03.05.2012 - 05.05.2012 30 °C
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!