source of Ankaras name is an enduring mystery. According to some
sources, Phrygians settling this far inland around 750 B.C. expressed
their longing for the sea by calling the city Anchor. Other sources
claim that the sea-loving Galatians, a Celtic race who made Ankara their
capital in the 3rd century B.C., named the city Ancyra to recall their
maritime roots. More than likely the city owes its name to the local
mohair industry, one that thrived under the Ottomans and resulted in the
name Angora. Whatever the names origin, Ankara was an important center
on the Eastern trade route during Ottoman times. When Europes
Industrial Revolution resulted in the production of better and cheaper
wool in England, "Angora" lost its economic center and went into
A famine in the latter half of the 19th century was an added blow, resulting in roughly 18,000 starvation deaths. When Atatürk rode into Ankara for the first time, he found little more than a dirt road surrounded by barren hills. Unlike Istanbul, vulnerable for centuries to neighboring countries with imperialistic motives, Ankara was deep within the heartland, protected and insulated from uninvited guests. Atatürk chose Ankara deliberately; while Istanbul was the seat of an imperial and dissolute empire, he saw Ankara as the clean-slate capital of an entirely new Turkish state. His decision literally lifted Ankara out of the ashes; the establishment of the New Republics capital came only 3 years after yet another disaster, a devastating fire in 1917. A new city must construct its own history, and Ankara succeeded in doing just that. At the turn of the century, the population was less than 30,000.
A young city with wide boulevards and open spaces, Ankara gives the sensation of a sprawling and reserved city. It has established itself as the cultural heart of Turkey, as the home to a number of prestigious universities and technical colleges, as well as home to the largest library in the country. Ankara is a center for opera, ballet, jazz, and modern dance, and is home of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, the State Theatre, and the State Opera and Ballet. Dotting the parks and avenues are monuments to inspire a strong sense of nationalism. Theres a predictable concentration of statues of Atatürk. The Victory Monument, in Ulus Square, honors the heroes of the War of Independence, while the Monument to a Secure and Confident Future, in Güvenlik Park, reminds Turks to "be proud, work hard, and have self-confidence." The Hatti Monument, an oversized replica of a bronze solar disc, is hard to miss on Sıhhihye Square and stands as a constant reminder of the countrys Anatolian roots. But capital or no, you cant compare Ankara to cities like Washington, D.C., or London, even if the brilliant Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is worth a special detour. Its not that theres nothing to do here: Plenty of monuments and museums are worth your time. But most people choose to skip Ankara in favor of a direct transfer to Cappadocia, and I cant say they havent got the right idea. Still, the museum presents a weighty dilemma; it would be unconscionable to be this close and not stop for a visit.