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Capital of Turkey since 1923. Near the geographical centre of Turkey, Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, moved the capital here from decadent Istanbul, which in any case, was too close to the borders to be defended effectively. From a tiny unimportant provincial town, Ankara has since become a huge (and yes, polluted) city of 5 million people. While Istanbul prides itself with the glories of the Ottoman Empire, Ankara presents itself as the icon of the ancient Hittite past (which nationalistic Turkish historians claim as the "earlier" Turks) and of the secular Turkish Republic of today. Apart from public statues displaying Hittite symbols (e.g., the Symbol of the Sun God - a deer with antlers spread out like a rising sun) and exhibits in the world-class (but small) Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (with its rich collection of Hittite and Assyrian relics), little remained of its 3000 year-old past.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938)
Ankara is the city of Ataturk, and a "pilgrimage" to his Mausoleum was also de rigeor for visitors to this city. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) - a brave army officer who rallied the Turkish people to defend what's left of the country after the First World War. He expelled foreign forces from Turkey, crashed the Armenians in the East ( - this remains a controversial episode in Turkish history, and mars Turkish relations with the newly independent Republic of Armenia even today) and routed the invading Greeks in the West. Then he declared Turkey a republic and set about modernizing (- some say Europeanizing) the country. He declared Turkey secular, romanised the Turkish alphabet, and even banned traditional Turkish costumes. His move to ban the Turkish turban, sparked off the "Hats War", which led to thousands of death, was just of his many controversial moves.

Click here to find out more about Atatürk - life and facts about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey

Kocatepe Mosque ; The historic Hisar (or Citadel) ; Ataturk's Mausoleum
He was made a kind of cult figure after his death...His statues and portraits are everywhere - on banknotes, coins, stamps, and almost every office, shop and home. My hotel lobby in Ankara, for example, has 3 of his photos ! The enormous mausoleum complex situated in the heart of the city is evidence of the reverence the Turkish people have for the founder of the Turkish Republic. The Turkish leaders of today claim allegiance to Ataturk's legacy and ideas, but has been coming under increasing pressures as people become disillusioned by the country's failure to become part of the European Union. Islam is back in vogue again, and the Islamic Welfare Party had won the most votes in the recent elections. And again, Ataturk's idea of Turkey as a single nation state also come under tremendous strain as Turkish politicians are unable to offer greater autonomy to the Kurds without breaching Ataturk's legacy for this nation. Will Ataturk's ideas continue to be relevant to the Turkey of today ? Only time can tell...

After Ankara, I returned the Istanbul where I went shopping in the city's legendary bazaars and took a cruise on the Bosphorous. And I finally returned home on 23 June, after an one month-odyssey across the Balkans and Turkey.

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