In the center of Anatolian peninsula, Ankara is a great unknown to most travelers to Turkey, overshadowed by the reputation of the monuments of Istanbul or the natural wonders of Cappadocia. But this city of almost five million inhabitants, vibrant and at the head of the most liberal Turkey, deserves recognition. It has one of the best archaeological museums in the world, the remains of an ancient citadel, imposing mosques, good Turkish and international restaurants and modern cafes with splendid terraces. The ideal way to get around is to get into one of the many taxis —in contrast to Istanbul, there are hardly any traffic jams here— that will take us to any point of interest for a ridiculous price.
9.00 Minarets that touch the sky
After the healthy Turkish breakfast (olives, fresh cheese, tomato, delicious local breads, jams and coffee or tea) served by almost all the hotels in the country, the route begins in the central neighborhood of Kizilay to visit the imposing Kocatepe mosque (1), one of the largest in the world, neo-Ottoman style, built in the 20th century. The prayer courtyard under the superimposed domes, which can accommodate around 25,000 faithful, is as impressive as its exterior view, so it is worth taking off your shoes to enter.
11.00 At the dawn of civilization
The Anatolian Civilizations Museum (two)located very close to the walls of the ankara Fortress, is the great attraction of the Turkish capital. Considered one of the best in the world of its kind, the building itself, a well-restored 15th-century covered and vaulted market, is worth a visit in itself. In the different rooms arranged on two floors in chronological order, a sublime collection of archaeological and artistic remains from the Paleolithic to Roman times are exhibited. The tools, amulets or figurines excavated from Neolithic sites, such as the one at Çatalhöyük, which is 10,000 years old, are among the best of its collection, along with impressive utensils, weapons, furniture, gold and silver work, mythological bas-reliefs, ceramics and jewelry. of the successive cultures that developed on this bank of the Euphrates at the dawn of history: Hittites, Assyrians, Lydians, Phrygians, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines.
13.00 Wandering intramural
The citadel, kale or fortress (3) It has stood since the 7th century on a hill just a few minutes’ walk from the museum. Behind the solid walls, restored several times throughout a history of invasions and sieges, a traditional neighborhood has been preserved whose alleys and small squares near the main entrance are well renovated and adorned with fountains. This is where several restaurants, tourist shops and some hotels are located. shop. Continuing the ascent from the Alaettin Mosque (4), from the 12th century in its origins, you reach a much more deteriorated area, but with the interest of a neighborhood where you live almost like in a traditional Turkish town. You have to notice the stone blocks that support arches or form columns and on which you can see engraved inscriptions in Latin or Greek, reused by the successive conquerors of the city.
15.00 Some very special skewers
A few meters from the main entrance of the citadel, on one of the slopes that descend towards the center, the lamb skewers of the restaurant Sadik Ustanin (5) For many people from the capital, they are the best in the city. In the kitchen on the ground floor, in plain sight, a huge doner kebab embedded in a horizontal bar rotates slowly on the embers and thus a delicious flavor is obtained. Alcohol is not served, but the best idea is to accompany the meat with the traditional Ayranthe liquid and sour yogurt typical of Turkey.
16.00 Kemal Ataturk Mausoleum
Once again, the taxi is the most recommended means of getting around. Anitkabir (6), the huge mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), the founder of modern Turkey. The man who opted for secularism and ordered the substitution of the Arabic alphabet of the Ottomans for the Latin one in order to facilitate rapprochement with Europe died in 1938, and today a veneration bordering on adoration is paid to him in a great neoclassical building. Every few hours you can see an energetic changing of the guard, and the museum of the building, on one side of the enormous esplanade, illustrates the campaign of the Father of the Turks against the allied powers that in 1919 tried to divide what was left of the Ottoman Empire .
19.00 Turkish delight in the center
the attractive street Tunali Hilmi, in the modern and refined neighborhood of Kavaklidere, is one of the favorites of Angoreans for shopping, as it houses the clothing, cosmetics and accessories stores of many of the best-known international brands. But for the traveler, the greatest interest lies in the well-cared for local shops, such as the beautiful grocery store Tugba Kuruyemis (7), ideal for buying the famous Turkish delights, those colorful gelatinous sweets, traditional tea or coffee, jams, honey, etc. At 101 B of this same street, Kuru Kahveci Hassan Usta (8) It is recommended to buy the national cakes, such as the baklavaan amazing variety of nuts or coffee from their own roastery.
22.00 For a good farewell
If at this point you are a bit saturated with kebab, you can go to dinner at Mezzaluna (9)on Iran street, or Gioia (10), in nearby Tahran, both in the Kavaklidere area. They serve good pasta dishes, pizza and salads, and more than decent wines. If you want to finish off the day with a certain party, the James Cook Pub (11)on nearby Tunus Street, is a spacious venue with a good atmosphere and a wonderful terrace, ideal for saying goodbye to Ankara.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.