- What’s On
A truly exclusive Preferred Boutique hotel that occupies a lovingly restored 16th-century caravanserai at the heart of historic Ankara, at the entrance to the historic Ankara citadel and close to the world-famous Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. Rooms are individually decorated each with their own unique style. Relax and enjoy a cocktail in the Avlu Bar or a fine meal in the Çengelhan museum restaurant.
A writer’s view, by Patricia Daunt
When planning your next trip to Turkey, why not be unfashionable and start with at least three days in Old Ankara before carrying on north, south, east or west. You will not be disappointed. A long-postponed miracle has occurred! The world-standard 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 and, most recently, by one of outstanding quality.
This enchanting, pink-bricked, 17th-century Ottoman caravanseray in the old Commercial Quarter – the District of the Hans - on the At Pazarı (the Old Horse Market), directly opposite the Main Gate into the Citadel, has been meticulously renovated, stone for stone, brick for brick, over a period of more than two-and-a-half years and this summer, June 2011, opened its doors to guests who either need to do business in the modern town or simply want to discover the hitherto neglected treasure house that is Old Ankara.
Ankara has not, until now, been a city to prompt an overeagerness to reach for the superlatives, but here - comfortable, well managed, peaceful and quiet - is the Divan Çukurhan Boutique Hotel. First and last impressions are of its charm and good taste. Its appearance too, be it inside or out, is immediately pleasing, thanks chiefly to the mottled raspberry brickwork. And it is not only the bricks: the stone of its coursing, the lime mortar of its plastering and the tiles of its roofing add the dashes of grey, pink and red that give the whole place a look and feel a romantic might liken to a scattering of old-fashioned roses.
As to location, no han in the old Commercial District is better placed. On one side is the great 16th-century Cengelhan - endowed by Süleyman the Magnificent’s son–in-law, Damat Rüstem Paşa, and his favourite daughter Mihrimah Sultan and now the impeccably renovated Cengelhan Rahmi M Koç Museum. On its other side is the collapsed Yeni Han, presently being restored to its original Ottoman glory in order to house the Yuksel Erimtan collection of antiquarian glass. The next pair of buildings beyond the Yeni Han form the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, housed in two more hans, this time 15th century, built a decade after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul by two of the Conqueror’s grand viziers.
Internally the glassed-in central courtyard of the Divan Çukurhan Hotel makes a bold initial statement. A flood of light reflects the herringbone brickwork and the wealth of interesting collectables and individually commissioned carpets which the interior decorator has so cleverly knitted together to fit into the galleries of the two-storied rectangle.
Nineteen stylish bedrooms and suites, each depicting a traveller’s tale, are as well appointed as the public spaces. The antiquated plumbing of old Ankara is a thing of the distant past. Though breakfast is laid in the hall, for the rest of the day you can eat equally happily in your room or in the contiguous Cengelhan Brasserie, if you have not yet discovered the cornucopia of restaurants in the Citadel.
How I wanted to spend a week and more in this pretty place where every prospect pleases, from its comfortable library to the deeply recessed windows from which to enjoy the acrobatics of the alpine swifts, and the sun rising behind the citadel and setting over the surrounding plain. As I reluctantly packed my bag and thanked the staff who had done their best to make my stay a treat, it came to me how much history is tied up in this one historic building. The Cengelhan offers the chance to savour in style Ankara’s “wine press of cultures”.
Ankara, when it became Turkey’s capital, was a very sleepy and provincial place, and it was chosen as capital chiefly because it was on the way to somewhere else. It had a railway station, one of the stopovers of the German-planned Berlin–Baghdad line, and its buffet served as the French Embassy. However, when his first Excellency put his head out of the swing doors, he contemplated a marsh, with some ruins on a hill; and, when the first British Excellency arrived, to have dinner with the President, he would have to pick his white-tied way through snow-drifts, being careful to avoid being eaten by a wolf or a Turkish feminist.
However, even back then, there was a point to the town. The ideology behind it was a powerful one…