Alternatively titled – Ankara, you were better than we expected!
We can’t believe it’s been four weeks since we set off from Istanbul on our road trip around East & Southeastern Anatolia. We’ve seen some amazing places and we don’t want it to end! But we’ve arrived at the final stop on our road trip, Turkey’s capital, Ankara.
It might sound strange but our main reason for visiting Ankara was to visit the final resting place of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Although he died in 1938, he is Turkey’s most respected and remembered leader. Obvious from the many statues and monuments dedicated to Ataturk throughout the country. Credited with creating the republic of Turkey – the name Ataturk granted to him in 1934, means ‘Father of the Turks’. So we were interested to see his final resting place in this country.
And as you might expect – it was pretty impressive.
We were lucky to see the changing of the guards. The soldiers didn’t miss a beat – and even if they had, I wouldn’t have pointed it out to them!
Inside the building is the Hall of Honour – and at the far end, his sarcophagus. Although his body is in a tomb located below the sarcophagus itself.
There is also a museum section in the complex which has a great mix of historical and personal items from Ataturk’s life. It also details some of the history of his time during WWI, including at the battle of Gallipoli. In a stunning display, an entire room has been painted to show scenes from the battle, quite moving for us as Australians, knowing the story all too well. Ataturk was one of the commanders during the battle and in 1934, he wrote these famous words which we hadn’t heard before and found very moving.
“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country
Therefore, rest in peace
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours
You, the mothers
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well”.
There was also lots of portraits of the man in the museum, this one was our favourite. We (and by we, I mean Kristen) had become a bit Ataturk obsessed during our time in Turkey and she was happy to find the museum sold all kinds of Ataturk memorabilia.
Mosques – sacred and stunning.
Of course there were mosques to visit! The Haci Bayram mosque in Ankara is named after the Muslim saint, Haci Bayram Veli who founded the Bayramiye dervish order around 1400.
The mosque is considered to be amongst the oldest and most revered in Turkey and was constructed in the 15th century. Although much smaller in scale to others we had visited, it was certainly very beautiful once inside.
By now, after 6 weeks in the country, we’d seen our fair share of mosques. It turns out we’d saved the best for last, as the Koctape mosque in Ankara was easily the most impressive mosque we visited. It may not have the same history as others, having only been built between 1967 and 1987, but it certainly made up for it in size and splendour.
The inside was the real winner. The chandelier was the most impressive we’d seen. And the most different – it was spectacular. Just look at the size of the people in the photos below in comparison. And unlike at the Blue Mosque where we jostled shoulder to shoulder with other tourists, we had this mosque all to ourselves, which added to it’s atmosphere.
To give you an idea of just how big it is inside, it can hold 24,000 worshippers. That’s a lot of people!
Museum of Anatolian Civilisations.
Another highlight in Ankara (take note Istanbul museums!) was the excellent Museum of Anatolian Civilisations.
Even if museums aren’t really your thing, the pieces here are really fascinating. Not just your standard pottery vases and gold jewellery. Our favourite was the display of goddess figurines, dating from around 6000BC, notable by their huge breasts and wide hips. The pieces wouldn’t be out of place in a modern art museum today. The sections start from the Neolithic Age (8000-5000BC) and work onwards to the Lydian Period (1200-545BC). You also had some ‘newer’ pieces in the sections dedicated to the Classical Age and then Ankara through the ages.
Our other favourite display was the stone tablets, some of the earliest examples of documenation. There was receipts, shopping lists, marriage certificates and even divorce papers. I wonder what the reasons for a divorce where all those years ago? This was a facinating museum and well worth a visit.
We came to Ankara not sure how we’d fill our days – and ended up with more than enough to do and enjoyed our time here. Thanks Ankara!