Ankara is a very interesting city for a tourist because it isn’t very touristy. I felt like I was seeing an actual Turkish big city, though I’m aware that most of Istanbul is less touristy than the area I have been staying in. (Interesting side note, I felt like I saw fewer women wearing headscarves in Ankara than in Istanbul.)
In the morning, I went to the museum at Ataturk’s Mausoleum. There were so many Turkish tour buses and school groups! It’s necessary to understand what Ataturk is to Turks in order to understand Turkey today, I think. He pretty much single-handedly revolutionized the country, being the prime figure in (literally) fighting for and creating the Republic of Turkey, switching to a Western alphabet, ensuring women’s rights, separating religion and the state (and its application to the legal system by removing religious law), even setting up last names since they didn’t really previously exist in Turkey. As my liberal hotel manager here states quite simply, he loves Ataturk. And really, love him or hate him (as many of the country’s very religious conservatives may), he elicits really strong feelings. I can understand that, although such a strong feeling about one man seems very much like a personality cult to my foreign eyes. It’s like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and JFK wrapped up in one person. I’m not sure other countries really have a single person like that.
The mausoleum is huge, with a museum about Turkey’s war for independence, and is situated on top of a hill in a park. I spent much of the morning there, learning some history and even more learning about Turks’ perceptions of their own history.
After the Ataturk museum, I went to what for me was the prime attraction in Ankara, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Sadly about half of it was closed, rendering the audio guide that I rented rather superfluous, but I did enjoy seeing the Hittite friezes and the beautiful delicate sculptures of a much later Anatolian civilization that I’m not sure I’d ever heard of before (something like Ururtians). Interestingly, the museum had just acquired some Trojan jewelry from the University of Pennsylvania.