Halfway between İzmir and Ankara is the large, forward-looking city of KÜTAHYA, whose location between capital and coast makes it a good place to kick off a tour of Northern Anatolia. The city has few draws of its own – note the near-total absence of tourists – but serves as a jumping-off point for the splendidly isolated Roman ruins of Aezani. Dominated by an Ottoman fortress, Kütahya is famous above all for its fine tiles, which are used throughout Turkey, especially in restoration work on Ottoman mosques, replacing the İznik originals (just as Kütahya has replaced İznik as the country’s leading tile-producing centre). Many modern local buildings, including the otogar, are swathed in tiles; and there are ceramic shops on virtually every street, selling tiles, dinner services and vases – not to mention toilets, of which Kütahya is the nation’s largest producer.
It was under the Ottomans that Kütahya enjoyed its golden age as a tile-making centre, after Sultan Selim I forcibly resettled tile-workers from Tabriz here after defeating the Persians at Çaldıran in 1514. Contemporary Kütahya tiles look a little garish and crude in comparison with Ottoman-era examples – the secret of the pigment blends that gave the original Kütahya tiles their subtle and delicate lustre has been lost with the centuries.
During the War of Independence, the Greek army were defeated twice in battles at the defile of İnönü, northeast of Kütahya, in January and April 1921. They managed to break out in the summer of the same year, capturing Eskişehir and Afyon and launching an offensive that took them to within striking distance of Ankara. The following year the Turkish offensive that was to throw the Greeks out of Anatolia once and for all began at Dumlupınar, midway between Kütahya and Afyon.Read More
Easily reachable, 60km or so southwest of Kütahya, is the site of Roman Aezani, famed for its atmospheric Temple of Zeus, one of Anatolia’s best-preserved Roman buildings.
The Temple of Zeus, built by Hadrian in 125 AD, occupies a commanding position on top of a large, rectangular terrace. To reach it walk up the side road that leads from the main road in Çavdarhisar in the direction of Emet, and cross the Koca Çay over the Roman bridge. On the north and west sides of the main temple building, double rows of columns topped by a pediment survive, but elsewhere the columns have largely collapsed and their broken fragments are scattered on the ground nearby.
At the heart of the temple is the inner sanctum, once dominated by a magnificent statue of Zeus. Its walls, made of rectangular stone blocks, are largely intact, but the roof has long since caved in. Beneath there’s a subterranean sanctuary dedicated to Cybele, which the affable site attendant will open up on request. Back outside just northeast of the building, a fallen but well-preserved bust of Cybele – not, as locals will tell you, Medusa – surveys the landscape.
From the temple, you can walk north past the baths to the remains of the uniquely combined stadium-theatre. Paths lead up from the fine inscriptions of the southern gate between ruined stadium seats to the backdrop wall of the theatre and the fallen remains of its marble facade. East of the temple stand the arches of the ruined agora, and from here the old ceremonial road leads south over a second Roman bridge to the enigmatic macellum (marketplace), whose walls carry a fourth-century decree from Emperor Diocletian fixing market prices in an attempt to stop rampant inflation. Complete your circular tour by heading back to the first Roman bridge and ask the site guardian to open up the nearby second set of baths, with their satyr mosaic and statue of Hygeia, goddess of the baths.