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Kizilay Square
Kizilay Square © Ahmetan
East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey's capital of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among office buildings, shopping malls, and government offices. The city is imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth: a student town filled with language schools, universities, and colleges. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia, this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and has been a part of historic events through several great civilisations, including those of the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Galatians, and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today's tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city's historic attractions.

With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a deserving capital city, aptly described as the 'anchor' of Turkey. While it is perhaps not always sought after by tourists it is certainly entertaining and hosts many business travellers and those seriously intrigued with ancient history. The old heart of the city, Ulus, is centred on an ancient citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been restored. Many of these buildings have been turned into restaurants served traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices, and jewellery.

From the old city outwards, the buildings spread across various hills in carefully planned fashion. This planning was undertaken by European urban planners when revolutionary-turned-statesman, Mustafa Ataturk, set up provisional government in a small dusty town in 1920, just after the first World War. Ataturk is buried in a grand mausoleum called Anitkabir, in a green 'peace' park which is open to visitors.

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