So, what have we told you thus far about our (too) short time in Ankara last May? A quick recap:
- It was a quick stopover while we waited for our train to take us eastwards to stay with a friend. Ankara’s a big city and to say we didn’t really have our bearings on arrival is an understatement.
- We loved the location and views from Han Hostel, where we stayed. A lucky booking – we just needed somewhere close to the train station and we ended up very close to the centre, Kızılay.
- We were determined not to leave Ankara without visiting the mausoleum of founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. We managed that on our last day and, as usual with our travels, it wasn’t quite what we envisaged. Here’s our post about our visit to Anıtkabir.
- It was May – but Ankara is still cold and wet in May.
- We ate well! Don’t we always? We had fabulous Kayseri Mantısı and we also had an unforgettable lunch of ciğer şiş (liver).
And that ciğer şiş is where we’ll continue our story. Because we were looking for the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. We’d walked – a lot – uphill. It was cold, very wet and many of the roads had become like rapids. Our feet and ankles were soaked. After gratefully devouring the ciğer şiş (we sat next to the radiator), we walked around the corner and realised we were very close to the museum – and we also suddenly realised the high stone walls just next to us were the old city walls of the citadel.
Wow, we had climbed a long way. But it was a bonus. From our hostel balcony, we’d looked over at the citadel with Ankara Kalesi (the castle) sprawling across the top. It was a long way in the distance and, although it was great to see it, we’d written it off for this visit because of time constraints. And now, purely by accident, here we were. Unlike our trek up to Kadifekale (Velvet Castle) in Izmir, Ankara Kalesi had not been our mission.
During its history, Ankara Kalesi has been occupied by Hittites, Romans, Selçuks, Byzantines, and it was heavily restored in the 1800s by the Ottomans. It’s fair to say, this castle has seen a lot in its lifetime – and now it sits looking over the growth of modern Ankara. (Wonder what it thinks of modern Ankara…?)
But forget about modern Ankara for now. We’re on the roof of the city, wandering amongst the colossal red stone fortifications of the castle and directly below us, sitting on the hillside and divided from the outside world by the citadel walls is Eski Ankara (Old Ankara).
This is a whole different world of narrow, rubbly streets; tumbledown Ottoman-era wooden and mud houses – some are now being restored – kids tear up and down the streets…and it feels strange to hear rock music coming from someone’s nearby upstairs window. Many of the streets are just narrow passages, too narrow for a vehicle. In Eski Ankara, the pedestrian is king. We’re professional pedestrians so we’re happy up here, wandering without aim…
We might have been cold and wet and without any particular bearings, but we really liked Ankara – enough to know we’ll be back. Well, you can’t look out over scenes like this – newly restored and ramshackle, abandoned buildings – and not wonder how the view is going to change. But there is one constant of being in high points in Ankara:
Anıtkabir is visible for miles around. At this point, we still hadn’t been there and we spent a few moments gazing over the city towards the mausoleum…and we wondered how we were going to get there. It looked so far away. A taxi might have been pricey. Well, you know we made it…Thankfully, Ankara’s underground rail network is simple and efficient.