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Friday, 27 March 2015


Ottoman Obsession

Ottoman Time Warp

Yoruk Time Warp | Turkey | in-depth travel advice from Terra Encounters
Yörük Köyü is a priceless village ten kilometers east of Safranbolu.  Köyü means village.  I would like to say Yörük is magically hidden from the main road but that would be a fairy tale.  What is real is that you travel back in time to a village that is wall-to-wall Ottoman houses in stately decay.  At first you think nothing has changed. Then you notice the satellite dishes.

The name Yörük means “walkers”, which is very appropriates since it was populated by Turkish nomads who migrated west from the Central Asian homeland over centuries. 

Now as we near the end of our trip, it is time to review some of the significant facts about how the Turkey has affected the whole world.

Turkish Impact

Main Street
The Turks were nomadic, warrior tribes that invented pants, which were better suited to a horse riding culture.  They migrated west into Persia and introduced trousers to Persian culture. At the Istanbul Archaeology Museums we saw a freeze with tunic wearing Greeks under Alexander the Great.  At first, the Greeks derided pants worn by the Persians.  After Alexander conquered Persia, he promoted Persian clothes and culture.  New ideas were spread back to the west.  Today, pants have won out!  The Turks score another impact.
The Greek conquest had a long lasting influence on Turkey, providing many of the tourist sights of today -- not to forget the large Greek population until 1923.  The reason for the central role of Turkey is that Istanbul and Ephesus served as the terminus of the Silk Trade Routes.  That was a major impact! 
Not Topkapi Palace

In the Topkapi Palace Paradise post we discovered that the Turks are not from Turkey.  They came from the Central Asia.  The Turks are believed to have originated from the Xiongnu, also known as the "Northern Barbarians" – the bane of the Han Dynasty and cause for the Great Wall! 
Narrow Side Street
Western Turkish is part of the Turkic language group. This includes 110 million people — Azeri, Turkmen, Kazakh, Tartar, and Uzbek — who originated from Central Asia.  Even Japanese and Korean, Finnish and Hungarian are distantly related to the Turkic languages.

Ottoman Ceiling Tile

The Turks migrated west and conquered Anatolia from the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire.  Then they conquered the only part of the empire that was left, Constantinople, in 1453.  Greek and Roman scholars and their books emigrated from the centre of Ancient Greek and Roman learning.  This in turn accelerated the Renaissance in the West.
Dusk in Yörük
After  the   Turks   conquered Constantinople in 1453, their dynasty became known as the Ottomans (Osman in Turkish) and ruled for 624 years.  This huge empire had a profound effect on all their territories from Baghdad to Budapest and from Mecca to Algiers.  However, Ottoman control of the Silk Roads led Europeans to search for new routes to the Far East.  This led to improvements in naval power and navigation, the discovery of America and the path to Asia, not to mention the conquest of most of the world.  Major impact! 
End of Day
There are very few locals today but it is winter and apparently the people work elsewhere and only come here in the summer.   So Yörük is fitting name for a nomadic people that are still "walking around".  In the past, they moved seasonally with their flocks of sheep and goats to take advantage of better pasture.  Today they use trucks to move animals between pastures. 
Next Post: İncekaya High

Friday, 20 March 2015

Safranbolu Carsi

Ottoman Obsession

Ottoman Obsession from Ring Road
Safranbolu has many Ottoman Delights.  In fact, it is famous for both its Turkish Delight desserts and its timber-framed Ottoman houses.  Moreover, you can even sleepover in an Ottoman bedroom such as Raşitler Bağ Evi.  Another reason to come here is to visit one of the surrounding towns, such as Yörük, which is stocked with even more impressive Ottoman houses. 

Verdant Views

Sprinkled Fields

 The old city was built in a deep valley for protection from winter winds.  What we had not expected were the gorgeous views of Ottoman houses sprinkled with green fields from the ridge road that encircles high above the old town. 

Ottoman Obsession

The arc-shaped road starts east from the Sadri Artunc circle in the Baglar district as Çelik Gulersoy Caddessi, changes names to Kaya Erdem Cd., back to Çelik Gulersoy Cd. to Celal Bayar Cd. We are giving you the names so you can find the route on Google maps.  Don't worry about the name changes as you'll be too busy looking at the views to even notice the street signs.

Near Hidirlik Hill

It will be easy to follow the curving road south to Hidirlik Hill.  While there are good views from the park, our favourite views can be found along the way by parking wherever we could find a wide enough shoulder area.
Mandatory Mosque



Safranbolu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site mainly because the old town, called Çarşi, is very well preserved.  If you have visited Istanbul or Bursa, you will have already seen the name Çarşi (pronounced char shi) because it means bazaar.  The old city housed places where many goods were manufactured and sold.

Man Stop


There has been a settlement in Safranbolu since the Hittites, one of the Proto-Indo-European (aka Aryan) tribes that was first to migrate west from the Caucasus region about 3600 years ago!  

Kervan Sarai

It later became an Ottoman caravan stopover on the route from Istanbul to the east. For that reason there are Kervan Sarai (caravanserai) in Safranbolu.  In fact this one is still a roadside inn.  

Çarşi Konak

While we think of the konaks (mansions) as Ottoman, they are descendants of Hittite architecture.  According to Ibrahim Canbula, this building technique dates back as far as 7500 years ago!!!  Some of the key elements are beautiful stone wall on the ground story, bright white stucco interspersed with wood beams above that, and overhanging wood-framed windows.  The interiors, as in Raşitler Bağ Evi, are even more spectacular.   

Left Side
Right Side

Cinci Hamami

The elaborate, multi-domed building is Cinci Hamami.   Built in 1645, it's hard to believe that this Turkish bath is still in use.  But it was more than a place for a bath or massage.  This was where you caught up on the latest gossip or closed business deals.  
Shelling Nuts

Preparing Tourist Crafts?

Looking the Other Way
Leaving the Main Square

Safranbolu specialized in leather goods in Ottoman times.  Yemeniciler is an old guild bazaar where shoes called yemeni were made.  Built in 1661, it consists of an oval of 48 wooden shops that now sell tourist souvenirs. 

Beautiful Fountain

From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route.  This not only brought great prosperity, Safranbolu had a great influence on urban development over a large area of the Ottoman Empire.

Demircilar Street?
Iztuzu Mehmet Pasha Mosque

Iztuzu Mehmet Pasha Mosque
Down the hill, is a square shaped mosque topped with a bowl-shaped dome.  Iztuzu Mehmet Pasha Mosque was built entirely of cut stone by Grand Vizier Mehmet Pasha in 1796.  He was Grand Vizier (prime minister) three times, very unusual.
The railroad was built 10 km west of Safranbolu to service the new iron industry. As a result, Karabük became the main administrative and commercial centre.  The net result was the diminution of Safranbolu, which resulted in the preservation of the historical centre.

Saffron Cure


But why did this town become a major stop on the caravan routes?  If you thought the name of Safranbolu sounds like saffron then you are right.  Bolu is derived from polis, the Greek word for city.

This area was a major saffron growing and selling centre.  While Iran produces 90% of saffron today, it was originally native to Greece and Turkey.  Why is saffron so expensive? It is one of the world's most costly spices because saffron comes from the slender stigma (flower) part of the plant.
Little One
But why was saffron so esteemed?  Sure, it is an extremely powerful dye but that would hardly drive up the price.  It was esteemed for its use in perfumes and medicine.  This reputation was enhanced by history. 

During his Asian campaigns, Alexander the Great used Persian saffron in his infusions, rice, and baths as a curative for battle wounds.  Alexander's troops imitated the practice from the Persians and brought saffron-bathing to Greece.  In Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra – who was Greek by the way, a descendant of one of Alexander’s generals – used saffron in her baths so that lovemaking would be more pleasurable.

The 14th-century Black Death caused the demand for saffron-based medications to peak, and Europe imported large quantities of threads via Venetian and Genoan ships from Mediterranean lands. 

Kaymakamlar Museum

Kaymakamlar Muze on Hidirlik Yokusu Sokak was the konak (mansion) of a military commander.  In fact the name is derived from Kaim Makam, or lieutenant colonel, the rank of the owner.  It offers a pamphlet for a self-guided tour but the information provided is very sparse.  The museum could be better by explaining more about Ottoman culture and make us connect with the people.  

The Men's Room


In fact, our impression was that Raşitler Bağ Evi is more beautiful than this house.  The main plus of the museum are the mannequins that depict the typical use of the rooms as well as the dress of the inhabitants. 

View Distorted by Window



While it is a large building, it had to house an extended family.  All rooms were used for living, working, and dining.  The rooms have a minimum of fixed furniture other than a divan along a wall. 

The Women's Room

The most interesting artefact is a whirling closet that enabled the women to serve food to men from outside the family in another room without being seen!  The rooms served as bedrooms at night when the beds are rolled out of the closets onto the floors.

The richly carved chestnut and pine wood ceilings are also very special.

Sweet Safranbolu

To end on a sweet note, Safranbolu is famous for is sweet (helva) morsels (lokum).  
Don't Look - You'll Just Get Hungry

Halva (helva in Turkish) is Arabic for dessert or sweet.  The delicious one we grew up with is the nut butter type made from tahini (sesame) paste that may also contain pieces of nuts like pistachios.  It often comes in chocolate or vanilla flavours.

Have some lokum

Turkish Delight in Turkish is called lokum, which means morsel or mouthful.  This contagious confection try just eating one was invented in Ottoman times (1777). 
Lokum is made of a gel of starch and sugar sprinkled with icing sugar.  It may also contain coconut, hazelnut, and even rosewater flavourings.  It is the precursor to the American jelly bean (Boston 1861)!!! 

The shop in the old city offers tasters.  Another excellent store is Safran Tat on the east side of the Sadri Artunc circle next to the petrol station in the upper town. 

 The baklava were delicious!  In fact, Safran Tat may be one of the best places in the country.  It’s time to fuel up for your next Ottoman Delight, Yörük, in our next post. 
Last Post:  Safranbolu Essence

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


Safranbolu Essence

Safranbolu Surprise
Safranbolu's quiet, picturesque setting is lined with timber-framed Ottoman houses and mosques set among green fields and hills.  Plus one can visit other Ottoman towns in the area.  One of the most-see villages is Yörük, which will be described in a later post.

Is Safranbolu a must-see?  Which place in Turkey is the best to see Ottoman houses?  We asked the same question in a previous posts about:
Cumalıkızık – a formerly poor, small Ottoman village now overrun with tourists;
Tophane district of Bursa – great view of the ancient city walls but few buildings of interest; and
Kaleiçi district of Antalya – the old city is nicely restored but overrun with tourists and surrounded by thick city traffic. 

Getting to Safranbolu

As we explained in our Turkey - Getting Started advice on travel pace, for a car trip it is preferable to plan for about 3 driving hours between each hotel stay, which allows sightseeing stops on the way.  If you are coming from Istanbul it will take at least 4.5 hours – depending on traffic in Istanbul – to drive to Safranbolu, 414 km away. 

Our drive from Göreme to Safranbolu was one of the longest segments of our 31-day trip 512 km.  According to Google this should take about 6 hours driving time.  In fact, we left at 09:00 h and arrived at 15:30 h.  It was also the most boring scenery so we did not stop to admire views or take photos.  

About the only thing that happened was at a rest area.  We noticed a family, especially women dressed in black burqa (completely covered face).  We thought they were Syrian refugees.  Two of their young children came over to our car begging for money and would not go away.  They did not look poor.  The family of eight had just parked their over-sized mini-van and ordered a large lunch from the restaurant.  They sat outside on the grass to eat.

Raşitler Bağ Evi

Raşitler Bağ Evi
We had debated for a while whether to stay in one of the Ottoman pensions in the old city.  If you don't have a car that would be your best option.  But the raves for Raşitler Bağ Evi pension on Trip Advisor convinced us, even though it is on the northern outskirts of this small town. 
So it was late afternoon by the time we got to the town.  We managed to turn left onto Sadri Artung Caddesi, a major boulevard to the Bağlar (Turkish for “orchards”) district.  But then our "saved" Google map disappeared on us.  Add to that, the lack of road signs and – we were lost!  p.s.: finding our way back over the next two days was easy. 

So we stopped at a grocery store and asked for directions.  We did not think they knew our small pension, so we asked for nearby Değirmenbaşi Mosque.  A customer who spoke a little English heard our request and offered to go with us to ensure we found it.  We told him we were actually looking for Raşitler Bağ Evi and he said he knew the Colonel (the owner)!  What a small world!!! 


Country House

Bağ Evi means country house, since this used to be an orchard outside of town in the old days.  Our first view is captivated by lovely hand-cut stone walls.  This 280-year old Ottoman house has been in Umran’s family for nine generations.

Umran & Erhan

The minute we arrived we sensed warmth and friendliness.  We felt like we were friends in their home rather than guests of a B&B.  We spent a lot of time talking with them. Umran is a retired high school teacher and Erhan is a retired Air Force colonel.  They are very sincere people.  A few years ago they restored this old family home – and what a place it is! 

Bağ Evi Parlour


As in Ottoman times, we had to remove our shoes to walk inside on the old wood floors.  The four guest rooms are on the second floor, which has its own parlour and even a traditional reading nook. 

Bağ Evi Bedroom

What a magnificent bedroom with rich dark wood floor and ceiling.  We loved the wood niches in the antique "wall system" and the colourful carpets.

Bağ Evi Water Closet

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, the Göreme bathroom was as large as a small pension.  Today’s bathroom is closet size and the shower goes right onto the bathroom floor.  Maybe that’s the origin of the British word “water closet” meaning bathroom.

Umran's Breakfast

The breakfast the next morning was marvellous – omelet, cheese, olives, homemade fruit jams, bread and coffee. 
Breakfast Room

The setting was equally superb.  The ground floor dining room has a wall of glass lined with glorious green plants. 

Breakfast Divan

This contrasts with the red upholstered divan and the dark wood ceiling.

Stone-Arched Fireplace

Off the dining room is the open wall living room with its stone-arched fireplace.


Bağ Evi Garden
The garden outside is a remnant of the former orchard, full of trees and even views of the surrounding hills. 

Bağ Evi Tulips


There was a bed of magnificent tulips.  Spoiler alert: the Dutch did not discover the tulip; the Turks introduced the tulip to Europe 

Bağ Evi Tulips
In short, you not only get a nice place to stay, you get a feel for a typical Ottoman house that can compete with any museum.  Plus you can learn about Turkish life and culture by talking with the Hangun family.  This was one of our favourite places to stay in our whole trip in Turkey.  So is Safranbolu a must-see?  It is worth going just to stay at Raşitler Bağ Evi.

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