Ankara can justifiably take pride in both its past and its present achievements. Still a city of incoming peoples, much as it was in the early days of Roman Ancyra and Ottoman Angora, modern Ankara has a population approaching four million. Cornucopia devoted 26 pages to the Turkish capital in Issue 47 and it is high time more visitors made their way here too.
Tourists love Turkey but virtually none come to Ankara. They assume it is an artificial city, chosen as capital simply for its location and built virtually from scratch. It is indeed a new city, chosen by Atatürk for its central position and given fine, if somewhat Teutonic, government buildings during the 1920s and ’30s. Since then it has suffered urban sprawl, with a current population of over three million. But there is nothing new or artificial about old Ankara. This is no Turkish Brasilia. Twice capital in antiquity, Ankara is a neglected modern capital, still ignored by those who, when it comes to history, are in the habit of skipping adroitly from the Hittites to the New Republic. But at last a long-postponed miracle is occurring. A plethora of recent discoveries in Ulus – old Ankara – have awakened a thirst to pull together the missing threads. [The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations]( is no longer the sole attraction: changes in and around the citadel, which itself dates from antiquity, are now complemented by boutique hotels, the most recent being one of outstanding quality. When planning your next trip to Turkey, why not be unfashionable and start with a few days in old Ankara before carrying on north, south, east or west? You will not be disappointed.
For a welcome break, the Çengelhan Brasserie provides traditional Turkish fare and smiling service within the glazed courtyard of the 16th-century Rahmi M Koç Museum. It stays open, candlelit, after the museum closes. The Washington Restaurant occupies two traditional merchant houses built into the Byzantine walls, with panoramic views over the city. Since the owners’ arrival from Çamlıhemşin in the early days of the Republic, a succession of Washington Restaurants has maintained their fame for meze and Black Sea sweetmeats.