Ankara: One Man’s Dream…

Turkey’s much maligned modern capital owes it’s current august status to the influence of one man, Mustafa Kemel Atatürk (the country’s founder and first president), who placed this strategically located, but otherwise unappealing, Anatolian backwater (formerly famous only for it’s wool) at the heart of a new nation.

On the Trail of the Grey Wolf

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Mutt on June 9, 2009

Turkey’s first president Mustafa Kemel Atatürk left and indelible mark on the country that he founded with an all-pervasive cult of personality (akin to the of Comrade Lenin in the Soviet Union, Chairman Mao in China and Uncle Ho in Vietnam) and nowhere is this more evident than in the little known Anatolian town that he chose to be its political capital with his mighty mounted statue (one of a multitude that dot the city and indeed the country) dominating the old town centre at Ulus.

The Grey Wolf’s statue gazes fixedly across a busy traffic intersection at the unassuming late-Ottoman era building where he first convened the country’s provisional parliament to guide the armed resistance against the Allied armies that sort to divide it up and which now houses the War of Liberation Museum in commemoration. Just down the road his story is continued in the Museum of the Republic where he reconvened the parliament in 1925 and got down to the hard work of running a country from forging coins and medals to passing crucial laws on permitted hats whilst still retaining time to don his tank top and kick back to some swinging LPs. Also look out for the ornate Ankara Palace opposite, which was the city’s first hotel and still serves visiting dignitaries.

The Grey Wolf’s story concludes just across town a few martinis later at Anıtkabir where his body was finally laid to rest in 1953, after spending the 15 years since his death pickled at the Ethnographic Museum and ironically considering the cause of death was cirrhosis many of the years preceding his death pickled as well, at a domineering memorial that presides of the inconsequential city he elevated to the international stage.

Ulus is the former heart of the city and whilst the well to do have long since followed the parliament in moving south to Kızılay, Kavaklıdere and Çankaya the area does manage to retain some faded charms. The accommodation here is comfortable and cheap but distinctly on the seedy side and those of a more discerning nature might want to hop a taxi south to the aforementioned Kavaklıdere and the Sheraton and Hilton hotels. The food and entertainment here is equally cheap and cheerful and once again you might want to head south to Kızılay for kebabs and beer or Kavaklıdere for cocktails and class.

All the major Turkish banks have their main branches in Ulus and most have ATMs connected up to the international networks. Exchange bureaus offering standard exchange rates also dot the street corners. Internet cafes are equally available offering speedy connections for around 1 TL an hour and might through in a cup of Turkish tea for free. The main post office is also here on Atatürk Bulvarι and the main tourist office is at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism at 67 Anfartalar Cad. or on the web at For bookshops however you’ll have to head to Kızılay.

Ulus is a major transport hub with city run red buses (Belideye), private blue busses (Halk) and over-packed minibuses (Dolmuş) running on routes all over the city from here for 1.70TL. The slowly evolving two-line Metro has a stop here useful for getting you to the shopping centres of Kızılay and the Mausoleum at Tandoğan, but little else, for a fee of 1.70TL. Combined Metro and bus tickets are available valid for 10 journeys for 14TL or 20 journeys for 28TL marking a significant saving but these are not accepted on Dolmuş or older busses.

Taxis are generally metered and reliable with day time rates (Gündüz 6am-midnight) at 1.7TL/100m and night time rates (Gece midnight-6am) at 2.2TL/100m plus waiting charge 1.75TL/5mins. HAVAŞ runs a shuttle bus service between Esenboğa Airport, AŞTI (Ankara Intercity Bus Station) and the company’s main terminal in Ulus for 10 TL. Tel: 0312 3980376; Web:

The Grey Wolf's final resting place

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mutt on May 21, 2009

Emerging from the Tandoğan metro station one finds an urban landscape as dominated by the imposing colonnaded façade of the great mausoleum as the cultural landscape of modern Turkey is dominated by its hallowed occupant, Mustafa Kemel Atatürk. The blue-eyed image of the legendary Grey Wolf is all-pervasive in the country he founded, with statues in every town square and portraits in every government office, shop and place of business, and his final resting place is the ideal location to learn more about the man behind the personality cult.

After depositing your bags at the security station you begin a long climb through the largely off-limits Peace Park, planted with trees from across Turkey and the world, to the 907m high summit of Rasettepe Hill where you are greeted by a somewhat uninspiring entrance flanked by the Tower of Independence (containing a scale model of the complex) and the Tower of Liberty (containing an informative photographic exhibition on its construction).

Two groups of statues by Turkish sculptor Hüsseyin Özkan representing the country’s women (in national costume in front of the Tower of Independence and men (a soldier, a scholar and a peasant in front of the Tower of Liberty) guard the start of the 262m long processional Lion Road, flanked by 24 stone Hittite-style lions, also by Özkan, interspersed with scrappy patches of grass to give it an overgrown look that does little to inspire, and focused on the 33.5m high flagpole that dominates 11km² ceremonial area at it’s conclusion.

The area is decorated with coloured tiles in traditional carpet designs and is surrounded by the Tower of Mehmetçik (containing a 60-seat cinema showing the modestly titled hagiographic documentary "Atatürk: The Name of the Sun"), the Tower of Victory (containing the gun carriage that transported his remains), the Tower of Peace (containing his official and ceremonial Lincoln cars), the Tower of April 23rd (containing his private Cadillac and trip boat), the Tower of Misâk-ı Millî (containing photos of official visits, including Barak Obama’s the day before mine, and the entrance to the Atatürk and War of Independence Museum), and the Tower of Defence of Rights (containing the ubiquitous gift shop).

The area is also home to the modest little sarcophagus of Atatürk’s close friend and successor İsmet İnönü which faces the much more immodest 42-stepped bronze-gated Neoclassical mausoleum of the Grey Wolf himself. The largely undecorated Hall of Honour focuses on a plain stone sarcophagus but as with İnönü’s this is purely ceremonial with the body buried far below.

Turkey is of course the home of the original Mausoleum (that of King Mausolus in Bodrum) and this modern manifestation is an essential pilgrimage for anyone in Turkey’s capital city, whether you’re a local, a tourist or the new U.S. President, and, coupled with the museum in the catacombs below, it makes for a pleasant little day trip, provided you avoid national holidays when the complex is the site of official ceremonies.
Anitkabir/Mausoleum of Kemal Atatürk
Monumental Avenue
Ankara, Turkey

Everything you wanted to know about the Grey Wolf...

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Mutt on May 21, 2009

Entered from the Tower of Misâk-ı Millî in Anıtkabir this subterranean exhibition tells the official story of the founding of the modern Republic of Turkey from the ruins of the decrepit Ottoman Empire in the 1920’s and the blue-eyed Grey Wolf who made it all necessary.

The first section displays the Grey Wolf’s personal belongings including an extraordinary array of weapons amongst which is a jewel encrusted Persian scimitar and a rifle concealed in a walking stick (which he is pictured firing), a painfully primitive looking rowing machine (which he is pictured rowing), some lovely looking silk pyjamas and ornate toilet set (which he is fortunately not pictured using), and the stuffed remains of Fox, his beloved dog, (which he is pictured petting, presumably when it was still alive).

The next section tells a dubiously one-sided history of the War of Independence from long before it’s beginning at the Battle of Gallipolis in 1915 (apparently included just to show him kicking allied butt) to its victorious conclusion at the Liberation of Izmir in 1922 (which passes over the Greeks being thrown into the sea) through the ever tacky medium of the panorama (which in my experience only the Czech’s can do justice to) and a gallery of particularly propagandistic paintings and portraits of grim generals.

The vaults below the Hall of Honour which were originally intended for the burial of other presidents of the republic till none of whom apparently appeared worthy and now contain dull and dusty photographic exhibits of the early days of the republic and of course the sealed burial chamber (visible via an entirely unnecessarily live CCTV feed) of the man himself surrounded by urns of earth from the provinces of Turkey, not to mention Northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan (I said don’t mention them), and whilst, unlike his latter icon-a-likes Lenin, Mao and Ho, his body has not been preserved he is still with us in what the tourist bureau bumf describes as a "superior wax statue", much like his icon-a-likes after-all then.

Finally you emerge into the Exclusive Library of Atatürk which following a massive refurbishment in 2005, that saw some of the collection’s more dubious exhibits (such as the six chickpeas he gave to his daughter and the photo of a cloud with his face) swept away, established the "Atatürk – Man of Reason" exhibition of his personal library of 3,123 books, to apparently emphasise his "intellectuality", in the old gallery.

Annexes to the museum in the other towers of Anıtkabir above contain his cars (although the one gifted by loyal admirer Adolf Hitler has also been recently swept away to the hidden archives), his trip boat, the gun carriage that transported his mortal remains, a 60-seat cinema showing the clearly unbiased documentary "Atatürk: The Name of the Sun", and a gift shop selling the usual kitsch watches and what-have-you, which round out the museum to give a intriguing introduction to the Grey Wolf and his modernising mission.

Where it all began

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mutt on May 21, 2009

The squat little Ottoman era schoolhouse that sits unassumingly amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Ankara on the crossroads of Ulus Meydani in the shadow of the mighty Ankara Citadel and under the ever watchful gaze of the Grey Wolf’s enormous equestrian monument seems an unlikely setting for the founding of a nation but nonetheless it was the provisional parliament convened here on April 23, 1920 that proclaimed the modern republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923 and continued to sit until 1925.

Entrance to the museum is via a shoddy little hut around the back where after purchasing a ticket and undergoing a desultory security check you will be ushered towards the unimposing main entrance where only the rusting remains of a large field gun gives a hint to the momentous events of the nations history that were played out in the cramped little offices and assembly rooms that lie within.

Upon entering the first rooms visited off of the long ornate corridor that runs the short length of a building is the prayer room which reminds one of the ever present Islamic underpinnings of the great secular state the Grey Wolf set out to found and his curiously contrasting private office where all the actual founding took place and which taken together give one of the finest insights into the schizophrenic nature of the nation that continues to dog it to this day.

Across the corridor an ornate board room remains laid out for the original delegates whose brief biogs are detailed in Turkish whilst in the adjoining rooms are the tables upon which the 1923 Turkish Declaration of Independence and the 1919 Congress of Sivas that preceded it were drafted and signed, all of which are commemorated by a lovely little tapestry and numerous paintings of the key events that line the walls.

Re-crossing the corridor one enters the cramped but atmospheric old school room where the delegates crammed themselves into the diminutive school desks watched over by the blue-eyed gaze of the Grey Wolf himself, whose presence in now represented by a well polished bust in pride of place and a video screen showing a melodramatic docudrama-style re-enactment of the events with impassioned Turkish actors playing out the parts of their founding fathers.

Beyond this a couple of dusty exhibition rooms display a vast array of the somewhat primitive looking weaponry wielded by the Turks in their anti-imperialistic War of Independence alongside Turkish language captioned photographs and personal artefacts of some of the more memorable patriots who deployed from their headquarters here to forge this curious new nation but by this point it really is all over bar the shooting.

Not one of the world’s great museums but there are worse ways to waste an hour in the somewhat seedy heart of the city.
Museum of the War of Independence
Kurtuluş Savaşi Müzesi, Cumhuriyet Bulvarι No. 14/22, Ulus
Ankara, Turkey
(0312) 3105361

More Where that Came From

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Mutt on May 21, 2009

Just down the road from the Liberation War Museum, this ornate little early republican construction was specially built to re-house the ever growing Turkish parliament and it was here that they sat from 1925 until 1960 when a vast modern complex was constructed for them down the road in Kızılay where they continue to sit to this day.

The shoddy little ticket booth sitting next to the curious ornate building is an exact replica of the one up at the War of Independence Museum and the staff maintain the same apparent desultory approach to security which is just enough to irritate but not enough to be of any real value and once passed this one is free to engage in vandalism to your heart’s content.

Entering through the ornate main entrance one passes some rather quaint antique coat hooks which seem more appropriate to a schoolhouse like the one they’d just moved from and help to humanise the whole experience in a way alien to most parliament buildings I’ve visited. Beyond this one is greeted by the massive visage of the Grey Wolf himself, projected onto the plain white wall to recount one of his blazing speeches in an eternal loop.

The three exhibition rooms beyond this pick up the story from where it left of at the end of the previous museum to tell of the early successes of the Turkish Republic in dusty old photographs, Turkish language captions and such illuminating artefacts as coins, banknotes, medals and a natty selection of hats. Occasionally these elements are drawn together such as the antique microphone accompanied by a picture of the Grey Wolf speaking into it and the mouldy old book accompanied by a picture of the Grey Wolf flicking through it to bring the whole thing to truly tedious life.

Across the hall one enters the parliamentary chamber itself with a massive wooden minbar even bigger than the previous one for the Grey Wolf to preach from where the Arabic inscription has been replaced by a Latin scripted one reading Hakimiyet Milletindir. This overlooks an ornate hall that demonstrates the early republics influences by seeming more suitable for observing the performances a Viennese chamber orchestra than the back and forth thrust of Westernised political debate.

The final three exhibition rooms back across the hall are dedicated to the first three presidents of the republic; M. Celâl Bayar is represented by his suit, top hat, gloves and in portrait and bust, İsmet İnönü is represented by suit, cufflinks, hairbrush and other personal artefacts and the Grey Wolf himself gets a double display to represent his formal side by suit, top hat, bowtie and cane and his fun side by LP’s, brogues and a rather flashy tank top which his is of course pictured wearing whilst playing with one of his many adopted children.

Not a major draw but if you’ve just been to the War of Independence Museum then you’ll have time to spare and you might as well finish the story.
Museum of the Republic

© LP 2000-2009