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TRAVEL > The walls, towers of Ankara Castle

Wilco van Herpen ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

As I wrote last week, for me one of the best parts of being in Ankara is visiting the castle. But visiting this place is not complete without the upper part of the castle; the towers and the walls of the castle

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The location of Ankara Castle was chosen very well, as the defenders of the castle could see the enemy approaching from far away. One of the most interesting places in the upper part of the castle is an oval-shaped inner place. Photo by Wilco van Herpen

The location of Ankara Castle was chosen very well, as the defenders of the castle could see the enemy approaching from far away. One of the most interesting places in the upper part of the castle is an oval-shaped inner place. Photo by Wilco van Herpen

Atatürk made a very clever and strategically important decision when he made Ankara the capital of Turkey. To break once and for all with the Ottoman Empire, he decided to move the capital. Istanbul was a very difficult place to defend and the English, French, Germans and Russians were fighting over how to divide Turkey.

Somewhere in the middle of the huge plains of Anatolia there was a little place once called Agora (nowadays Ankara). This became Atatürk’s first choice. Ankara was a small place, hardly anybody had heard of it. That is something else nowadays. All countries have their embassies in Ankara. When the Dutch learned that Ankara would become the capital of Turkey and they realized that they had to move their embassy to Ankara, they were complaining about the cost that would come with it. “We already have such a big place in Istanbul to look after and maintain. On top of it Ankara will be too expensive.” But after some nagging the Dutch too opened their place in Ankara.

Nowadays Ankara is a big city with a lot of things going on. Almost every day there is a demonstration, almost every week another state official invited by the president visits Ankara and restaurants, shopping malls and museums open their doors.

As I wrote last week, for me one of the best parts of being in Ankara is visiting the castle. But visiting this place is not complete without the upper part of the castle; the towers and the castle’s walls. I would not recommend going there if you have a fear of heights because wherever you walk there is no railing protecting you. Walking on the walls I would recommend not approaching the sides of the walls too much since the castle’s walls are high, very high. But is also the lack of railings is what makes it more adventurous and gives a more authentic feeling to visiting the castle.

Panoramic view of Ankara

Walking around on the big, impressive walls I felt like I was tiny. I was happy that there was not too much wind because, being one of the highest places of Ankara, the old castle catches all the wind. God forbid but one gust and you might fall down. Under my feet I saw Ankara and walking around I had a marvelous panoramic view of the city. Far, far down I saw people walking and cars driving but nobody was aware of me watching them. This is the strange thing with the castle. It makes you feel big like a giant but at the same time you feel as tiny as an ant.

The upper walls are so thick that at least six people can walk there side by side without feeling scared they might fall from the wall. It was easy also for the archers who, during times of war, had to defend the castle. Besides that, the castle was strong, very strong so when the canons of the enemy were spitting out their deadly and destructive load, it was very difficult to breach the walls. The place of the castle was chosen very well. The defenders of the castle could see the enemy approaching from far away. It must have been a sheer impossibility to attack the castle by surprise and even then, being situated on this very high and steep hill there was no way to suddenly stand in front of one of the main gates. What a difference from Holland. All the castles there are in the middle of the flat countryside, usually protected by man-made canals or rivers. But the enemy could approach the castle at a distance that would be suitable for their canons to attack. And then, when they made breaches in the walls all they needed were boats, lots of boats to finish the attack.

One of the most interesting places in the upper part of the castle is an oval-shaped inner place. I could not work out what the purpose of this place must have been. Was it a prison? Was it a place where they kept their ammunition? I really do not know. I looked at the Internet but could not find the answer. So if someone knows the purpose of this inner place, I would really appreciate it if you can give me an answer.

April/18/2012

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