Ankara - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Ankara


East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey's capital city of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among 20th-century 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.

Information & Facts


Summers are warm and dry and the winters are cold and snowy. The rainy season is spring, especially May.

Getting Around

Ankara has a cheap and quick underground Metro, with two lines. One runs from Batikent in the north of the city to the central Kizilay area, and the second connects the Intercity Bus Station in the west through Kizilay to Dikimevi. Electronic tickets (sold in batches of five) can be bought at stations and used on the blue and red municipal buses as well. The Metro operates from 6am to midnight. Private buses are green or blue and passengers pay in cash when boarding. The favoured form of transport for visitors is the Dolmus minibus taxi system; taxis can be flagged in the street. Fares depend on the distance covered. There are also regular metered taxis available.

Turkish is the official language, but English is widely understood in the main tourist areas.

The official currency is the New Turkish Lira (TRY), which was introduced on 1 January 2005, whereby six zeros were dropped from the TL and the sub-unit New Kurush was created. Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange booths, post offices, airports and ferry ports; banks have the worst rates and highest commissions, but will exchange lesser known foreign currencies. Banks open mainly Monday to Friday, but some are open daily in tourist areas. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, but Turkish ATM keypads usually do not have letters of the alphabet on their keys. Most bank branches have ATMs which accept Cirrus and Plus. Major credit cards are widely accepted; the most popular are Visa or MasterCard, but American Express is accepted in many of the more expensive places. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at some banks and currency exchange offices, but are not as welcome as cash or credit cards. US dollars or Euros are preferred. Some pensions and hotels in the most popular destinations accept US dollars as payment.

The mausoleum of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, is a revered monument in the city, accessed by a wide avenue lined with lion statues, drawing Turks from all over the country who come to pay their respects to their hero. It is also a fascinating attraction for visitors to Ankara, its stark, but imposing colonnaded aspect giving onto a courtyard, which contains a museum. The ceiling of the main hall is decorated with beautiful gold leaf mosaics, and there are plenty of reliefs and statuary to be admired.

When the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, died in 1938 he was buried in the internal courtyard of the building, which now houses the Ethnographic Museum, until he was moved to his final resting place at the imposing Mausoleum in Ankara in 1953. Today the Museum, guarded by an imposing bronze statue of Ataturk astride a horse, is well worth a visit. It contains a vast collection of folklore artefacts, including costumes, arts, crafts and art works.

The museum which charts the history of Asia Minor is housed in a lovely 15th-century restored building (originally a market and caravanserai) close to the centre of Ankara, and is the ideal place to visit for anyone intending to travel through Turkey, delving into the past. It is filled with fascinating collections of archaeological finds, from monolithic statues to delicate jewellery, including some from Catal Huyuk, believed to be the earliest known human social community in the world. From the Palaeolithic and Neolithic, and through all the great civilizations since, this museum is like a time machine for antiquity buffs.

Anyone with an interest in the natural world will enjoy Ankara's Natural History Museum, which contains some fascinating exhibits and dioramas detailing the (often extinct) wildlife of Anatolia, as well as a large collection of fossils and minerals. Most interesting are the fossilized footprints of humans who walked the Anatolian steppes 25,000 years ago, and the skeleton of a Maras elephant which lived in the area 193 million years ago.

The Roman Temple of Augustus was built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, and contains the best-preserved copy of Emperor Augustus' last will and testament, inscribed on the vestibule walls. The temple itself is in ruins and not open to the public, but together with other Roman ruins in the vicinity (including the Roman baths and the column of Julian) it is an exciting port of call for classical history addicts.

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