Safranbolu; Once upon a time in Turkey
Safranbolu is the biggest province of Karabük. The name of the town derives from "saffron" as Safranbolu is where the best quality saffron - the most expensive spice in the world - is produced.
Its history goes back to Paleolithic era. Safranbolu has been ruled by many nations, such as the Hittites, Khmers, Lidia, Persians, Romans, Seljukians and Ottomans. The settlement developed as a trading centre after the Turkish conquest in the 11th century, and played a key role in the caravan trade from the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century. Safranbolu lost its initial raison d’être with the establishment of Karabük Iron and Steel Factory in 1932 when the city became an economic attraction center.
Safranbolu has a unique silhouette because of its topography, which has canyons of two rivers. This district is called Çukur (meaning "hole" in Turkish), with a marketplace in the center and many classic Ottoman homes and craftsmen workshops. Don't miss Yemeniciler Arasta (shoe bazaar), Blacksmiths’ & Coppersmiths' Markets. Kıranköy district has a more European layout that is immediately noticed. The non-Muslim communities used to reside in the structures made of stone (rather than wood), with workshops in the ground floors. The third historic quarter, Bağlar (also known as the vineyards), once the town’s summer resort, has beautiful single houses each equipped with a large garden.
Safranbolu takes you on a journey back in time, letting you see what an Ottoman town looked like 200 years ago. It is the 2000 traditional houses that have earned the city a world-wide reputation and inscribed it on UNESCO's World Heritage List. As you walk along the streets of the best preserved town in Anatolia, you will explore the elegancy of Ottoman housing architecture that cared that the houses were constructed on the slopes so that they did not hinder another’s view or sunlight. The upper stories supported by buttresses project over the cobbled pavements which were made as inclined to resist flood waters and to minimize humid effect. The interiors of the houses with an eye-catching wooden artwork on ceilings and indoor pools to cool the air and to avoid fire, are just as elegant as their exteriors. Bathing cubicles in wooden wardrobes and rotating closets (to exchange food and trays between haremlik & selamlık) are unique. Kaymakamlar House, a house that was opened to visitors as a museum in 1981 following a restoration, is one of the most flawless examples of the Safranbolu house.
For a spectacular view from above, trudge up Hıdırlık Hill, accessible from the Old Town. Hıdırellez celebrations used to take place here. Cemetery in the area houses the tombs of Turkish heroes.
Natives of town, Judge of Army Cinci Hodja, Grand Vizier İzzet Mehmet Pasha and Chief Amiral Salih Pasha have been the key names to establish strong relationships with the palace.
The single domed Köprülü Mehmet Pasha Mosque, dating back to 1662, has a sun dial in its yard. The founder of the mosque, Köprülü Mehmet Pasha was exiled in Safranbolu for a while.
İzzet Mehmet Pasha Mosque has an interesting story. A Greek constructor built the mosque but ran away thinking the minaret would collapse due to poor conditions of the surface. He appeared 15 years later and got his money. No needed to fear man, it's still standing!
Cinci Inn & Cinci Hammam; the caravanserai and bathhouse respectively were founded between 1642 and 1648 by Hüseyin Efendi, known as Cinci Hodja. Considered among the best examples of their kind, these structures were built by Grand Architect Kasım Ağa and are still in operation (inn as a hotel). Cinci Hodja was known for his spells and was called to palace by Kösem Sultan to cure Sultan İbrahim who wasn't approaching women (what a sickness :)). Due to his success, Cinci Hodja was awarded highly and promoted as judge of army in time. He became so rich at one point that he lent money to sultans.
City History Museum and Clock Tower are located opposite each other atop a hill. The museum is good for some educational bites. The legend for the clock tower is that none of his fellow citizens thought of a bell clock from England when Grand Vizier İzzet Mehmet Pasha promised them two clocks; one at home and one at work 🙂 What a sense of humor in 1797...
Safranbolu was a residence area for the “yörüks” (Turkish nomads) continuously arriving from Asia. In Yörük Village, one of the two villages under protection by ministry of tourism, you can witness the village life along with some houses varying from 90 to 450 years old. Sipahioğlu Mansion has been converted into a museum and is open to visitors for exploration. It's a 150 year old Turkish house that was owned by the same family for 8 generations. You get to see an old public laundry house, Çamaşırhane, closeby. This is interesting because the concept has been long forgotten and the metropolises have bought the idea only after certain number of foreigners in some districts. Opera singer Leyla Gencer & designer Cemil İpekçi's roots go back to this village.
Located about 7 kilometres away from the old town by foot, the historic İncekaya Aqueduct can be viewed from Tokatlı Canyon. Built during the Byzantine era, İzzet Mehmet Pasha restored the aqueduct in the 1790s.
Sights from Crystal Terrace to Ata Park are quite impressive especially at sunset / dawn. Enjoy panoramic views of Tokatlı Canyon from this 80-meter high glass terrace. The canyon is perfect for trekking fans.
Bulak Mencilis Cave is the fourth biggest cave in Turkey. You get to see 65-200 million year old dripstones, stalactites, stalagmites and columns in a variety of colours throughout the 500-metres section of the 6 km cave. It's known to be good for dyspnea, asthma and bronchitis.
There's more to Safranbolu than this and tumulusses, rock tombs from Roman times and other canyons in the area, are yet to be discovered and offered to tourism.
Matchless flavours of Safranbolu begin with the unique Turkish delight. Try a saffron-flavored one at Safrantat. The city is also famous for its Çavuş grapes, kuyu kebabı (kebap cooked in a well), peruhi/ pörüşke (pierogi), homemade baklava, saffron tea, zerde (desert with saffron) and rice with saffron. In the marketplace, you can get to taste Turkish coffee brewed on cinder (közde kahve), too.
Did you know the delightful town has inspired some Turkish expressions? In Yemeniciler Arasta consisting of craft guilds, the head of guilds used to throw the shoes to the roof of the shop with many complaints to show that he produced bad quality. We use “whose shoe thrown to roof (pabucu dama atılmak)” in Turkish to express "fall from popular esteem" 🙂 Another one has even a funnier story. They used to use dog poo to tan leather at tanyards. As it was critical for it to be hot, they rushed to make it in time. Hence, the phrase "rush dog poo to tanyard (tabakhaneye bok yetiştirmek)" is used for extreme rush 🙂 C'mon the town is really fun, where else have you heard of such stories 🙂 ? The tanyard can be visited btw.
And last but not least, like any other Anatolian town, this time capsule town is also famous for its hospitable locals. Chat along and don't be afraid to be accepting the kind invitations. You'll have to come and see it for yourselves to know what I mean.
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