Anil Polat is a traveler and travel enthusiast who has spent his entire life traveling, studying cultures, and picking up tricks along the way. He writes foXnoMad to help you travel smarter. I’ve asked Anil to write a guest post about his home city of Ankara, Turkey. Read on and enjoy!
Ankara, the capital of Turkey, doesn’t get the respect from tourists it deserves. Ankara is what Washington DC is to New York and often hidden by the bright lights of Istanbul. I spent much of my childhood in Ankara uncovering the hidden beauty of this city.
Peeling the layers off Ankara leads you to see more of Turkey’s past and present, and opens up the rest of the countryside, unlike a trip to just Izmir or Antalya ever could.
Start Off Right
Don’t sell yourself short by taking a plane from Istanbul or another city directly to Ankara. While there is a very modern and comfortable train connection between Istanbul and Ankara, you’ll see more of the countryside by an afternoon bus ride which takes about 5-6 hours. The mountains of Bolu, a city between Istanbul and Ankara are one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, especially as the bus weaves in and out of the clouds through the high mountains. The bus stops along the way have great buffets with traditional Turkish dishes, kebabs, and strong Turkish black tea, for low prices.
Almost all of the major Turkish bus companies will have wireless Internet connections and serve drinks and a meal. I’d recommend taking Ulusoy or Varan, which are slightly more expensive than other options but certainly worth the extra comfort.
Walk The Local Bazaars
They aren’t glamorous and made for tourists which is why the local bazaars in Ankara are worth wandering around. You’ll see everything from not-so-authentic designer clothes (or overstocks) to kitchenware and every pirated DVD movie and piece of software you can think of, usually only for a few bucks.
There are several major markets (“pazar”) around Ankara, the Maltepe Pazar (near the Maltepe Mosque, which makes for great photo opportunities) and the Bahcelievler Pazar are two good ones to check out. Also a delight, the new Ankara “Organik” Pazar in the Ayranci covered market has a wide spread of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables – perfect to take back with you and snack on or cook with (depending on where you are staying).
Bar Hop Turkish Style
There are plenty of Western-style bars and cafes clumped together in the Cankaya, Bahcelievler, and Tunali neighborhoods in Ankara. Live music and good food are easily found and you can get great recommendations on what’s hot from hotel staff or your hostel-mates. Turks are likely to give you recommendations for French or Italian restaurants but you’ll really get a taste of the culture by heading to a “meyhane“. These traditional restaurants serve meze (appetizers) that keep coming and the unofficial national drink of Turkey, raki. Set aside a few hours for a variety of countless traditional Turkish meze, drink raki like a Turk, and sing and dance like a local.
It Doesn’t End There
Ankara isn’t a tourist town. There are sights like Anitkabir and Atakule – both worth checking out – but you’ll be disappointed if that’s all you’re looking for. Ankara is a city with a hidden cultural core, a crossroads between modern and old Turkey. Living like a local during your stay there will open your eyes to it.