This week’s dream: Ankara—Turkey’s second city

Turkey’s capital too often gets overshadowed by Istanbul.

Ankara too often gets overshadowed by Istanbul, said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. Turkey’s capital has only 4.5 million residents to Istanbul’s 14 million, and it has a reputation for being less fun—a Washington, D.C., to Istanbul’s New York City. But don’t let the concentration of universities and foreign embassies give you the wrong impression. Ankara is more than a place to study or practice diplomacy. It’s a pleasingly disorderly city—“energetic, loud, and alive, so very alive.”

I stayed recently in the historic Ulus quarter, buying my daily provisions at a market where the vendors routinely threw in extra fruits or vegetables for free. Whenever you look up in this district, “your eyes inevitably bump into the citadel, a colossal structure of towers and walls shaped by the hands of many civilizations (Hittite, Byzantine, Galatian, etc.).” One late afternoon, I entered through a dramatic archway and climbed ragged steps to a wall where I could sit watching boys playing soccer below me. At 5:57, a booming voice called Muslims to prayer, so I followed the faithful to Haci Bayram, Ankara’s most sacred mosque. Passing through a courtyard that contains the ruins of a Roman temple, I padded into the mosque though the women’s entrance, hiding my hair under my jacket’s hood. While children played around us, the women “remained deep in prayer, their covered heads bowed toward Mecca.”

My favorite hangout was a furniture shop run by a friendly man named Ahmet Geyikoglu. He’d invited me in for tea on my first afternoon in Ankara, and I kept returning to paw through his beautiful carpets and talk about the day’s plans. Finally, I playfully told him I wanted a chair, a stool, and a bench, but he ignored the chance to make a big sale while bubble-wrapping the least expensive of my requests and tucking in a complimentary kilim-covered pillow. Unexpectedly, “I had discovered Ankara’s true spirit in a rug seller’s cramped shop.”

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At the luxury boutique hotel Divan Ankara Cukurhan (, doubles start at $136.

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