Difference between revisions of "Ankara"
Revision as of 11:38, 19 August 2013
Ankara is the administrative center of Turkey and a huge university town, so it has a large population of government workers and university students. As the national capital Ankara is home to a large population of foreign diplomats and embassy staff, so it offers goods and services that might be more difficult to find in other Turkish cities - for example you will have no problem ordering a cappucino or a hamburger.
Ankara is a sprawling, modern city which can appear as little more than a dull, concrete jungle at first glance. As a result, many tourists tend to use it merely as a transit point for getting to places like Konya or Cappodocia. However Ankara does have a lot to offer for those prepared to look a bit deeper.
The locals are generally helpful to tourists, and only a few people can communicate in English. Although most people will try to communicate with you somehow, it's a good idea to bring a Turkish phrasebook or dictionary. Ankara is the administrative center of Turkey and a huge university town such that most of its inhabitants consist of civil servants, students and academics.
Apart from the old town in and around the citadel near Ulus and unplanned shantytown neighbourhoods inhabited by people from rural areas in the last five decades, most of Ankara, which was a provincial town of 20,000 people in the early days of the Republic, is a purpose-built capital due to its strategic location at the heart of the country. The history of settlement in the area is millenia old.
The biggest claim to fame of the town used to be the long-haired local breed of goats named after former name of the city (Angora), out of which high quality mohair textiles were produced, today the only place where you can spot them in city is the lawns on the side of a clover-leaf interchange on the highway west—in the form of cute sculptures.
Ankara is quite a large city, with different towns and neighborhoods of their own characters. In a very simplified manner, most attractions of the city run through the long Ataturk Boulevard, running and diving the city north to south. Starting from Ulus Square, going towards south in Ataturk Boulevard, you will reach Kizilay, Kavaklidere and then Çankaya. As you pass through these districts one by one, the standards visibly increase.
Ulus is the historic center of Ankara, with most museums, early republican buildings, and the ancient Ankara Castle. Being the most elegant center of the republic in the beginning of the 20th century, now the area has left its charm, and is a messy, crowded neighborhood. Unless you are looking for the real cheap, (rather than some specific selections) not recommended for dining, accommodations or nightlife. In case you are interested to get a feeling of how life was once in Ankara, find Hamamonu District, the newly restored neighborhood with old Ankara houses. A famous spot for the conservative Ankarans, walk through the narrow traditional streets, and sip your Turkish coffee in an historic wooden house, especially at the night. Do not expect to find alcohol at Hamamonu.
Next, Kizilay is the working class center of Ankara. The famous Kizilay Square, named after the now-demolished "Red Crescent" headquarters building, is Ankara's political center. Throughout the decades, lot's of protests and rallies has taken place in the square, and even today, this is the center of the political protests. Many roads and streets around Kizilay are better discovered on foot, and there are lot's of budget restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs of different taste. Sakarya Caddesi (Sakarya Road) is a messy pedestrian area with fisheries, street sellers and restaurants. Pass over the southern side of Ziya Gokalp Caddesi, the parallel vehicle road, and you will reach the district around Yuksel Caddesi (Yuksel Road). This pedestrian neighborhood is a left oriented area, with several culture centers, cafes, pubs, restaurants and bookstores. Many locals looking for quality avoids Ulus and Kizilay.
Continuing southern, the area after Kizilay and up to Kugulu Part (Swan Park) is Kavaklidere, also simply known Tunali district (Tunali Hilmi Caddesi/Road runs parallel to Ataturk Blvd, and locals simply name it and around as Tunali.) The area is more cosmopolitan, open minded, and popular among the young. The back streets are full of cafes, restaurants, pubs to rock venues.
Walking up from Kugulu Park (Swan Park), pass to Arjantin Street and in the end, turn left to Filistin Street. These two are where the top end cafes and restaurants are found, full of Ankara's chick and elegant going there to see and be seen. Further south, you reach Atakule Tower at Çankaya, the diplomatic center of Ankara, with the Presidential Palace and most embassies. From Kugulu Park to up, Ankara's nicest parks are aligned, namely Segmenler Park and Botanical Garden, in addition to small but cure Kugulu Park.
Rather than this alignment on Ataturk Blvd., check Bahçelievler District, west of Kizilay. 7th Road (7.Cadde) and around is a student oriented and family friendly region with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Further west, through Eskisehir Road, you will pass through the once suburban neighborhoods of Bilkent, Umitkoy and Cayyolu, which are new modern towns, less of an interest to tourists, but offers good dining and nightlife. Visit Park Caddesi, the areas newly created nightlife center.
Ankara is well connected by a good public transport network system. Private and public bus operators compete for your patronage and there are the 'dolmus' minibus transport providers that offer rapid tranfers and get you to your connection points. The underground subway 'Metro' is highly efficient which runs between outer suburbs and the interstate bus terminal 'ASTI'. Taxis are readily available and are probably the best way to get to your destination, relatively inexpensive for the time poor traveller.
As any other part of the Anatolian highland, the winters are cold and usually snowy. Temperature is regularly below the freezing point during this season, but it rarely drops below -15° C. Thanks to the low levels of relative humidity, the hot and dry summers are more comfortable than coastal regions of Turkey. Summer nights are cool, though, so be sure to bring at least a cardigan with you to wear outdoors. Spring and autumn are the wettest seasons, but with an annual rainfall amount of 415 mm (i.e., a semi-arid climate), you are unlikely to get much wet during your trip to Ankara, anyway.
Ankara Esenboğa International Airport (ESB) is located some 28 km northeast of the city. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope - apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), only Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs. Iran Air also has two weekly flights to Tehran. For other carriers flying into Turkey, a flight into Istanbul is necessary, followed by an air transfer to Ankara by Turkish Airlines or Anadolu Jet (a low cost brand of Turkish Airlines).
The brand-new airport was opened in 2007. It features many more gates, a more orderly parking system, and in general, better traffic flow. The road connecting Ankara's airport to the ring road has also been fully renovated.
Airport buses are operated by HAVAŞ through the city center reaching Ulus (the historical center of the city, close to the museums and baths), and AŞTİ (where the intercity buses depart from to almost all the cities in Turkey). The price is 10 TL. Also, Ankara municipality offers public bus transports to and from the airport. The bus number is 442 and it stops on multiple locations including Ulus, Kızılay, Aşti. The price is 5.25 TL for bus 442. Bus 442 runs in a loop. It is possible to take this bus from any of its stops back to the airport.
Being in a central location in Turkey, Ankara is also the centre of the Turkish rail network and can be reached from many cities. The train trip from Istanbul to Ankara takes around 5 hours and 36 minutes and most (but not all) daytime services involve changing from one of the older express trains from Istanbul to Eskişehir onto the new high speed rail link to Ankara. Night trains, on the other hand, are direct from Istanbul with no transfers to high speed trains, however, these slightly older trains are still comfortable and up to Western European standards. Also, internet connection exists certain wagons of train. Tickets are cheaper than the bus and the journey is more comfortable.
The overnight train to and from Istanbul is surprisingly affordable and saves the cost of a night's lodging. Reserve a cabin in advance if you prefer sleeping in a bed to sleeping in a seat. (Sleeper trains Istanbul-Ankara are all cancelled during the engineering work blockade from 2012 to 2014.)
The train station is located north of Kızılay Square, which it is connected to by a wide number of public buses which stop at right in front of the station. About 10 minutes of walking away from the station, on the northern corner of Gençlik Park, is a metro station which has services to a number of central locations in the city in addition to Kızılay.
Some popular destinations include:
If you are traveling from places other than Istanbul, you will find buses fast, inexpensive, and modern. Watch out for the drivers spraying your hands with lemon cologne if you do not like it.
The buses terminate at the bus station (otogar) named AŞTİ (pronounced ush-tee and almost exclusively known as such locally; Ankara Şehirlerarası Terminal İşletmeleri) standing for "Ankara Intercity Terminal". Most of the cities in Turkey have direct buses to the capital of Turkey, and buses are much faster than trains in Turkey. From Istanbul to Ankara, the bus trip takes around 5 hours and one way fare is about 35 TL.
AŞTİ is connected to the Kızılay Square and a number of other central locations by a metro line. There are also free of charge shuttle buses to Kızılay (and a number of other locations) run by the AŞTİ administration. They depart from behind the main building.
The city has a dense public bus network, a two-line subway called Ankara Metrosu and a single line suburban railway called Ankara Banliyö Treni.
For tourists, Ankara’s public transit system, particularly the public bus network, can be difficult to figure out, because maps are rare and all information is in Turkish. Nor is there any access provided for disabled travellers in any form of public transport. Buses and metros tend to be very crowded during rush hours, especially on Mondays and Fridays.
If you know the city well, public transportation, especially the metro, is an ideal, easy, quick and cheap way to get around particularly for longer distances. For shorter distances taxis are an easy, quick and cheap way to get around.
There are two types of public buses in Ankara; those run by the Ankara Municipality named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO) and those run by a private corporation named Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO). You can differentiate these two types by their colors. EGO-run buses are white and blue while ÖHO-run buses are blue. Both types of these public buses use the same bus network and bus stops.
Ankara Municipal Buses
The Ankara Municipal Buses, named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO), consists of an extensive and dense bus network, and is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality.
Payment system for municipal buses is based on multi-use magnetic cards which is also used for the metro; starting from the smallest available which is the 1-unit card which costs 1.65 TL, 2-unit cards which cost 3.30 TL, 3-unit cards which cost 4.95 TL, 5-unit cards which cost 8.25 TL, 10-unit cards which cost 16.50 TL and 20-unit cards which cost 33.00 TL . A free transfer with the magnetic cards is possible within a duration of 45 minutes between the bus lines and metro lines. The magnetic cards cannot be purchased in buses and have to be purchased beforehand at kiosks and metro stations.
Unfortunately, no stops and maps are displayed in the buses and bus stops nor announced by voice in the buses. However, there is a Turkish web site which can be used to plan bus trips ahead of time. The site can be partially translated using Google translator. The site is : 
Ankara Non-Municipal Public Buses
The Ankara Non-Municipal Public Buses, Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO), consists of an extensive and dense bus network, operated by a private corporation.
Payment system for non-municipal buses is with cash. The ticket, which is only a one-way ticket, is purchased in buses at a cost of 2.00 TL.
Unfortunately, no stops and maps are displayed in the buses and bus stops nor announced by voice in the buses.
The Ankara Metro, named Ankara Metrosu, consists of two metro lines, which are called Ankaray and Ankara Metro which is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality .
The west-east light-rail line named Ankaray and the north-south heavy-rail Ankara Metro line are both mostly underground lines and intersect at Kızılay station.
The Ankaray line runs between AŞTİ (Ankara Şehirlerarası Terminal İşletmesi - Ankara Intercity Bus Terminal) and Dikimevi. The line is 8.7 km long (8.0 underground and 0.7 km surface railway) and has 11 stations
The Ankara Metro line, runs between Kızılay, the city center, to Batıkent in the northwest. The line is 14.7 km long (6.5 km underground, 4.5 km surface, and 3.7 km elevated railway) and has 12 stations.
Payment for the subway is based on multi-use magnetic cards which is also used for the municipal buses; starting from the smallest available which is the 1-unit card which costs 1.65 TL, 2-unit cards which cost 3.30 TL, 3-unit cards which cost 4.95 TL, 5-unit cards which cost 8.25 TL, 10-unit cards which cost 16.50 TL and 20-unit cards which cost 33.00 TL . A free transfer with the magnetic cards is possible within a duration of 45 minutes between the bus lines and metro lines. The magnetic cards can be purchased at kiosks and metro stations.
All stations are announced both on a display and by voice in the metros.
Ankara Suburban Railway
The Ankara Suburban Railway, named Ankara Banliyö Treni, consists of a single suburban line running on the national rail network which is owned and operated by the Turkish State Railways.
The suburban line, runs between Sincan in the west, through the city center, to Kayaş in the east. The line is 37.0 km long (all of which is surface and elevated railway) and has 26 stations.
Payment for the subway is done by cash at each train station for a one-way ticket which costs 1.70 TL and a return ticket which costs 3.00 TL .
Taxis are numerous in Ankara and are recognizable by their yellow color and word Taksi on top of the car. All licensed taxis have the letter T in their license plates.
The fare shown on the meter reads according to distance traveled. The ride will start at 2.20 TL, and the rate is 1.90 TL per kilometer. The rates for day and night are same. Tipping is not done.
Occasionally, some taxi drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed price, especially with tourists. But most taxi drivers will start taximeters at all times. You should avoid these cabs and simply take another one as you will almost certainly end paying too much. Many taxi drivers, even though very few of them speak a foreign language, will understand your requested destination and instructions. Tell them then to put the taximeter on. Taxi drivers do normally work with the taximeter, so they will not be surprised at all when you ask them to put it on. Emphasize to the taxi driver that you will pay for the meter price before getting in.
Always try to stop a taxi that is passing by on the road or find a legitimate taxi stop.
If you are not familiar with the city and see that you are a tourist, the taxi driver may drive a detour in order to charge you more. Insist on going to the destination that you want, and have a map to show them your destination, to avoid a detour.
Also beware that all taxis are required to have the designated license plate with the letter T apart from their yellow coloring.
Be careful on what notes you hand them for payment; some taxi drivers have tried to pretend that the 50 lira note that was handed was just a 5 lira note. Occasionally taxi drivers may actually also rip notes you give them, and tell you it is no good, in order to make you hand them a 50 lira note. So, make sure the notes are not ripped, and is actually the right one before you hand them over. Do not buy their quick-sell tricks and also do not allow them to round the price up to the higher denomination.
Archaeological Remains and Landmarks
Ankara offers a good selection of cinemas both in Kavaklıdere and Çankaya and several concert halls for classical music and opera. Many universities promote concerts and spring festivals but these are sometimes open to their students only. Folk and traditional music is very alive, from small bars and restaurants to big concert halls where you can find local stars like Musa Eroğlu. Depending on your interests, you can find trekking in local parks and in the surroundings, visiting the museums or hunting for the Ottoman or Selçuk remains in the ancient castle. Upscale shopping centers like Armada along the Eskisehir road also offer cinemas and quality restaurants.
Ankara's Castle (Kale) has been a trade center for centuries, and its sellers of carpets, leather and antiquities are slowly moving upwards hoping to attract the tourist trade. It's still a delicious place for walking and browsing, and there are family firms where you can buy, for a price, excellent carpets and kilims. Walking down from the Castle you can walk through the covered market, an iron structure where you can buy very cheap and excellent produce. Ankara has a number of large shopping malls each of them offering fashion stores (including Zara, Mango, Harvey Nichols, Marks and Spencer ets.), technology retailers (like Media Markt, Electro World etc.) markets (like Carrefoursa, Tesco/Kipa etc.). Many of the new malls are located on the Eskişehir Yolu, including Armada, Cepa, Kentpark and Gordion.
Ankara is best known with its "döner kebap". In order to pick a good döner restaurant (there are many) you should take a look at the döner round. it should be rectangular and the cuts must be flat and separated.
Like many other capitals, Ankara is where you can eat the best and the freshest fish of the country all around the year (not the cheapest, though). Around Sakarya str., there are various types of fish restaurants, from fast food to stylish ones and it can be a good opportunity to also try rakı, which is known as a companion of fish. But fish restaurants abound in the city; in Cankaya there are at least two excellent ones, "Akdeniz Akdeniz" and "Lazoli" featuring the first Mediterranean and the second Black Sea cuisine. "Ege", located close to Tunali street, is another excellent choice for fish and raki. The restaurant has also a variety of wines. If you want to listen good Turkish Classical Music while you eat and drink raki, then "Sudem" should be seen. It is located on Olgunlar Street.
Besides many classic iskender kebab restaurants there are also many restaurant featuring the traditional cuisine of a specific city, catering to the community of more affluent immigrants: from the spicy Urfa to the variety of vegetables coming with Adana kebab. Uludag Kebabcisi on Denizciler Caddesi in Ulus has been around for about sixty years and is a top of the line restorant mainly serving Iskender kebap.
"Papsi" is a good choice to take a cold beer in a friendly atmosphere for years. It is located on Tunali Street. "Kitir" and newer "Random" are two other most popular bars, adjacent to Kugulu Park, also in Tunali. Corvus is on Bestekar Street offering Rock Music. There are many bars and places to drink on that street which is parallel to Bestekar. The Edge, Twister, Hayyami (wine bar) are nice places. Sakal on Kennedy Street is a unique place with electronic, reggae or retro (offering different kinds of music). On the same street Mono is pleasant place to drink. Tunus Street, parallel to Bestekar is another street where you may find many pubs like Retrox, Flat, James Cook and Zodiac. If Performance Hall, Manhattan, Overall and Siyah-Beyaz are places where you can drink and dance till 4 am with live rock music. There normally are rock cover bands and a huge crowd, especially on Friday and Saturday nights in these places.
"Sakarya" is full of the cheapest solutions. Among the best places in Sakarya, one should note "Net", which is a good choice not only take a glass of beer or raki, but also to eat. "Buyuk Ekspres" is also a nice old bar of the town. Also Eski-Yeni, Pasaj and Telwe are nice bars where you may find rock or alternative live music styles with cheaper drink prices compared to Tunali, Cankaya region.
"Park Avenue" -in Konutkent district- is the new street for classy bars, cafes and night clubs. You may also find second branch of Kitir, Random & Crossroads in "Park Avenue". Istanbul's fashionable night club Sortie has also opened in this avenue and is a nice place to drink any kind of drinks and listen to latest club mixes. Narquilla is a great place to have your nargile while drinking beer and enjoying nice food. Also, there are meyhanes (tavern) in which fixed menus are served with drinks and classic Turkish music played. There are bars and restaurants also in the historic core of Ankara, close to citadel. You definitely have to go and return by taxi though.
Don't expect a lively gay life of Istanbul in Ankara. No-one comes to Ankara for its amazing gay life, however you can still enjoy your time while you are here. It has only one gay bar-club (Sixties) and this is open only on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. It gets pretty crowded after 00:00 and plays Turkish and Western pop music. In addition to that, though it is not a gay bar, Eski-Yeni Bar in Sakarya Caddesi (street) seems to attract a gay-lesbian crowd especially in its bottom floor. Kaos GL and Pembe Hayat, the leading queer organizations in Ankara, hold activities throughout the year.
The Sheraton Hotel, located in the Kavaklıdere district, is the most visible and glitzy hotel in Ankara (and has the prices to prove it). Around the corner from the Sheraton lies the Hilton, which is a bit past its prime but still a very acceptable place to stay.
The Radisson (located in Ulus, near the train station), the Swissotel (located on an obscure back alley in in Çankaya) and the Ramada (in Kavaklıdere, on fashionable Tunalı Hilmi street) are recent entrants, and offer very new-looking rooms that are nevertheless a tad smaller than those at the Sheraton or Hilton.
Independent hotels of note include the King Hotel (behind the Parliament, near the American Embassy), and Hotel Midas and Hotel Gold (both north of Kavaklidere on Tunus Caddesi).
Angora House in the Citadel district is a charming boutique hotel in an Ottoman era house.
In terms of budget accommodation, there is one hostel in the city center name is Deeps Hostel.Prices start from 25 tl to 40 tl.Web site is www.deepshostelankara.com. And also a number of cheap hotels can be found along Sanayi Caddesi, just north of Ulus Meydan: a double (en suite) at such hotels lists for 40-80YTL per night. Note that rates are usually negotiable and may or may not include breakfast.
Ankara is probably one of the safest big cities you will ever visit. Most people, including single female travellers, would very rarely encounter problems walking along the streets alone at night. Street crime is extremely rare, even late at night. However, "little crime" does not mean "no crime", and common sense should still be applied as anywhere in the world. Petty crime such as pickpocketing can occur, however, especially in crowded areas. Therefore, one should always take care of one's belongings and keep bags closed.
The biggest danger for travellers is the road traffic, because there is little respect for pedestrians. Every road should be crossed carefully and very quickly. Even if pedestrian traffic lights show green, it is absolutely essential to have a watchful eye. At crosswalks definitely look out before crossing the street.
Another danger for pedestrians is the sidewalks because they are often in a very poor condition. Because of the poor or irregular renovation of sidewalks, many of them have loose paving stones and holes in the asphalt. The risk of tripping and hurting oneself should not be underestimated.
Ankara Police Department has a "tourism police" section with staff multilingual in English, German, French, and Arabic.