These days just about everyone could name the capital of Turkey correctly in a pub quiz, which goes to show how far Ankara has come in the public consciousness since the days when ‘İstanbul’ seemed like the only possible answer.
Turkey’s equivalent of the ‘Bible Belt’, conservative Konya treads a delicate path between its historical significance as the home town of the whirling dervish orders and a bastion of Seljuk culture on the one hand, and its modern importance as an economic boom town on the other. Luckily the city derives considerable charm from this juxtaposition of old and new.
Every town in Turkey has its old Ottoman houses, but Safranbolu, the valley town at the heart of the new restoration movement, takes it to a different level: virtually the entire old Ottoman town has been preserved and now spruced up to such good effect that it made it onto the Unesco World Heritage list.
Set in a ravine hemmed in between two great ridges of rock, bisected by the Yeşilırmak River, lined with fairytale Ottoman houses, Amasya has a certain fantasy air about it, an ethereal quality to the organic loveliness of the location that makes it feel almost as if it shouldn’t exist at all. Luckily, though, it does.
Here is where we laid the foundations of our republic. Atatürk Grand words, but then, like Amasya, Sivas is assured a place in Turkish hearts thanks to the role it played in the run-up to the War of Independence, when the halls of the Congress building resounded with plans, strategies and principles as Atatürk and his adherents discussed their great goal of liberation.