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Crowds gather at the Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara. Adem Altan / AFP
Crowds gather at the Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara. Adem Altan / AFP

Just ignore Ankara's first impressions

The Life: Decrepit, unappealing and incoherent, Ankara is hardly easy on the eye, and many buildings look like they were thrown onto the hillsides like dice. But then, first impressions of Turkey's capital typically do not last.

The rolling hills around Ankara were draped in grey as The National drove into town, while nightfall kept the visual exposure to Turkey's capital to a minimum on the way from the airport.

Just as well, for a glance out of the windows of the plush JW Marriott Hotel the following morning revealed a cityscape in which few inhabitants will take pride. The sky had remained overcast and few colours on the ground challenged its monotonous grey.

Decrepit, unappealing and incoherent, Ankara is hardly easy on the eye and many buildings look like they were thrown onto the hillsides like dice.

But it is unfair to blame a place for its weather and wrong to let first impressions dominate the narrative. For the business traveller, the city offers the highest standards in accommodation, no doubt a boon for the numerous professionals and diplomats coming to meet with the government.

A drab exterior does not prevent restaurants from serving up the finest local fare and Turkey is rightfully renowned for the quality of its kebabs. Ankara may not possess Istanbul's cultural and historical richness, but Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, made Ankara the capital, and the city is devoted to his memory.

The massive Atatürk Mausoleum, erected in stern neoclassical cubism, pays due tribute to the great man and houses an extensive museum. It is complemented by a range of other museums, Roman ruins and mosques. Furthermore, Ankara is placed amid impressive mountain ranges that combine lush grasslands with snowcapped peaks and jagged cliffs.

However, those who do not have time to explore the museums or the nature that lies on the city's doorstep will appreciate the smooth modernity and the rapid-fire frequency of flights in and out of its airport.



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