Ankara is a hilly city – seriously, you can’t go anywhere here without hiking up some hill or mountain. This was precisely why Ankara was chosen as the capital of Turkey during the War of Independence: the mountains it is built upon, and it’s overall remoteness, provided an ideal defensible position.
Today Ankara, luckily, does not face threat of attack so its hills have been put to a variety of uses. In the center of the city, on the highest hill, sits Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the revered Attatürk, founder of modern Turkey. I went to the mausoleum when I was in Ankara last summer too, but this time the tour was in English and I gained a new appreciation for the building. Each segment of the structure was constructed and planned as a synthesis of all the cultures that have inhabited Turkey – from the Phrygians of ancient times up through the Byzantines, Ottomans, and Muslim influence. As I heard someone once say, “If you like the Lincoln Memorial, Anıtkabir will blow you away.”
A few days after visiting the mausoleum, we all visited Ankara kalesi – Ankara Castle. It is believed that this castle is the remains of an ancient Galatian Citadel from thousands of years ago, but the exact date of the construction is unknown. This citadel is, I believe, the highest constructed area in Ankara as a whole – as someone who is afraid of heights, it was terrifying.
The citadel is located in the old center of Ankara, Ulus, and to get the full experience of the citadel you have to walk along the tops of the walls – guardrails not provided. I would have loved to climb to the very top, but something about balancing on top of a two foot wide wall with a sheer thousand foot drop on your right side and a hundred foot drop on your left deterred me. I can’t think why. Oh well, at least I still managed to appreciate the views from the lower portion.
Of course, after the citadel nine of us found a tiny cafe located in the courtyard of a local family’s refurbished Ottoman home. After all, what is Turkey without a healthy cup of çay to ease you through the second (as well as first, third, and fourth) part of your day.