Whitewashed, half-timbered houses are one of the most distinctive and enduring legacies of Ottoman rule, but little SAFRANBOLU has by far the greatest concentration – essentially an entire village where architectural time seems to be standing still. Many Turkish towns feature a smattering of these Ottoman buildings, and sizable clutches can be found as far afield as Albania and Bosnia, but the constant stream of domestic tourists – and a growing number of foreign adventurers – is proof of just how unique this place is. Despite the town’s popularity, the old way of life stays remarkably intact, and apart from a bazaar of souvenir shops, few concessions have been made to the twenty-first century: various restoration projects are underway, but most of the town remains slightly run-down and it is all the better for it.
Safranbolu is also famed for the growing of saffron, but despite taking its name from the precious herb, production fell to almost nothing before a recent revival. It’s now quite possible to buy some to take home, or sample its taste in locally made sweets.Read More
So well preserved is Safranbolu’s Old Town that almost every building is an Ottoman original. Many of these houses were masterful pieces of design, exhibiting a flair for function and a use of space that prompts some to draw comparisons with Japanese design of the time – think built-in cupboards, carved ceilings and central heating, as well as plumbing systems able to draw cooking, cleansing and waste-disposal processes from a single stream of water.
The larger Ottoman mansions would have three or more levels and over a dozen rooms. The ground floor was often used as stable-space, though thanks to ingenious design the smell would not waft through to the upper floors, which were themselves split into male (selâmlik) and female (haremlik) quarters. Other features to look out for are interior courtyards, revolving cupboards and conical safe-rooms, as well as one innovation found in many Safranbolu hotels: tiny bathrooms located inside what appears to be a cupboard.