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 www.kulturturizm.gov.tr. 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: http://www.havas.com.tr.