Today we start with a walk in the rain at Kugla Park, a popular park near Tunali Hilmi. It looks a bit miserable here with the weather being so dull and full of rain but this is a pleasant park to visit especially in good weather. Kugla Park is an old and established park in Ankara. In English it means Swan Park.
Leading up to the New Year the park has festive stalls and decorations. Foreign visitors will often remark that they miss the Christmas atmosphere in their own countries at this time of year, and whilst all the decorations in Turkey look the same, they are actually there for the New Year. Personally I find it quite festive at this time of the year regardless of why they are there. Many of the shopping centres and individual shops have done a fine job of decorating their interiors.
Tunali Pasaj is one of the oldest shopping centres in Ankara. It used to be one of the best shopping arcade’s in Ankara during its heyday but it is now dwarfed and a little forlorn against the glitz, size and scale of the new developments.
As we walk on towards Kizilay with its mix of modern and old shopping centres, full of the branded goods and products from all over the world. You can find almost everything here. Take a walk down Sakarya Street with its flower stalls, restaurants and coffee houses. Kizilay is named after the Kizilay Dernegi, The Turkish Red Crescent equivalent of the Red Cross charity whose headquarters used to be in Kizilay Square.
Anıtkabir is the Turkish name for the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, literally translated as Memorial Tomb. Designed by Turkish architects this is the final resting place for the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey.
You won’t find Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s tomb since it is in the basement and not open to the public but this is also the final resting place of İsmet İnönü who became the second President of Turkey. His tomb faces the actual Mausoleum on the opposite side of the large central square or Ceremonial Ground.
The Anıtkabir foundation stones were laid in 1944 and would take 9 years before it was finally completed. A variety of stone and marble was collected from around Turkey and used on the interior.
The Mausoleum consist of 4 areas. These are, the Road of Lions, the Ceremonial Plaza, The Hall of Honor ,with Atatürk’s symbolic 40 ton sarcophagus ( his body is buried below this level in a special Tomb Room in the basement ) and the Peace Park around the memorial.
The Road of Lions is 262 metres long and lined on both sides by 12 pairs of lions representing Turkic Tribes. The Ceremonial Plaza is large enough to accommodate 15,0000 people.
The Peace Park is the area around the memorial and Ceremonial Plaza. It was named after Atatürk’s famous words “Peace at home, Peace in the World” and it contains approximately 50,000 trees and plants, many of which have been donated from other countries.
The Mausoleum is the most important tourist destination in Ankara. People from all over the country and further afield come to pay their respects to this great leader. Visitors can see personal items that once belonged to him, including two of his cars, a Cadillac Series 80. As you walk through the long corridors there is plenty to see and experience. The Art Gallery area has some amazing wall murials depicting the War of Independence and a number of extremely good paintings. We respected the request not to film in this area as both video and camera shots are not allowed in this part of the museum or in halls 1 and 2.
Mustafa Kemal was born on 19th May 1881 and served in the Ottoman army. With his success in thwarting the allied attacks at Gallipoli he led the War of Independence against the old Ottoman Empire and succeeded. His reforms in terms of political, educational and economic were far reaching. He had a vision and strived to turn Turkey into a westernized secular nation state.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s reforms were so numerous and influential in the development of the Turkish Nation that to list them here would not do him justice. His name lives on in Turkey and he was, still is, so revered that the Turkish Parliament granted him the surname Atatürk in 1934, which means “Father of the Turks”, in recognition of the role he played in building the modern Turkish Republic.
When visiting Ankara then the Anıtkabir should be number one on your list of places to visit. Try and get your timing right so that you experience the changing of the guards. If you ask as soon as you arrive they will inform you of the time of the next handover.
Finally there is a souvenir shop where you can purchase a reminder of your visit. Well, that’s it from the Anıtkabir.