A Travellerspoint blog

A step back in time

safranbolu

semi-overcast 30 °C
View Turkey 2012 on 50inturkey's travel map.

Picture cobblestone lanes, vine covered courtyards, meandering cats, 3 storeyed, whitewashed and heavy timber-framed buildings. Add in groups of men smoking, drinking coffee and playing backgammon, women and children clustered in market, working guilds of blacksmiths and shoemakers s and you begin to get a picture of Safranbolu. The Carsi village within the region is like the lane that time forgot. A perfectly preserved Ottoman town where life continues today as it has done for centuries. Carsi reminded me of Stratford-on-Avon but with traditional life lived in traditional surroundings, rather than a collection of historic buildings masking modern conveniences. Although we could get Wi-Fi in the 200 year old home where we stayed.

The Ottoman homes are really well designed for the climate (which even at this time of the year is noticeably warmer than Istanbul). The ground floor is dark and cool. The temperature seemed to drop about 10 degrees as we stepped inside. These were originally reception and utility areas, with areas for animals adjoining outside. The upper 2 floors provide a mixture of communal living in intimate, yet open Turkish lounging areas, along with bedrooms that are designed to provide husband and wife with “the privacy necessary for marital life” (guidebook quote). Bathrooms are literally in a closet (gives a new meaning to the term water closet). I think our closet bathroom had been extended a little for modern guests but entry was still via a heavy closet door. The bathroom also had a very special feature, a padded vinyl toilet seat. A unique experience I must say. Hmm, I’ll have to see if I can get one when I get home.

We had our best meal yet on our first night in Carsi. The restaurant was recommended by the local lokumari (confectionary shop, where they specialise in saffron-infused Turkish delight, yummy). Soup, cheese, olives, Turkish ravioli, chicken, pitta - all homemade by the owner's wife. The restaurant was perched high above the street with views across the town. They didn't have wine/ beer but could get some for us if we would like it. All up for food and wine, 78TL. The best food AND best value we've had so far.

The hotel (restored Ottoman house) we stayed in was run by an elderly woman and her family. Amaya, the owner, was a real treat. She spoke very little English but was really keen to interact with us. She showed us her garden, spoke of her family, made huge vats of jam and regularly shooed out the numerous cats that wandered in. The cat shooing was quite a show, complete with a hissing sound and flailing stick. When I demonstrated that the same sounds and actions could be used to keep husbands in line she roared with laughter. She and I got on really well and I was hugged and kissed vigorously when we departed.

While in Safranbolu we visited a cave and an aqueduct. We had these places to ourselves (apart from some picnicking locals at the aqueduct). After the hustle and bustle if Istanbul the solitude was a welcome change.

We are now on our way to Goreme in the Cappadocia region, where Sabina will go up in a hot-air balloon – watched from below by her vertiginous friends!

Posted by 50inturkey 05:24 Archived in Turkey Tagged safranbolu Comments (1)

The adventure begins

Tales from Istanbul

semi-overcast 21 °C

3 days, 350+ photos. Hopefully that gives you some idea of the wide-eyed wonderment with which we have viewed Turkey so far. We have spent our first few days in Istanbul mostly around the historic Sultanahmet district. Sabina and Chappie, our friends from Alice Spring days have joined us for this trip. We flew in separately and met on the rooftop bar of our hotel for champagne and sunset views of the Blue Mosque. Not a bad way to begin!

Our hotel has been great – small, personal, close to everything but off the main drag, so surprisingly quiet. Quiet is certainly a rare event in this city of 14 million people. It’s hard to imagine the scale of it really. And seeing things on a grand scale is something we are getting used to. The Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace are grand scale with a capital G. The richness and detail almost leave you numb. Every surface, from floor to ceiling is adorned in some way. Golgi, mosaics, hand-painted tiles, frescoes, mother of pearl, marble, carved wood and stone all in competing, intricate patterns create a Sara Lee “layer upon layer” effect that has left us gasping.

However, you do have to get used to the fat that you will be sharing the experience with hundreds of other people simultaneously. You also have to exercise patience as you queue at entrances, which gives the touts a great chance to peter you with wares. There have also been numerous helpful locals who offer to help in many ways and just happen to have a business (or relative with a business nearby).
Sabina and I took the plunge and went to meet the good friend of a travel agent who seems to have befriended us. The friend was a very reputable carpet salesman (of course). I’ve got to say the whole show of selling carpets was quite incredible. It began with coffee, then an educative session on carpet making (including why Turkish carpets are superior to those made in Persia, Pakistan etc.). Then the show really began with carpets, appearing from a myriad of other rooms, unfurled with great flourish before us. Another layer upon layer experience until the floor in the room was covered with carpets of all sizes and designs. At this point we were ushered into another room where Act 2 began – more designs, more regional specialities. At the conclusion of Act 2 we returned to the first room for Act 3. A finalisation of choices and the finale of the show – bargaining with a liberal sprinkling of flirtation thrown in. Of course the carpet could be shipped to Australia at no cost to Sabina. Of course the fact that carpet she liked the most was a little small didn’t matter, the salesman was sure it would be just perfect in the space he hadn’t seen. Of course there were cheaper options but would Sabina be happy years later when she looked at the carpet. Of course we were the last customers for the day so this was an extra special price. Sabina was resolute and, as Chappie was not with us, she would need to come back with her husband. No problem, buy the cheaper carpet now and if her husband wanted the more expensive one tomorrow she could trade op a level. We got out without the carpet but were certainly impressed by the showmanship.

Other highlights - food has been great. A feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. Had THE most fabulous goat’s cheese the other night. When we commented on its quality the helpful restaurant owner offered to have a kilogram delivered to us from the village where it was made. We also had fantastic soup at Istanbul Modern (modern art gallery) yesterday. The location was fabulous too with the restaurant siting along the Bosphorous looking out Sultanahmet and the Asian quarter.

Trams are great too. Quick, efficient, regular and packed at all hours of the days and night.

We are currently heading out of Istanbul to Safranbolu, an Ottoman village near the Black Sea. The bus we are on is cleaner and more spacious than the planes took to get here. We all feel that we need more time for Istanbul so will plan a few days at the end I suspect. The bus has movies, TV, music etc. on demand. While we can get all the instructions in English to work out what we want to watch, the programs themselves are all in Turkish, go figure. They also have Wi-Fi on the bus, and pretty much everywhere else in Turkey too I gather. It took about 2 hours of motorways to get out of Istanbul itself; such is the expanse of the city. We went through one toll station with 19 booths. This made for great efficiency at the toll station until the 19 lanes converged into 3 for the bridge that followed! Actually I should say there were 3 marked lanes but drivers seemed to use about 5 lanes in a higgledy-piggledy fashion.

Hoping there are more adventures to be had in safranbolu.

Posted by 50inturkey 10:02 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

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