I couldn’t think of the best way to break the two-month long silence on my blog… I am sure that all of you had assumed that something might have happened or I’d been busy. Yes, both. I concentrated on finishing the book and there was an overseas trip to Korea for 3 weeks, regarding work as well as my love life; a Turkish man goes to meet a Korean family for the first time. I’ll try to share some of the most interesting stories in the next posts to come. Now the book’s been handed in but the anxiety is still there; I thought I was not going to make it to the deadline. So after all the past stress, I will try to relax till the end of the year, instead of cooking and taking photos crazily, to stay focused on what is the most important. Nature, natural, neutral…. Had I known earlier that Turkey has this kind of landscape to offer…
Last week, right after Mr.O and I came back from Korea, we made a road trip along the Black Sea to see the sights of high, lush and wild mountains adorned with colourful trees, which we didn’t stay long enough to see in Korea. I’m so glad that I went and saw the renown Safranbolu and I felt so lucky to be there when it wasn’t crowded with tourists. I think the best time to go there is indeed autumn. The warmth and hospitality…these two words are what I came home with. Yes, it was wet the whole time but because of that, we got to experience the real charm and spirit of Safranbolu. Making a coffee-house crawl to warm up was one of the best memories – gosh, how many cups did we drink!- and watching the smoke rising from chimneys of medieval Ottoman houses was also very atmospheric.
To start off, I was impressed by Kâmil Koç bus service, especially an attendant serving food, as if on a plane. The 5-hour journey to Ankara, where I joined Mr.O, who was already there for work, was easy and smooth except the minor panicky moment when the service shuttle to the main bus terminal just passed without stopping to pick me up. Anyway, finally the next day we drove to Safranbolu!!
My eyes were used to seeing old Ottoman houses on the internet but the sensation of staying in one of them was indescribable. I really appreciated all the elegant touches in the hotel, Leyla Hanım Konağı, a restored Konak (an Ottoman mansion), especially the door handles and ceilings. Holding the door handle in the room gave me the feeling of holding a well-carved word in my hand. I can’t say enough about the friendly staff and their honest hospitality. They really care for what they are doing and it is reflected on every smallest detail including the breakfast table. Turkey being a touristic country, most hotels and restaurants care only mediocre food and service, it seems, but I’m not an average person, in fact hard to please. However, this hotel, which Mr.O had hand-picked for me, pleased me to the heart with everything.
Even the breakfast menu changed daily, which makes sense since guests will get bored of eating the same food every morning. The first day there was spiced scrambled eggs as a specialty and the second day there was Su böreği (Turkish wet pastry filled with cheese), which was the best ever for both of us. Home-made jams of all kinds, quince, strawberry rose and rose hip jam made it hard to leave the table. Why is food so good here? Perhaps, that’s because this village isn’t as spoilt with massive tourism like other cities and they all seem to work together as a community for the pride of the village, not only concerned with making money. It could be simply that we were visiting in a quiet season. We ate at a restaurant later but food was all so good, not overloaded with a generic Turkish spice mix and oil. We also had some other dishes on the menu for a stay-in dinner on the second night, looking out the window, and they were excellent, and their cigarette borek was just perfect and the best I’d eaten in my whole life, which had set my standard for cigarette borek from then on.
The next day we even got an unexpected surprise of eating with a celebrity in the same space! Mr.O said he was Ediz Hun, a famous film actor, who he likes but we, claiming ourselves as a cultured human being with good manners, didn’t take photos of him and his group so as not to disturb their peaceful moment. 🙂 But people at the next table ask to photograph, but very politely and briefly while leaving the room. I am not a shallow person but somewhat felt good to stay in the same hotel where a celebrity with a good taste stays; a good taste because it’s not the most expensive place.
Ok, it’s time to explore the old town. I won’t plaster the page with lots of photos to save you for mysteries. Built over valleys and incline slopes, these houses exhibit the logic and culture of that time. As you might already know, one of the most noticeable characteristics will be the balcony or sun room on the upper floor that projects to the street to ensure that women can have a full view of the streets all the way to the main square and also to provide shades for passers-by. If you’re interested, here is a further reading for you. When we visited the konak museum to have an idea of the family life, I found interesting features of the house, such as a revolving shelf where food is placed so as to avoid women’s contact with men and the harem section where women entertain themselves.
The cross-cultural aspects found in and out of the house were so intriguing for me as there are many things in common with Buddhism and Confucianism, which I grew up with and left behind. The familiarity gives me comfort and uneasiness at once, which people who have spent their life in different cultures will relate to.
Coffee houses… yes, we visited them many times since there weren’t any places where we could sip wine or drink beer. But the coffee….it’s VERY good here, very different to Istanbul. It’s poured right in front of you, made one cup at a time, and served with pomegranate juice.
I’d probably sip wine in a local pub listening to a jazz jam on a wet day in normal conditions but here I am drinking coffee while listening to a Turkish folk jam. The place started to fill up with people coming for their after-dinner entertainment. If I’d been during the season, the atmosphere would have been quite different, not as peaceful and cozy. Even walking in the pebbled streets was fun and relaxing even though it was cold and drizzling. I think rain suits the village better somehow. We paid 10TL for a coffee as well as the entertainment, which was good and reasonable.
I’ll continue with Safranbolu in the next post as it’s impossible to deliver all my impressions in a single post since it’s not about where to go and what to do. I will share some more beautiful photos and later, a recipe with saffron and white grape vinegar, two of which Safranbolu is famous for.