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Ankara

In 1923, right after the War of Independence, Ankara was made the fledgling Turkish Republic's new capital—in part because it was a barren, dusty steppe city more or less in the middle of nowhere, and therefore considered to be secure. The city still feels that way somewhat, despite being the center of national political activity and home to more than 4 million residents. It doesn't come close to having the historical richness or vibrancy of Istanbul, yet Ankara does provide a sweeping overview of the history of this land, both ancient and modern. For proof, visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, repository of the best archaeological treasures found in Turkey, and the Anıtkabir, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s colossal mausoleum. Atatürk’s larger-than-life persona and the impact he had on the country can be sensed more powerfully at the Anıtkabir than anywhere else in Turkey. Indeed, the capital city as a whole is permeated by the great man’s fascinating and enduring legacy, and is nothing less than a monument to his overpowering will.

Though largely modern in appearance, Ankara is in fact an ancient settlement that was occupied successively by the Hittites and other Anatolian kingdoms, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and the Ottomans. Glimpses of these layers of history can be seen in the Citadel and Ulus areas, where a few Roman ruins are haphazardly juxtaposed with Seljuk-era mosques, centuries-old Ottoman kervansarays, and nondescript modern buildings. The top of the ancient citadel offers excellent views of the city, and within the walls is a fascinating neighborhood.

Ankara is also a pleasantly green and easily navigable city, with restaurants, hotels, and shops that are increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan. This is at heart a government and college town, so you'll also find more relaxed attitudes here than in many other parts of Anatolia.

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