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ANKARA: ULUS

ANK11Turkey's second parliament buildingUlus is the touristic heart of Ankara. Its focal point is Heykel (Statue) which is named after a huge equestrian statue of Atatürk that dominates a major road junction.

Until recently this was a distinctly seedy area with many gazinos (drinking dens) lurking in dimly-lit, rubbish-strewn back streets. This was always a great pity not just because some of the best cheap hotels were here but also because it was by far the most interesting part of Ankara in terms of history and architecture.

The good news is that belated regeneration work has started. Before long few visitors to Ankara will need to venture much further than Ulus.

ANK10Along Çankırı Caddesi

If you head north along Çankırı Caddesi you will eventually come to the remains of a sprawling Roman bath complex - its size suggests how important the site must have been in those days. The baths date back to the third century and stand on top of much older Phrygian remains. 

Walking back towards Heykel if you duck behind the Türkiye İş Bankası Bankası (Giulio Mongeri, 1929) you will come to the 14.5m- high Column of Julian (Belkız Minaresi), possibly built to commemorate the visit of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate to Ankara in 362. It provides the perfect nesting place for local storks. 

Uphill behind the Column of Julian is the important shrine of Hacı Bayram Veli Cami, centrepiece of extensive urban regeneration work. The shrine was built in 1427 around the burial place of Hacı Bayram Veli, founder of the Bayramiye sect. It's always busy with worshippers.ANK13Temple of Augustus with ruined basilica inside it and shrine of Hacı Bayram Veli beside it

Immediately beside the shrine are the remains of the Temple of Augustus and Rome, the most important of Ankara's Roman relics. Erected between 29 and 25 BC to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Augustus, it carries on its walls a copy, in Greek and Latin, of the Res Gustae, a list of the emperor's achievements that was read to parliament after his death, then inscribed on bronze tables and circulated to provincial capitals.

The Ankara version came to light again in 1555 and is believed to be the most complete of the surviving versions. Unfortunately although current arrangements provide better protection for the inscriptions than they had in the past they are not accessible to the public which is a great shame. 

The temple is believed to stand on the site of an earlier temple to the Mother Goddess, Kybele, and the Moon God, Men. Later it was converted into a church in one of those wonderful examples of how a site, once sanctified, can continue to be hallowed no matter what changes of religion come along.

ANK14Along Cumhuriyet Caddesi

From Heykel if you head downhill along Cumhuriyet Caddesi you will come to some of the buildings that played a big part in the early days of the Turkish Republic.

The Museum of the War of Independence is housed inside the building that served as the first headquarters of the Grand National Assembly. Here you can inspect the original debating hall where members of parliament sat at old-fashioned school desks with lift-up lids.

Further down the road is the Republic Museum, housed inside the Vedat Tek-designed building that became the second seat of the Grand National Assembly. The much larger, much more imposing parliamentary chamber here has been restored, and side rooms come equipped with memorabilia related to Atatürk and his successors as president, İsmet İnönü and Celal Bayar.

The contents of the museums are of limited interest to non-Turkish readers. However, being able to wander round the chambers where many of the important decisions about Turkey’s future were made should be reward enough for most visitors.ANK15

Across the road the imposing Ankara Palas was originally built as a hotel.

Towards the Hisar

If you head uphill from Heykel you will pass on the lefthand side of the road the slight remains of the old Roman theatre set into the hillside topped by the castle (hisar). Keep climbing past the shops and through the park to reach the sturdy walls that ring the Hisar. Note that this whole area is currently (Jan, 2013) being relandscaped - you will have to divert through the back streets until the work is finished.

Along Atatürk Bulvarı

Finally if you head south from Heykel along Atatürk Bulvarı you will pass a succession of grand buildings, now mainly housing banks, that were designed in what came to be known as Birinci Ulusal Mimarlık (First National Architecture), a style created to encapsulate the young Turkish Republic in stone. Typical features include arched windows, overhanging roofs, and panels of external tiling.

Finally you will arrive at Opera Meydanı with Gençlik Parkı (Youth Park) to the left. It makes a pleasant place to escape the heat and congestion of the city in high summer.

Sleeping

There are a number of decent mid-range business hotels in the side streets off Çankırı Caddesi although this is not an area where all women will feel comfortable staying.

Cheaper offerings are clustered around Opera Meydanı at the eastern end of Atatürk Bulvarı.

Berlitz Hotel

Hotel Spor

Radisson Blu Hotel

Transport info

The Ulus Metro station is at the bottom of Cumhuriyet Caddesi with a minibus terminal nearby; you can pick up a minibus to the AŞTİ otogar here.

It's a short uphill walk to Heykel. Many buses plough up and down Çankırı Caddesi and Atatürk Bulvarı all day. You need to buy a ticket before boarding most of them. 

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