Ankara — the city of decline and rebuilding

The secrets of Turkey’s historic capital of cool

As a boy I spent long summer days spent in the old city of Ankara. Its proximity to the sea and the mountains, the old stone fort, the old monuments and narrow alleyways, gave it a distinct character, in my view. And Ankara has a very particular feel to it. In the early 1980s, the city experienced a dramatic transformation, when its old centre was demolished, and a new one was built in its place. I went to Ankara as a young man, and in those days, the place was almost deserted.

On the first day of the summer term at my first college, my friends and I visited the ruins in the old city of Ankara

I went there again a few years ago as a young man – and that emptiness has been replaced, in my view, by a new spirit of creativity, a great deal of modern architecture and a unique atmosphere.

Turkish capital

The capital of Turkey

A different Ottoman city

The city of Ankara is a city with a very old soul. The story of this city is one of decline and rebuilding. You can trace the history of this city in the old quarter around it – I can tell you stories about the houses that were built here over the course of history. I remember that the Büyükada district was used to house Jewish families. A Jewish school was located here, and in the 1950s it was torn down. A Jewish burial ground was also moved here. When I was young and my grandparents lived in Ankara, I used to go to this Jewish cemetery on my bicycle – it was a short trip up the hill from the old city centre – to visit my grandfather. It was the Jewish cemetery where the old Jews were buried, when they were alive. In a building that was built here around 2000 BC, another Jewish cemetery was built. In the early days of Jewish history, a Jewish rabbi was buried here. You can see the beautiful synagogue in the corner of this courtyard.

The old house where my grandfather lived

The story of the Ottoman city of Ankara is very rich, and its history goes back a long time. When the Ottomans conquered this district in the 14th-century, they built a mosque in 1536 in the same place and the street used to be called Sultanahmet. In 1550, the street was known as Galata

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