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Historically known as Angora, Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country’s second-largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of 938 meters (3,077 ft.), centrally located in Anatolia and is an important commercial and industrial city. This poor, humble town in central Anatolia whose past could be traced back to the early Hittites, which struggled up the slopes of a hill crowned with an imposing citadel of reddish-brown Ankara stone, was proclaimed capital of Turkey in 1923. Today, Ankara is Turkey’s second-largest city with a population of over six million. The transformation of Ankara was, therefore, no ordinary building program, but motivated by the desire to create a city worthy of its new status as capital, and which would set an example of modern values and lifestyles in keeping with the aspirations of the new regime.
It is the heart of the country which was reborn from its ashes with the Turkish War of Independence that followed a very long and disastrous period which had doomed the nation after World War I. Once peace was commenced, this city became the core of a spectacular movement; at the end of countless tiresome discussions and sleepless days at the Grand National Assembly, extremely important decisions and new contemporary laws were made to take the country to the level of modern countries. Meanwhile, people were inspired and moved by exciting fresh ideas and educational support to raise the newborn republic to a higher state of culture and development both socially and technologically.
The city today is a modern housing the Turkish Government, all foreign embassies and some number of esteemed universities. It is an important crossroads of trade, strategically located at the center of Turkey’s highway and railway networks and serves as the marketing center for the surrounding agricultural area.
Earliest history goes back to the Bronze Age, to Hatti civilization, of which we still do not know much. Later on, it was under Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Persian, Macedonian, Galatian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman rule. The remains of all these civilizations together with an immense collection from the prehistoric periods are displayed in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations which was honored with the European Museum of the Year in 1997. The neighboring castle is another famous attraction for travelers giving great opportunity to take pictures of the recently renovated old neighborhoods and local kids as they accompany them with cheerful “hello’s.”
Ankara had once been a prosperous commercial center, its wealth based on the famous Angora Wool, that silky soft hair of Angora Goats that was admired and sought-after throughout the world. However, with the signing of the trade agreement between Britain and Turkey in 1838, which opened the flood-gates for imports into the Ottoman Empire, the town suffered a rapid and dramatic fall in its fortunes. The War of Independence caused a further decline, so that by 13 October 1923, when it was declared capital, a century of hard times had reduced it to a small town so dilapidated that it was likened to a village.
In his book The Rebuilding of Ankara and Our City Planning, Fehmi Yavuz explains that the aim was to build a city that would reflect Turkey’s victory in its independence struggle and the modernization of the nation itself. However, the limited means at the country’s disposal meant that ambitious plans were impossible for the time being.
Just like the War of Independence itself, Turkey would have to proceed slowly, step by step, creating something – if not out of nothing – out of nearly nothing. With the impetus of that initial enthusiasm, plans were laid. Everyone agreed that the old Ankara should be left as it was, and a new city built adjacent to it on empty tracts of land to the south and southwest. Under a law passed in 1925 allowing a compulsory purchase of land by the government, over 400 hectares of land, including the marsh where Genclik Park stands today, was made available. One of the priorities was housing, and a land-use plan was drawn up for the district of Sihhiye between 1925 and 1927. In 1927 the German town planner Lorcher produced designs for this area and that around Kizilay, and construction of Yenisehir (the New Town) began. Two-storey houses had already been built in 1925 to house civil servants on land south of the railway, and the plan was to build residential areas of this type consisting of houses and gardens as far as Kavaklidere.
From Yenisehir to Kavaklidere it was almost impossible to find a single house without a tower and overhanging eaves. Regrettably, very few examples of these early Republic houses have survived.
The city is famous for its long-haired Angora Goat and its prized wool (mohair); a unique breed of cat Angora Cat; Angora rabbits and their quality wool (Angora wool), pears, honey, and the region’s Muscat grapes.
Although situated in one of the driest places of Turkey and surrounded mostly by steppe vegetation except for the forested areas on the southern periphery, it can be considered to be a green city.
In 1928 the Ankara City Planning Department was established. The department had aerial photographs taken of Ankara and its environs from a Junkers aircraft – the first time that this had been done in Turkey – and produced maps based on the photographs. The next step that same year was to announce an international competition for a city plan. The design by German planner Hermann Jansen, author of the Berlin city plan, was accepted, and he was invited to draw up a master plan for Ankara, which was officially approved in 1932. Many well known Turkish and foreign architects, together with many young architects of talent contributed to the project. In this respect, the building of Ankara served as a teaching project, and careers, as well as buildings, were constructed on its foundations. However, despite the dedication of those involved, they faced many obstacles, the most serious of which was the shortage of trained workers and building materials, and their high cost.
In the 1930s, the city center grew up around Ulus, and high-rise buildings and blocks of flats sprung up along Anafartalar Caddesi in Ulus, and the main roads leading to Kizilay. In his book Daily Life in Ankara, Hurriyet Bilgen tells us, “Anafartalar Caddesi, with its blocks of flats, shops with awnings, and clean broad pavements, was quite a new addition to the Ankara cityscape. In Yenisehir, on the other hand, the innovation was more haphazard.” As Ankara sought to become a model of the new modern Turkey in appearance, so it did in terms of its social life, which broke out of its traditional bounds into balls, concerts, horse races, and weekend excursions. Over fifteen years Ankara not only gained carefully planned neighborhoods but unplanned urban sprawl typical of contemporary Turkish cities. The story of Ankara in the early days of the Republic is one of the dreams and aspirations that did not always come true but had its triumphs and heroes.
Best Places to Visit in Ankara
* The award winner magnificent Museum of Anatolian Civilizations which will take you deep into the Paleolithic Age and gradually walk you to our times with impressive displays, the most important ones being from Neolithic Catalhoyuk site.
* The Citadel of Ankara which overlooks the city and embraces some old neighborhoods from the late Ottoman Empire, a great site for enthusiasts of photography.
*The Ataturk Mausoleum is the eternal resting place of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. It was finished in 1953 and Ataturk's casket was transferred here. The Mausoleum is adorned with statues, reliefs, and embellishments created by many of Turkey's artists. The Mausoleum is gracefully adorned with and relief's and also has a museum section where Ataturk's personal belongings are displayed.
Why a Private Tour with a Professional Guide?
It is not the largest, but being the capital of Turkey, there is a recognizable population and it is not easy to drive on your own in this big city. The best way to explore the city is booking a private tour to avoid the stress of driving and be navigating yourselves as well as the long ticket queue to the sites and get a better understanding of its history by benefiting from your guides' knowledge and expertise.
All tours of Travel Atelier are utilized with modern and comfortable vehicles and with highly skilled professional guides. Guests may choose tours inclusive of lunch.
Having said that there is always the option of booking a guide for your travel dates.