December is kind of a magical month – partly because it signals the final resolution of the year that has been lived, partly because it has the first intimations of the new one. It marks the beginning of winter, a changing of the atmosphere. The weather starts to express itself directly, saying that it will be cold, and there will possibly be snow. Through this grayish-whitish atmosphere, you see lights shining, people walking around wrapped in coats. There is the smell of new food in the kitchen, new fruits and new tastes from the changing natural world.
December is a magical month, and when I imagine it, there is always an image of a city in winter that comes to my mind. This city can be anywhere that you are, and I will argue here that you actually don’t need to go far; Ankara is fine.
Ankara has always been called a “cold” city, and not only because of the temperature. For my part, even though I might agree that Ankara has its cold, “gray” side, I actually like it here, and I like to find the things that make wherever I am beautiful. For me, December is a favorite month, and maybe it’s because the actual cold of the month fits with the coldness of the city so well that Ankara is beautiful in December too. And so it is, in this December that has just started.
The Bilkent Symphony Orchestra opened the month for Ankara with a concert called “Mist and Snow” on December 1. Mist has a greater probability of occurring, with snow being rarer nowadays – although it should snow in the normal course of nature. Imagining that it did or will snow this month, here are some ideas of what to do:
For the first days of snow, I would recommend joining the group of people who meet in Seğmenler Park to have a snowball fight. Arrangements for this are made on social media, but even without checking there, if you go to the park after it snows, you’ll find this very fun, if cutthroat, snowball fight going on. After getting tired and probably wet, you can go, as is traditional, to Tunus Street and have some soup or salep.
You can also go to Kurtuluş Park when it snows, and walk between the splendid old trees that have witnessed many Decembers before you. Or, go to Kuğulu Park, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to watch the beautiful swans sailing through the snowflakes and competing with the whiteness of the park. Walk along Tunalı, watch the crowd, and imagine what people want or where they’re heading. Smell the scents of the street, hear some street musicians’ melodies. Find some antique shops, or browse the shelves of a bookstore if you like.
Moving on to Kızılay, find the Büyülü Fener Theater, the city’s oldest cinema. The Ankara Cinema Association is holding its Festival on Wheels this month, as it has every December since 1995. Movies from all around the world will screen at the Büyülü Fener, and also at the Çankaya Contemporary Arts Center, through December 6.
Speaking of the Contemporary Arts Center, the number of cultural centers in Ankara is increasing these days. This month, you can visit the exhibition “The Characters of Yusuf Franko,” an Ottoman bureaucrat’s caricatures of the opera singers and painters, pashas and efendis, madames and monsieurs of his social milieu, at the Zülfü Livaneli Cultural Center.
More exhibitions: See Mustafa Salim Aktuğ’s paintings at the Atlas Art Gallery through December 21, or go to what’s more popular right now and visit CerModern to view the Mexican sculptor Jorge Marin’s “The Reconstruction of the Being.” Or just walk through the city and realize once again that there are beautiful sculptures all over, some of which have resisted the changes of time and politics. See the Trust Monument in Güvenpark, standing in all its glory. See once again the Victory Monument in Ulus, or the “Hands” sculpture in Abdi İpekçi Park, the “Ballerinas” on Cinnah or the famous, respectful “Miner” on Olgunlar Street.
Theater too, is always a good idea. For an example, the play “Piraye,” based on the letters of Nazım Hikmet, will be performed at the Cüneyt Gökçer Theater on Çayyolu on December 24. The International Ankara Theater Festival also takes place this December. Or, you can see plays featuring mostly amateur casts at nearly any theater in Ankara. On December 19, laugh a bit with the popular comedy sketch group Mahşer-i Cümbüş at the METU Culture and Convention Center.
The Meb Şura Concert Hall will offer a triple feast of music this month: a concert by Evgeny Grinko on December 11, a “Tribute to Frank Sinatra” on December 12 and the musical “Time of the Gypsies” on December 13. You can also enjoy the songs of MFÖ on the 8th and Vega on the 22nd of this month. If you miss the concerts, I suggest that you walk around, and at least listen to the song “Ankara,” with Deniz Özbey singing about how the rain slowly turns into snow.
With snow or without it, this December view the city and Anıtkabir from high above in the Atakule again. Attend the New Year’s Concert on December 26 in the Bilkent Concert Hall; visit Lake Mogan, or Lake Eymir, or both. Find nature. Find art, either where it is explicitly on display, or where what is implicitly artistic is waiting around the corner.
And even if you don’t have time for any of this, buy some chestnuts from a street vendor. I promise you, it will make you feel warm, not only physically, but socially and emotionally as well.