city is presided over by the ruins of an old fortress believed to have been built by the Galatians and restored by the Ottomans. The fortress has an inner and outer wall and the outer wall was built by the Byzantine occupation of the city. The outer wall has seven gates and originally had twenty watch towers. The inner wall contains the oldest part of city and it depicts what it must have been under the Ottomans. The Citadel has original wooden beamed homes called ‘Konaks’ which have yards and gardens and which have been restored. Many of these Konaks are today delightful restaurants serving various mezze and grilled meats. Some of these famous restaurants are And Café and Kale Washington. Bill Clinton the US president dined at the later restaurant.
The Anitkabir is the most important memorial to the founder of the republic. The architecture is a combination of the new and the ancient and the mausoleum itself is surrounded by a mosaic courtyard with the memorial covered in gold leaf. The construction of the memorial began in1944 and was completed in 1953. Soldiers guard the memorial and one can witness the somber changing of the guard which takes place. There is also a museum adjoining the memorial which houses a wax figure of Atatürk and his letters written by him as well as photographs and other memorabilia. The Museum is called the Atatürk and War of Independence museum. The museum is open every day except for Mondays. This museum was the location for the first Turkish Grand National Assembly.
The Column of Julian, Near Hükümet Meydani, Ulus
This Corinthian pillar dates back to the 6th century and was erected to felicitate Emperor Julian who visited Ankara in 362 AD. It is commonly known as Belkis Minaresi or Queen of Sheeba monument for no apparent reason.
Haci Bayram Mausoleum, Ulus
This is an important shrine for the followers of the Sufi faith and it was constructed in the 15 century for Haci Bayram who was a Sufi poet and founder of the Devish sect. The mosque is built in a combination of the Selçuk and Sinan styles. The mausoleum is a domed structure with a marble exterior and an intricately carved wooden ceiling. It was further adorned by decorative Kütahya tiles in the 18th century.
Kocatepe Mosque, Kocatepe (South East of Kizilay)
This mosque is a modern mosque which was completed in 1987. It is an exponent of the Ottoman style of architecture. It is ornamental as is the Islamic style and adorned with marble and gold leaf and stained glass windows. In the center of the mosque is replica of the mosque at Medina which was presented to the Turkish President Demiral by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The Mosque has a super market within its folds.
The Roman Baths, Ulus
A monument from the Roman times, the Roman baths were built during the times of Emperor Caracalla in honor of Asklepios the god of medicine. The complex is divided into three sections the frigidarium or cold room which used contained a pool and changing rooms, the caladarium( hot room) which had the sudatorium the precursor to the modern day sauna and a washing area and the tepidarium which was used as a room for relaxation and rest. Today only the heating system and service section can be observed.
The Temple of Augustus and Rome, Ulus
This monument consists of a temple dating back to the Roman times it was however built by the Galatians in 10 AD as a tribute to Emperor Augustus during his lifetime. However this temple has suffered much damage due to exposure to the elements and the ravages of time. It was included in the World Monument Fund’s list of endangered sites in 2002 and is now closed to public as it is undergoing an extensive restoration. The temple contains one of the most well preserved copies of the deeds of deified Augustus written in both Greek and Latin.
The Museum of The Republic, Ulus
This museum is housed in a stone building which was built to host the Turkish Grand National Assembly from 1923 to 1925 and it displays the typical Selçuk and Ottoman styles.
Yeni Mosque (East of the citadel Ulus)
Constructed by Sinan in the 16th century and made of red Ankara stone it is another exponent of Ottoman architecture with an imposing mihrab and minbar which are both made of white marble.
One of the most charming and authentic hotels is located within the Citadel and is called Angora House,(Located on Kalekapisi Sok phone 0312 309 8380).It is the former home of Sakir Pasa who was a member of Atatürk’s first parliament. It is a small hotel with only six rooms but the hosts provide the guests with exemplary service which is warm and typical of Turkish hospitality. The hotel is adorned with antiques and features original prayer niches and a large courtyard.
Modern hotels which are part of the world wide Sheraton and Hilton groups also have a presence here in Ankara with Sheraton Ankara located in the city center at Noktali Sok and the Hilton located near by at Tahran Cad. The information for these hotels can be accessed online at www.sheratonankara.com and www.hilton.com
The Shopping areas of the old section of the city, Ulus are popular with tourists. These areas are Weavers Road and the Bazaar of Coppersmiths. Most tourists like to shop here for hand woven carpets, fabrics, jewelry, leather products and embroidered goods. There are also stalls near the Castle gates which sell spices, dried fruits and nuts. These stalls are popular with the tourists and locals alike.