Since the past few weekends had involved a lot of buses, trains and planes, we thought we would take it easy this weekend to catch up on some sleep and recharge. Winter has come and gone in Ankara and now is the time to enjoy the many cafés and restaurants of Ankara while basking in the sun. So at some what-would-considered-decent time in the morning, we headed up to Hamamönu, one of the oldest districts in Ankara, which has recently been converted into a pedestrian area, the first one to open in 20 years in Ankara.
Hamamönu can be described as being a small old Anatolian town with old style Turkish houses which have now been converted into shops, cafés and restaurants where you can sit and just watch the world go by. While there is a lot of restoration work going on, most of the area is open to the public and Despite being near the city centre, it is surprisingly free of the metropolitan buzz that can be felt and heard nearly everywhere in Ankara. The square at the beginning of what is considered Hamamönu is has been dedicated to Mehmet Akif Eresoy, the famous poet who wrote the national anthem of Turkey, with a statue of him and a clock tower under his name. Opposite the square lies the Kacabey Hamam, the oldest hamam still operating in Turkey. Definitely planning a trip there soon!
Walking up the main street, we settled on a cute (breakfast house) which offered several breakfast options and unlimited tea service – definitely what pushed us towards this particular one. There are several kahvaltı evi‘s along the few streets that comprise Hamamönu, all offering different options so it is worthwhile to walk and have a look before making your choice. Some are usually more popular than others – ours was definitely one of the most popular which meant a lot of waiting time although the food was definitely worth it. For a fixed price (usually 10 TL), you can have a combination of anything or even everything on the menu, and you can even ask the waiter to bring you more food if what you ordered initially wasn’t enough. No need to say that we ended up eating too much.
After brunch, we headed to the square which could be describe as an art centre, with small studios where local artists display their works. A bit further ahead were some çay (tea) houses where the old as well as the young were sitting down probably catching on the week while enjoying the glorious weather. Our little adventure led us to the Mehmet Akif Culture House and Park. The Haci Musa (Seyfeddin) Mosque, founded in 1421 and which is famous for its wooden framework and gates is also found in the park although we didn’t make a stop there.
Instead we headed straight to Ankara Kalesi (castle/citadel) passing a few museums on the way including the Cengelhan Rahmi M. Koc Müzesi, a private industrial museum which a great restaurant from what I heard. As you walk through the front gate, you come some carpets and rugs shops, a few restaurants in the midst of which is the Alettin Cami which dates from the 12th century. I’d recommend good walking shoes as the way up to the citadel is quite steep and rough. However the climb is definitely worth all the pain and sweat when you can just sit on the highest walls and take in the panoramic city views.
Our last stop for the day was the Museum of Anatolian Civlisation (costing around 15 TL from what I remember, got my Museum card done so free entrance for me). The museum basically brings the complex past of Turkey together under one roof through different artifacts from excavations site in Anatolia. Reliefs and statues are displayed on the grounds and the downstairs halls held classical Greek and Roman artefacts as well as an exhibition on the history of Ankara. Unfortunately the other rooms were close for restoration purposes – an excuse to go again when they are opened to the public.
After getting some sherbet, apparently one of the popular drinks during Ottoman times, as well as postcards from the museum shop, we made our way back home passing through the traditional Turkish bazaar at which we did some shopping with a lot of bargaining of course.
Happy Easter everyone!