Ankara, with a population of over 4 million, is the capital and administrative center of the Republic of Turkey. Ankara's history dates back to the Hittites and Phrygians. It became important as a Phrygian foundation as it was at the intersection of the major trade routes running through Anatolia. Under the Ottoman rule Angora, as it was known, became a quiet dusty market town, famous only for its goats. In 1923, Atatürk declared Ankara the new Turkish capital and modern development began.
The imposing citadel Hisar is the most prominent landmark of Ankara. Hisar is located up the hill close to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The outer walls of the citadel were constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Michael II in the 9th century AD. The inner walls of the citadel date from the 7th century. Antiquities were recycled when constructing these defences. The entrance to the citadel of Ankara is through the Parmak Kapısı or Finger Gate. Inside Hisar, the winding cobbled streets and old Ottoman houses yield the atmosphere more of times past in an old Ottoman Village. Some of the houses have been renovated and transformed in hotels and some good restaurants, some of which also act as ethnographic museums. From the Eastern Tower, the Şark Kulesi there are some nice panoramic views.
The minarets of the neo-Ottoman Kocatepe Mosque dominate the skyline of southern Ankara. The Kocatepe Camii was finished in 1987 after 20 years building. It is Ankara's largest mosque and one of the biggest in the world.
Modern Ankara is a city by design with lots of architectural highlights as in the avenues at Kızılay, a charming district with lots of pedestrianized areas for shopping dining and going out. Kızılay is the district that forms the heart of modern Ankara and is named after the Red Cross hospital.
After my first visit to Ankara, back in 1982, I had mixed feelings towards the capital of the republic. Hot and dusty with one big traffic jam and of course the unavoidable smog. Apart from its two major highlights: Anıt Kabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk and the museum of Anatolian civilizations I found Ankara not very interesting to the traveler. My second and third visit did not change my opinion much. It was during the 2003 visit, that my point of view changed completely. From now on, Ankara has become one of my favorites. This change could be due to the fact that Ankara grows on you with a longer acquaintance, to quote Lonely Planet. However, I guess the main reason is that I discovered the Kızılay district with some of its streets closed to motor vehicles and lined with cozy cafés and affordable places to eat and drink.