An Ottoman Relic

Trip Start Mar 10, 2014
Trip End May 10, 2014

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Flag of Turkey  , Karabuk,
Monday, May 5, 2014


May 5, 2014 
Efe Backpackers Pension 80Tl (double with breakfast)


Briefly Blessed by Sunshine
After standard Turkish breakfast, we loaded up the car to leave Amasra. It was around 10am. 

Before we got out of town, the sun suddenly appeared and we stopped for some picture taking. The clouds closed in again too soon.

Turning South, Away from the Black Sea
The ride took us again through some beautiful mountain scenery and forests. Tom-Tom did not have the exact hotel address in his database and we had to choose Safranbolu, "City Center".  
About 7 km before Safranbolu, we took a side trip to the 18th century, 116 meter long, Incekaya Aquaduct (Su Kemeri) high above the Tokatli Gorge. It was rainy but still we managed a quick peek.
We arrived in Safranbolu, "city center", a modern city with high-rises, parks and heavy traffic. Not the kind of place we expected. This couldn't be the right place, we knew. 

This is the Place

We tried to get a handle the whereabouts of the historic Safranbolu, using the paper maps we had. We couldn't figure out which end was up. We ended up way out of town then doubled back for another pass. Finally, after we got back into the thick of the city, we ran across a wall with "Unesco World Heritage Site" written on it. We continued until red tiled roofs and wood beamed Ottoman houses came into view. This is the place! We passed the large mosque and the historical Cinci Hamam with it's multi-domed roof. The hotel we picked was supposed to be less than 200 meters from Cinci Hamam.  But where? In which direction? Some of the roads led to stairs, Some were nothing more than footpaths.

Dave figured we needed to go north and double checked his compass. We shot up a narrow lane which got narrower and narrower and steeper and steeper. We passed the darling Kašak Camıı mosque with its wooden minaret and straddling the stream. The road, a path really, followed the steam. We were way beyond 200 meters and needed to go back. Dave backed up 300 meters to a place where he actually could turn the car around.

How Did We Get Here?

We tried to go a new way as we got nearer the Cinci Hamam. We'd been stuck in the tiny lanes for ten minutes. We got to a fork and stopped to contemplate our next move.  We looked around. We "happened" to look across to a sign, "Efe Safronbolu Pension". Hey, that's it!
It is as lovely as described in the LP. It is a charming traditional Ottoman house that has been in Yasemin's family for 180 years. We were given a spacious corner room with a double and single bed, dark wooden built-in cabinets and ceiling. The bathroom is compact, no shower curtain or fan but that is a small price to pay to stay in such a characterful and historical place. At 80 Tl for double, with breakfast, is a bargain. From the window, we overlooked the caravanserai and red roofs below us. 

I asked how people find this place. She said they arrive at the bus stop and she or her husband meets them and leads them back. Hardly anyone arrives in a car.

Yasemin sat down with us and showed us, on the handy map she provided, where we are in relation to sights. She also made a recommendation for a restaurant. It was early still and we were anxious to start exploring. 

Exploring the Antique Town
Every corner we turned, there was another Kodak moment. If only the sun would appear. Still, this town quickly stole my heart. The beautifully restored Ottoman whitewashed homes, with shuttered windows, cling to the hillsides along the cobblestone lanes.

In the center, the "Cinci Hani", a 17th Century Caravanserai, the Cinci Hamam and the grande Izzet Paşa Camii mosque are still big part of daily life of the locals. We found this an extremely delightful town and we're happy we could spend two nights. Rain clouds moved in and out. We managed to stay dry. 

At "the recommended restaurant, Safranbolu Sofrasi", we enjoyed one of the best meals we had in Turkey. It is located directly behind the converted caravanserai, Cinci Hani Hotel. The dishes we enjoyed were local specialties: 
Safronbolu Iskender, a scrumtuous dish with super thin strips of dough filled with seasoned ground beef topped with yoghurt and herbs  

"Etli Yaprak Sarma" tiny stuffed grape leaves. Also delicious. 
We went over to an Ottoman Museum, a traditional Ottoman house. Inside the typical wooden Ottoman house with ottoman furnishing and utensils, placards explained Ottoman lifestyle. Women pretty much lived on one side of the house and men on the other. They even used separate entrances. The man of the house is the only one who had free reign to go on both sides. They had a rotating cabinet used to transfer food from the kitchen to the entertaining room without the women cooks exposing themselves to guests.
May 6, 2014 - SAFRANBOLU

Breakfast was served by Yasemine's husband, who is very attentive. His English is not very good but he tries. It was the standard Turkish breakfast, a boiled egg, cheese, olives, tomatoes and cucumber, jam and bread. Their children, around 3 and 5, are very well behaved. 

Waiting in Vain (for the sun)

Today, we waited in vain for the clouds to lift and worked for a while on updating the journal and blog. 

Visit to the Caravanserai (Cinci Hani Hotel)
At close to 11:00, we started out towards the little mosque with wooden minaret and followed the creek back to town. We got hit by a down poor and made a mad-dash for the caravanserai. 
The caravanserai has been turned into a hotel and several rooms are converted into an in-house museum with displays. The rooms open to arched hallways with sitting areas where one can enjoy a meal or sip a drink.The center is an open courtyard with a fountain and potted trees. We enjoyed a glass of tea while waiting out the rain. As soon as the rain stopped, we walked up to the roof for a great view of town.  
Turkish Delights; Workshops, Red Tile Roofs and Cobblestone Lanes

A few brief openings in the cloud-cover made us scramble for a few pictures with better lighting. We enjoyed wandering the narrow streets. We had lunch at the Safranbolu Sofrasi again. 
We decided to go for hamam bath later in the evening. But back at the hotel, a French girl came back from her Hamam visit. She said she had fainted because of the heat!! That was all I needed to hear. I wasn't going. 

Safranbolu is stubbornly holding onto its Ottoman past. One can really get a sense of ancient tradition here. Many old Ottoman homes have fallen into disrepair waiting to be restored and brought back to life again in the historic style. It is unique town and a highly recommended place to visit - and just a 5 hour drive from Istanbul.
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