Ankara

Overview

Introduction

Ankara, Turkey, founded by the Hittites in 1200 BC, was a small provincial city 220 mi/355 km southeast of Istanbul known mostly for its production of extremely soft angora wool, and its equally silky white Angora cats.

It gained modern prominence after it replaced Istanbul as the capital in 1923. Consequently, it has distinct old and new sections.

The old part of the city, Ulus, is on two steep hills and is characterized by narrow, winding streets and neglected buildings. The new section's hallmark is characterless modern buildings and vast boulevards lined with grim ministries—and the city continues its rapid expansion.

Inside this tangle of old and new are Turkey's main cultural institutions: The city has three symphony orchestras; and five state-operated theaters offer regular performances of opera, ballet and drama. There's also a fine modern-art museum in the city.

One of the most impressive sights is the Hisar (Citadel), built of an incredible assortment of columns and blocks taken from other ancient buildings. Other photo stops include the well-preserved Temple of Augustus, the Roman Baths of Caracalla (which were equipped with central heating) and the Haci Bayram Mosque (named after the revered dervish who is buried there).

We highly recommend a visit to the mausoleum of Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. The tomb, which overlooks the city, includes an interesting museum detailing Ataturk's life. (Be aware that any action or word showing disrespect for Ataturk is illegal and punishable.)

Another must-see is the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which has a selection of the country's best archaeological artifacts. The city also has an ethnographic museum, with displays on the many cultures found in Turkey; the Grand National Assembly Museum (the assembly that founded modern Turkey first met in Ankara); and Julian's Column (built by the Roman emperor who tried to revive paganism). Ankara can easily be seen in a two-night stay.

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