Ankara is the capital and the second largest city in Turkey. The history of Ankara and its surroundings stretches back to the Hatti civilisation of the Bronze Age. Around 2000 BC, the Hittites become the dominant power of the region, and were then followed by the Phyrgians, Lydians and Persians. In the 3rd Century BC, a Celtic race known as the Galatians made Ankara their capital city. The name Ankara comes from the word ‘Ancyra’, which means ‘anchor.’ Ankara gained prominence under the leadership of Ataturk during the national resistence which followed World War I. It was declared the capital of the new Turkish Republic on October 13th 1923 when the National War of Independence freed Turkey from foreign occupation.
The oldest parts of the city surround the Castle. The Alaaddin Mosque found inside its walls is still one of the best examples of Selcuk art and wood craftsmanship, in spite of the fact that it was restored by the Ottomans. The area has experienced a rejuvenation with the restoration of many interesting old Turkish houses, and the opening a several art galleries and fine restaurants which feature examples of traditional Turkish cuisine. Near the gate of the castle is the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which is a beautifully restored portion of the old bazaar. It contains priceless artifacts belonging to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras as well as the Hatti, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartu and Roman civilizations.
Ankara is close to the region known as Cappadocia which includes the centres of Ürgüp, Göreme, Avanos, Üçhisar, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Ihlara. It is a stunning area of other-worldly rock formations, subterranean churches and underground dwellings, the scale of which is over-whelming. The area is also famous for its carpet-weaving, wines and the distinctive red pottery of the Avanos area. Cappadocia was a refuge for the early Christians, who escaped persecution by living and worshipping underground. There are an estimated 3000 rock churches in this region, not all of which are open to the public. The village of Göreme itself is at the heart of the area’s tourist industry, and many of its villagers still live in cave dwellings, some of which have been converted into pensions. Surrounding the area are the amazing rock formations known evocatively as Peri Bacaları or ‘Fairy Chimneys’.
Istanbul, the most populated city in Turkey, the capital of empires, the city that dominates continents, and the meeting point of cultures and civilisations is only 40 minutes by airplane. Flights are available almost hourly between Ankara and Istanbul with very reasonable prices.
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