Green fields, wooded hills and a snow-capped volcano surround the modern-looking concrete that is today’s KAYSERI, encircling an old Selçuk settlement of black volcanic stone. The city has a reputation for religious conservatism and ultranationalism; it’s the heartland of the Milli Hareket Partisi, the nearest thing there is to a fascist party in the country. In spite of this, there’s a gentle acceptance of the waywardness of foreigners. It’s also a thriving business centre, where traditional commerce, particularly raw textiles and carpets, still flourishes in the medieval hans. The long history and strategic importance of the town have left it with a littering of impressive monuments, while two nearby attractions, Sultansazlığı bird sanctuary and Mount Erciyes are ideal for picnics in summer and skiing in winter.
Part of the delight of Kayseri is that its beautiful old buildings still play an important part in the everyday life of the place, their very existence witness to the social conscience of the Selçuks. Koranic teaching forbade excessive concern with private houses, so public figures poured money into buildings for public welfare and communal activities.
Other buildings still integral to Kayseri’s life are the covered markets; there are three in the town centre, all dating from different periods. The Bedesten, built in 1497, was originally used by cloth-sellers but is now a carpet market; the Vezir Hanı, built by Damat İbrahim Paşa in 1727, is where raw cotton, wool and Kayseri carpets are sold, and leather is prepared for wholesale; while the beautifully restored covered bazaar in the same area, built in 1859, has five hundred individual shops.
The site of present-day Kayseri was originally called Mazaka. Its origins are unknown, but the city gained importance under the rule of the Phrygians. In 17–18 AD it was named Caesarea in honour of Emperor Tiberius, and at the same time it became the capital of the Roman province of Cappadocia. As part of the Byzantine Empire, Caesarea was relocated 2km to the north of the ancient acropolis, allegedly around a church and monastery that had been built by St Basil, the founder of eastern monasticism and a bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century. The position was strategic in terms of both trade and defence, and it soon became a leading cultural and artistic centre, though always vulnerable to attack from the east. The Arab invasions of the seventh and eighth centuries were particularly threatening, and in 1067 it finally fell to the great Selçuk leader Kılıç Arslan II. In 1097 the Crusaders were in brief possession and it was ruled equally briefly by the Mongols in 1243 before finally becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1515, under Selim the Grim.Read More