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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

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