OT Travel Itinerary: Ankara, A Treasure Trove Of Priceless Heritage

Ankaras rich legacy is showcased in its various museums and historic buildings
The Ankara Castle is said to have hosted several civilizations throughout history
The Ankara Castle is said to have hosted several civilizations throughout history Sergii Figurnyi/Shutterstock

As a proud Hyderabadi, I can claim a long-standing kinship with Türkiye. The Turkish Princess Durru Shehvar (daughter of the last Ottoman Caliph) was married to the not-so-illustrious son of our famously rich last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan. Her beauty eclipsed our city's glory and left a lasting impression of her celebrated sophistication on Hyderabad's aristocracy. Later, her son Prince Mukarram Jah married a few Turkish beauties, and they all grace our city off and on. So when you say Türkiye, we smile smugly and announce, "Woh hamare rishtedar hain" (Meaning "They are our relatives").

Türkiye’s capital, Ankara, grows on you, slowly. Its stern, steppe landscape may not impress you, but Ankara, an epitome of Türkiye’s ancient history and rich heritage, wins you over with its quiet charm. A major stop along the Silk Road between East and West was where the ancient Hittite Empire emerged and the Turkish War of Independence was strategised.

When Turkey became a Republic in 1923, Ankara developed swiftly as the capital city, and today, it is the second-biggest metro in Türkiye. Ankara’s rich legacy is showcased in its various museums and historic buildings.

Museums Galore

Statues of brightly painted Angora goats greet me as I climb the ascent to the Ankara State Museum of Painting and Sculpture. They are so cute that I can't resist posing with them. Heard of Angora wool? That is obtained from Angora rabbits. These indigenous Angora goats provide Mohair wool that dyes well, feels warm in winter and cool in summer, is durable, naturally elastic, flame and crease-resistant, and can be classified as luxury fibre like its rich cousins such as Cashmere, Angora, and silk, and can be more pricey than most sheep's wool. With so many qualifications, the Angora goats deserve to be where they are—prettily painted and placed at the entrance to welcome visitors.

The displays in the museum include paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and Turkish decorative art from the last period of the Ottoman Empire to the present. I am pleasantly surprised to see a painting by the last Ottoman Caliph, Abdulmecid II (father of our Princess Durru Shahver), an artist of note. It depicts his Circassian wife reading Goethe. I quickly pose with the masterpiece (to boast about it back home).

The Ethnography Museum is another imposing building with elegant interiors on the same premises. Inside, I see a lady silently and diligently working on restoring a wooden engraved wall. The exhibits reflect the cultures of various Turkish civilizations. Folk costumes, ornaments, shoes, clogs, socks, pouches, laces, napkins, bedspreads, bridal dresses, groom's shaving sets, and Mamluk cauldrons are all part of old traditional Turkish art. I see beautiful examples of Turkish woodcarving, a 12th-century Mihrab, a 13th-century throne, and a 14th-century sarcophagus, besides Ottoman calligraphy, tile, glass, metal and wooden artefacts. A specialised library on Anatolian ethnography and folklore contains artefacts related to art history.

Ankara Painting and Sculpture Museum
Ankara Painting and Sculpture Museum

A stately bronze statue of Atatürk on the horse in front of the museum commands my attention. The much-revered leader's presence can be felt throughout Ankara, for his dynamic leadership, coupled with bold decisions, placed Türkiye where it is now.

Extensive and unique collections of stunning relics from Anatolia's significant archaeological sites impress me at The Anatolian Civilizations Museum. They are placed in chronological order, starting with the Paleolithic era and continuing through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Selçuk, and Ottoman periods. The 3,000-year-old writing table of King Midas, which was found in Ulus, the letter written by the Egyptian Queen to the Hittite King in 1235 BCE, the first map of the world, the drawing of Mount Hasan, and the world's oldest mirror made of Obsidian (volcanic glass), found in 6000 BCE, Paleolithic bone fragments and primitive stone tools, Neolithic mother goddess statues, Hittite stag sculptures, and Roman coins are among the notable artefacts. The remains of a 9.8 million-year-old monkey discovered here, named Ankarapithecus after the city, testify to the region's importance since prehistoric times.

The Second Parliament, or The Republic Museum, with its stunning interiors, is full of Atatürk’s memories: his typewriter, his glasses, his cigarette cases, his pens, and other personal belongings etc. The dynamic leader had a style of his own.

Ulucanlar Prison Museum is a dark and solemn prison that "hosted" many prominent Turkish politicians and authors over 81 years. It is a museum where their detailed biographies, photographs, etc., are exhibited. If you are fascinated with prisons and want to peek, you can walk through the intimidating corridors, watching digital art videos. Still, you can't peep through the impregnable windows. They have layered thick iron curtains in the form of grills and shutters. For a real feeling of imprisonment, you can briefly visit and safely come out to breathe the sweet air of freedom.

Tales Of The Ruins

Unlike the modern office buildings, trendy boutiques, and cafés of contemporary Ankara, the older part of the city, Ulus, has a quaint charm. Dating back to the seventh-century Byzantine age and overbuilt on 3,000-year-old Hittite ruins, the imposing pentagon-shaped Citadel is incorporated into its inner and outer rampart walls. I see stones with traces of Greek and Roman script that indicate the fortification may have been built in haste ten centuries ago to protect the city against Arab invaders.

The Ankara Old Bazaar
The Ankara Old Bazaar

Originally built as a garrison, the Ankara Castle is said to have hosted several civilisations throughout history. It is home to several museums, mosques, and other historical sights, and most of the old Ankara houses located in the inner castle walls have been converted into restaurants and gift shops. I find a lone musician singing while strumming a traditional musical instrument. His sonorous music echoes in the tall ramparts of the citadel. A buxom lady selling pretty lace items and costume jewellery does brisk business with her glib talk. In contrast, a teenager with a shy, endearing smile sells Macun, a soft, sweet and colourful Turkish toffee paste- a popular street food prepared with many herbs and spices.

As I climb the ascent, I see many souvenir shops. Beautiful ceramic pottery, dainty porcelain, and the ubiquitous blue evil-eye amulets of all sizes greet me. I buy coasters, teal blue porcelain bowls, a turquoise blue bracelet, and a pretty lapis lazuli pendant from different shops and pay in American dollars.

They are all equipped with calculators and give a fair rate. The 3rd-century Roman Baths take me back many centuries, and I marvel at their imagination, intelligence, and engineering skills. The ruins of the ancient bath complex form a mound, with the Roman Age at the top and the remains of the Phrygian Period settlement underneath. Since the remains under the mound are remarkably well-preserved, the plan of the building shows that it was built to imperial standards rather than a small-town city bath. As I go around the vast ruined complex, I imagine hot steam enveloping me... the way they planned the heating of water and the distribution is simply fantastic.

Ankara's Art And Culture

A train maintenance shed of the 1920s is converted into a contemporary museum named CerModern that adds to the identity of Ankara. Works of modern artists take me on an artistic journey, mostly abstract art.

I attend an Operatic Concert at CSO Ada Ankara, a gigantic music campus with exciting architecture—a minimalist design enriched with clever wood, glass, and concrete use. It is one of those rare experiences where you sit spellbound by the kind of high-voltage electricity created by the artists—the applause never ends, and the singers never stop surprising. In an unexpected dramatic move, the soprano glides past me while enacting a scene and sprawls on the steps, singing and creating flutters among the audience. Just inches from the dazzling star, I see my guide blushing crimson, caught in the lightning of a multitude of shutterbugs and attention. A fitting finale to my Ankara visit.

The Information

Getting There: A high-speed railway connects Ankara to Istanbul in around three hours, whereas a domestic flight takes an hour plus a few minutes.

Accommodation: There are hotels of all kinds five-star to budget to homestays to vacation rentals to suit all pockets.

Best Time To Visit: June-September days are pleasant and warm. November-February gets very cold.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller