Beautiful Safranbolu

Trip Start Apr 29, 2010
Trip End May 22, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kalafatoglu, Konak Otel

Flag of Turkey  , Karabuk,
Thursday, June 10, 2010

After filling up on the ample breakfast in the ultra modern khavalte salon at The Mostar, I left Ankara to it's rainy, grey and busy rush hour. It felt like I was back in London although I haven't driven in the London rush 'hour!' for many years. Where there is the hint of a space somebody will fill it so dithering is not an option. Why there are lane markation lines on the roads is anyone's guess cos I don't know who uses them. It seemed like I was in the 6th lane on a 4 lane highway most of the time. I didn't really know how to get out of Ankara so just followed signs for Istanbul which was roughly in the right direction. You get caught up with the flow anyway so there's really no choice! Eventually the traffic petered out and the road narrowed and deteriorated until I found myself in the country side. Rolling hills with occasional villages of neat, redroofed houses spiked by minarets kept me company as I sped towards Bolu. The rain had stopped now and I figured I'd left the doom and gloom in Ankara. Occasionally there were big breaks in the clouds illuminating the wildflowers on the side of the road in a frenzy of colour - yellows, blues, violets and pink. It was all quite stunning. Obviously i was paying far too much attention to this visual feast and enjoying the new dual carriageway's smooth ride too much to notice the decoy car in the Police speed trap and I got pulled in again with the crime of exceeding 100kph. Lots of paper work and tutting and being relieved of a big blue note (100Lira or 45) later and I was on my way with a warning of another one ahead so I very carefully drove the last few kilometers into Karabuk at a sedate speed.
Karabuk seemed like Sheffield in the 1970's, still plugging away with it's big industry and pumping vast plumes of smoke into the atmosphere. A few kilometers further and I was descending into the valley that contained the UNESCO heritage site that is Safranbolu. It really is a beautiful place and deserves the glowing report it gets in the guide books. It's unique in Turkey for having so many old buildings clustered together, most of which have been restored and some turned into delightful pansyons stuffed full of Ottoman antiques, coffee pots, wind up gramaphones and kilims. The town prospered during the time of the Silk Route and was and still is famous for it's crafts - leather, metal work, lokum and of course Safron. I spent the best part of the day wandering through it's quaint streets photographing the artisans and wondering where all the tourists were.
It's obviously a very touristy place judging by the amount of tourist tat on offer - model houses, clocks, miniature leather shoes, Turkish Delight, Rose jam and of course Safron. The main tourist shop is actually called Safran Tat! I asked too many questions in the blacksmith's in order to get some nice photos that I nearly ended up having to buy a massive metal lock and key combination that wouldn't have looked out of place in Hampton Court. It was when he turned away a couple of customers, honed the keys to perfection on his bench and wrapped this huge piece of door furniture that I realised that he thought I'd asked to buy! It was very embarrassing to have to say I didn't want it and made a hasty exit after apologising profusely for the misunderstanding before I got a red hot poker lobbed at me for wasting his time. As a large cloud obscured the sun for a while I searched out a pansyon, checked out the museum, hammam and kervansery and explored the old castle vantage point which involved a scramble up a very steep path but was rewarded with stunning views of the town. Weather forecast not looking good for tomorrow as i head for the coast at Amasra.  
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