Ancient Ankara -- Angora --
The city of Ankara lies in the center of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the
Anatolian Plateau at an altitude of 850 meters. It is the center of the province
of the same name which is a predominantly fertile wheat steppeland with forested
areas in its northeast region ...
The history of the region goes back to the third millennium of the Bronze Age --
the indigenous population were called the Hattians. Akuwash -- the Hittite name
for the city -- was established circa 3000 years ago at the intersection of 2
trade routes ...
After the decline of the Hittite Empire in the
second millennium BC the (1)Phrygians -- (2)Lydians
-- (3)Persians -- (4)Alexander
the Great (333 BC) -- (5)Galatians arrived in succession. The city
subsequently fell to the Romans
Long ago, in the 3rd century BC, the Galatians
were the first to make "Ancyra" of those times, their capital. Much later on, in
1923, M. Kemal Ataturk chose the same district to be the capital of newly
founded Turkey, and "Ankara" thereafter remained the strategic heart of the
Today's modern city, situated at the core of
Anatolia, hides an ancient site behind, dating back to prehistorical times. The
remains from Urartian, Phrygian, and Hittite periods have beautified the area
here, now fascinating the visitors by enlivening the respective periods.
For the ones who would like to go to the very
beginning, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which is the third most
important archaeological museum after Paris-Louvre and London-British museums,
is a perfect place to observe its wide collections of Palaeolithic, Neolithic,
Hatti and Hittite works of art. The pieces exhibited here are unique in the
world and it is exciting to see the lifestyle of the earliest humans with those
Viewing the subsequent Phrygian period is
possible by taking excursions to nearby locations, such as Gordion (Yassihoyuk),
the capital of the kingdom, not far from Polatli. Excavations have brought to
light the advanced artistic works of this civilization which dates back to the
10th century BC, and which had an important influence on artistic works of the
Next came the Lydian invasion which was followed
by the Persian settlement continuing until the death of Alexander the Great, who
had stayed in Ankara after he gained the rule of Asia.
After Galatians, Romans and Byzantines conquered
the land, they erected plenty of monuments some of which are still remaining.
This includes the most prominent Roman ruins, the Temple of Augustus from the
2nd century AD, built in the Corinthian style and dedicated to the Emperor. It
is a remarkable and important sight with the "Political Testament of Augustus"
on its walls, inscribed in Greek and Latin. In the 5th century, this temple was
converted into a church by the Byzantines. The original high walls are still
The ruins of a Roman theater and the Roman baths
of the 3rd century AD, are other interesting figures together with the Column of
Julian, a memorial from the 4th century
Captured by the Arabs, Seljuks and Ottomans in
succession, Ankara has many artistic examples of those periods inside its
borders, such as the Alaeddin, Arslanhane, Kursunlu, Ahi Ervan and Haci Bayram
mosques, built during the 12th and 15th centuries. Kocatepe Mosque is the most
recently built mosque and has a capacity to hold 20,000 worshippers.
Almost all of the historical remains in the city
are situated around the old citadel, "Hisar", where, according to legend an
anchor was found while it was being constructed, from which the city took its
name "Ancyra". Inside its walls it contains examples of old Turkish houses
alongside the ancient ruins. There is also a covered bazaar, called "bedesten",
close to the gate "Hisar Kapisi".
The principal monument and dominating sight in
Ankara is Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the
Turkish Republic. The building composed of limestone stands in majesty, with its
beautiful architectural style and is reached by a ceremonial road adorned with
fine statues and reliefs. Nearby is a museum, housing some of the personal
belongings of Ataturk. Ataturk's house located at Cankaya, has been converted
into a museum.
Ankara today is a center of history and culture.
The Ethnographical Museum and the Sculpture and Painting Museum are noteworthy
for their wide collections of artifacts from the area. The performances of the
well-known philharmonic orchestra and frequent artistic events include ballet,
theater, opera and folk-dancing. In addition are two yearly international
festivals: "The Arts and Music Festival" and the "Children's Festival", both
held every April. Also present around the city are some sites of natural
importance, such as the lakes of Golbasi, Cubuk Dam, Kurtbogazi Dam, Karagol for
resting, and Mount Elmadag for winter sports. In addition, Kizilcahamam is a
thermal and hot springs center for places such as Ayas, Haymana and Beypazari.
The city has good excursion opportunities to the historical and natural sites of
Cappadocia, Gordion, Hattusas, and Alacahoyuk.
Atakule, and Karum Center are excellent shopping
centers. This city of such diverse features also possesses a wide variety of
specialties. Ankara is known for its wool, goat, cat, pear and honey, and the
land itself is special and should not be missed..
93 kms from Ankara on the Eskisehir road, is
Gordion, the capital of the old Phrygian Kingdom. This ancient city took its
name from King Gordios who was the founder of the state under the leadership of
King Midas, the son of Gordios, and dominated central and southern Anatolia.
Through the excavations performed here, a high
gateway and houses belonging to the royal family were found under the city
mound. Also discovered were the tumuli, the most prominent one being the 53
meters high and 300 meters wide tumulus of King Midas of the Golden Touch. It is
the second largest tomb of its type in the world.
Another special interest is the legend concerning
the famous Gordion knot, the untying of which was prophesied to be possible only
by the master of Asia. When Alexander the Great invaded the Anatolian peninsula,
he cut this knot with his sword and gained the key to the continent.
The ruins are spread all over this ancient site,
an area which is still being excavated for the interest of history-lovers. The
local museum is a must-see where the archeological finds are on display, as well
as at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara which houses many of the
artifacts found in the region.
Ankara first achieved
prominence as a crossroads. Akuwash, the Hittite name for the city, was
established over 3000 years ago at the intersection of 2 trade routes.
The Phrygians moved in after the decline of the Hittite empire and then
Alexander the Great arrived. Subsequently occupied by the Seleucids and
the Galatians Ancyra became part of the Roman Empire in 25 BC.
The Byzantines hung on
to the city until 1071 AD when the Seljuk Turks rolled into town
(renaming it Enguriye). The city's importance declined throughout the
Ottoman period until Angora was just somewhere that goats were raised
and everybody had nice jumpers.
The collapse of the
Ottoman Empire and the birth of the Turkish Republic shook things up a
little. Ataturk founded his provisional government here in 1920 and the
population has increased from 30,000 to it's current figure of 5 million
Ankara was designed to
be a modern capital city. The basic model was that of a spacious
European city with parks and wide boulevards. Much of the original
vision has subsequently been lost but there are still areas of the city
where you'll forget that you're in Asia. The "melting pot of East and
West" motif has been just about worn out but it applies here perhaps
more than anywhere else in Turkey
In the following the
interesting historical places are highlighted. An interest in Turkey's history will lead you to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and there are several other sites of interest. Check out the list below for some ideas.
Museum of Anatolian Civilisation
There is a strong argument in favour of visiting this collection of exhibits before
travelling anywhere else in Turkey. If you find yourself in Ankara and you're in any way interested in the history of Asia Minor you should make your way here.
The museum is housed in a charming building, a restored covered market dating from the 15th Century and is easily accessible from
the centre of town. On foot you should get yourself to Ulus Meydane, easily
identifiable by the large Ataturk equestrian statue on the corner.
Turning right onto Hisarparki Caddesi you'll see the citadel rising up ahead
of you. Turn right again when you reach Ipek Sokak and as you approach
you'll see the tour buses lined up outside the museum gates above you and
to your left.
The collections place an unusual emphasis on the earlier of Anatolia's
occupiers, starting with an interesting exhibit of finds from the
Catalhoyuk site, often described as the earliest known human community in the world.
Other highlights include a collection of tablets, the translations of which
remind you how little some things in the world have changed over the millennia.
Open every day except Monday (8:45 - 5:15)
Museum of Ethnography
Between Ulus Meydani and the Sihhiye bridge you'll find the Museum of Ethnography
perched above the busy highway in an attractive. It is one of the better of such
museums in Turkey and the collection's highlights include the circumcision room,
some nice woodwork and fine calligraphy.
Open everyday except Monday (8:30 - 12:30, 1:30 - 5:30)
Old Turkish House Museum
The Ankara citadel is a jumble of tiny streets and ramshackle houses and was the
heart of many of Ankara's previous incarnations. One of these houses has been
restored and opened as a museum and you'll find it just inside the Parmak Kapisi,
the gate that you come to if you approach the citadel from Samanpazari.
Part of the main railway station, the Railway Museum (Demiryollari - Iron Roads)
will be of interest to those of you who like trains. You'll probably have to rustle
up somebody with a key but as long as your within the museums stated opening
hours (9-12, 1-5) this shouldn't be a problem.
Old Locomotive Museum
This one is a little more fun. It's basically a car park like area with scruffy
looking trains scattered about, good for kids and anyone who likes old steam.
Take a taxi to Achuk Hava Buharlu Lokomotif Muzesi from the Sihhiye bridge area.
Really only of interest to those studying the birth of the Turkish Republic, this
building, close to Ulus Meydani, was once the headquarters of the National Assembly.
The exhibits document the early history of the republic's parliament, if you don't
read Turkish you'll be restricted to looking at the photographs and sampling
the atmosphere of the place.
War of Salvation Museum
This building was the first home of the National Assembly, before it's move to the
now Republic Museum. The events and faces of the War of Independence are portrayed
here, again, with captions only in Turkish. It's hard to avoid the feeling that
something important happened here.
Museum of Painting and Sculpture
A major collection of modern Turkish painting, which may or may not be to your taste.
The museum features the work of Osman Handi, Hikmet Onat, Turgut Zaim and Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu
amongst others. Right next door to the Ethnography Museum. Similar opening hours and
Set within landscaped parkland, Ataturk's one time country retreat is now well within
the bounds of the present day city. Not many visitors (or even residents) make it
here but you might enjoy the 1930's flavour of the place. Located at the southern
end of Ataturk Bulvari, you'll have to ask one of the guards for the Cankaya Koshku
and swap your passport for an ID badge. Only open on Sunday afternoons (1:30 - 5:30)
and holidays (12:30 - 5:30).
Almost a decade in the building, Ataturk's Mausoleum really should be on the itinerary of any visitor to the country's capital. Visible from most highpoints within the city, the mausoleum grounds house a memorabilia museum and the sarcophagus of Ismet Inonu, a major figure in the Republic's history. The tomb itself is an impressive piece of work. Check it out yourself and don't forget to buy a certificate proving that you were there.
From Kizilay, head west along Gazi Mustafa Kemal Bulvari, then a left onto
Maltepe Sokak. This will bring you to Genclik Caddesi where you should turn
right. A left into Akdeniz Caddesi will bring you the rear entrance to the park.
Head around to the front to get in with the minimum of hassle (although you'd
probably take a taxi if you wanted to avoid hassle).
Open 9:00 - 12:30 and 1:30 to 5:00 or 4:00 (seasonal). Admission free.
It's very easy to spend a day wandering around Ulus, Samanpazari and, overlooking
them both, the labyrinthine alleys of the city's hilltop citadel. On foot or by taxi
it's not difficult to reach this area and you'll probably come for the Museum of
Anatolian Civilisation anyway. Plan on wandering around for some time.
Once inside the citadel follow the road towards the centre until you pass through
an archway, take a right to head up to the Eastern Tower where you'll get your
first real impression of how large Ankara has become in the last 70 years. If you can
be here for sunset, the call to prayer or preferably both it will make the
experience that much more memorable. The area is just starting to realise it's
potential as a tourist attraction and tidying up has begun. There's still an
untouched feeling to the place that might not last much longer.
Behind the government buildings at the NE corner of Ulus square is a small
park. In the park (Hukumet Meydani) is the Column of Julian. Erected in 362 to
commemorate the visit of the then Emperor Julian.
The Temple of Augustus
East of Julian's Column and next to Haci Bayram Mosque are the ruins of a temple
standing on a site that has, in it's time, been dedicated to an impressive list
of deities. Initially a temple to Cybele, an incarnation of the Mother Goddess
associated with Anatolia and an awful lot of other stuff, and Men, a Phrygian god
of potency (you get the picture?), it was later dedicated to Emperor Augustus,
probably toning down the rites somewhat. Byzantium claimed it for the Eastern church
until Muslims built a Mosque on the site, next to the tomb of Haci Bayram. Not the
best Roman site but an interesting location.
The ground plan of the baths is clearly visible and if you know your terminology
you'll be able to pick out the apoditerium, frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium.
If not you might not want to take the walk North from Haci Bayram and cross
Cankiri Caddesi to find the fenced enclosure that has been erected to protect the
A good example of an Ulu Camii or forest mosque, so called because of the carved
wooden columns supporting the wooden roof. Connoisseurs of Selcuk carving will
be impressed by walnut mimber of 1209. Ahi Serafattin, founder of the mosque,
lies in a Selcuk tomb opposite the mosque itself. To get there, walk down from the
Parmak Kapisi, the gate to the Hisar, until you reach Ulucanlar Caddesi (about 200 metres).
Then take a left and walk until you reach Can Sokak (50 metres or so). You'll
find the mosque on your right as you walk down the street.
Haci Bayram Camii
Haci Bayram, to the North East of Ulus square, is Ankara's most revered mosque
including the impressive but incongruously modern Kocatepe with it's basement
supermarket and car park). Built in the early 15th Century by the founder of the
Bayramiye order of dervishes it's worth a look if you're not going to catch any
better examples anywhere else.
Ankara Opera House
A confession is in order here. The opera house (situated between Ulus Meydani and
Sihhiye, next to Genclik Park) is only included here because I'd like to know if
anyone likes this pink concrete structure. If you're in town have a look and let us know.
Ataturk was big opera fan and the building houses the Turkish National Opera and Ballet
companies. If you fancy a cheap night out then check out one of the performances.