Turkey’s cap­i­tal city is a buzzing, cos­mopoli­tan place of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture and an­cient arte­facts – where the ke­babs are the best in the world, says Imo­gen Lepere

Food and Travel (UK) - - City Breaks -

Why go At the cross­roads of the Mediter­ranean and Asia, Ankara of­fers a heady mix of me­dieval ar­chi­tec­ture, po­lit­i­cal power and tra­di­tional Turk­ish cui­sine. Since it be­came the cap­i­tal in the 1920s, the pop­u­la­tion has soared from 75,000 to over five mil­lion and it is now truly cos­mopoli­tan, with a flour­ish­ing art and de­sign scene. On 29 Oc­to­ber, Repub­lic Day com­mem­o­rates the found­ing of the Turk­ish Repub­lic in 1923. Lo­cals gather at the Anitk­abir (the mau­soleum of Turkey’s first pres­i­dent, Mustafa Ke­mal Atatürk) for a pa­tri­otic pro­ces­sion cul­mi­nat­ing in a fire­works dis­play.

What to do Spend a morn­ing ex­plor­ing the an­cient ci­tadel, a war­ren of al­ley­ways en­closed by walls tow­er­ing more than 15m. In the square by the Fin­ger Gate lo­cal ven­dors sell hazel­nuts and chick­peas, and you can en­joy panoramic views over the Old Town’s red roofs from S¸ ark Kulesi tower. Nearby in the At­pazari district, the Ana­to­lian Civil­i­sa­tions Mu­seum kul­ houses arte­facts from all of Turkey’s ma­jor ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites. The CerModern is the big­gest con­tem­po­rary arts space in the coun­try. Ex­pect a ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of Henri CartierBres­son’s land­scape photography as well as yoga and writ­ing work­shops. Ev­ery day, you’ll stum­ble across pazars (lo­cal mar­kets) in dif­fer­ent neigh­bour­hoods. Try simit (crisp cir­cu­lar bread) at the cov­ered bazaar in As¸ag˘i Ayranci on Wednesdays or head to the Ulus Hali per­ma­nent mar­ket, where farm­ers from all over Ankara Prov­ince hawk their wares. Just off the Kizilay in­ter­sec­tion, the Ko­catepe Mosque is the largest in the city and can hold more than 24,000 wor­ship­pers. Marvel at the in­tri­cate pat­terns in­side, be­fore vis­it­ing the Beg˘endik de­part­ment store 00 90 312 236 1717 to rub shoul­ders with Ankara’s beau­ti­ful peo­ple. Don’t leave with­out see­ing the Anitk­abir anitk­, which be­strides a hill in the memo­rial park near Tan­dog˘an. Peo­ple travel from all over the coun­try to pay their re­spects to the fa­ther of mod­ern Turkey. Where to stay Ankara’s lux­ury ho­tels blend a sense of Turkey’s long and sto­ried his­tory with con­tem­po­rary de­sign, and are of­ten

Clock­wise from top left: Ko­catepe, Ankara’s largest mosque; dec­o­ra­tive lamps be­jewel build­ings; a ven­dor in­tro­duces au­then­tic spices; shelves heave with pick­ling jars; simit bread is a street­side sta­ple; a touch of lo­cal colour; pro­ces­sion at Anitk­abir; bazaar stalls line the streets; dried cour­gette flow­ers; shar­ing sweet tea is a na­tional pas­time ex­cel­lent value. The five-star Di­van Çukurhan di­ is a brick-and-beam build­ing dat­ing back some four cen­turies. Mod­ern four-posters and views of Ankara Ci­tadel make it one of the best op­tions in the city, and rooms start at just £63. Check Inn Ankara’s rooms check­in­ have a sim­i­lar pric­etag yet man­age to cre­ate the feel of a Manhattan loft apart­ment, with ex­posed brick­work, dark wood fur­ni­ture and an­i­mal-skin de­tails. JW Mar­riott Ho­tel mar­ is Ankara’s take on top-of-the-range lux­ury. Sip cock­tails at the Sky Vue Lounge, im­merse your­self in the fragrant steam of the Turk­ish ham­mam and soak up views from the floorto-ceil­ing win­dows, which al­low light to stream into ev­ery room. Where to eat Fan­tas­ti­cally var­ied land­scapes nur­ture a range of fresh pro­duce. Much of it is Mediter­ranean in feel, yet el­e­vated to the exotic by Mid­dle East­ern tech­niques and a cul­ture of feast­like eat­ing, which trick­led down from the royal kitchens to so­ci­ety at large. Ankara’s culi­nary call­ing card is tava (tomato casse­role with ver­mi­celli and lamb on the bone) – you’ll find a par­tic­u­larly unc­tu­ous ver­sion at Ankara Tava, a third-gen­er­a­tion restau­rant. Us­ing a ver­ti­cal ro­tis­serie to cook meat can be traced back to the Ot­tomans, and doner ke­babs are prac­ti­cally a re­li­gion here. Peçenek Döner pecenek­ on Seçim Sokak may look humble but the ex­cel­lent meat comes from Kizilc­a­hamam vil­lage in the north of the prov­ince and lo­cals say it’s the best in town. Mes¸hur Dön­erci Dur­sun Usta 00 90 312 312 74 75 in the Sa­man­pazari district also has a loyal fol­low­ing. Try Tri­lye Restau­rant tri­ for ex­cel­lent seafood and tra­di­tional desserts such as trileçe (a soft cake made from cow, sheep and buf­falo milk).

Time run­ning out? Atakule Tower dom­i­nates the city’s sky­line with its fu­tur­is­tic dome. You can watch the sun set from the bar, which ro­tates 125m above ground level.

Trip tip Catch­ing up over grainy Turk­ish cof­fee or sweet tea is cen­tral to lo­cals’ so­cial lives. Join them at Cafémiz, a so­phis­ti­cated spot in a town house with a sunny gar­den.

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