Little SAFRANBOLU is, quite possibly, the one place in Turkey where you’ll be glad your hotel room has a squeaky floor. Hundreds of the whitewashed, half-timbered houses built here during Ottoman times have opened up as guesthouses. With few modern buildings to speak of, it’s essentially an entire village where architectural time seems to be standing still – an old-world feeling heightened by its setting in a gorgeous rural valley. Such charm has endowed Safranbolu with a near-constant stream of “Ottomania”-seeking domestic tourists, and a growing number of foreign adventurers. Perhaps significantly, it’s especially popular with visitors from China and Korea, two countries where traditional wooden housing has largely gone the way of the dodo.
Despite Safranbolu’s popularity, its old way of life stays remarkably intact. Apart from a bazaar of souvenir shops, few concessions have been made to the twenty-first century. Most of the town remains slightly, and very pleasingly, run-down – heaven for the swallows that squeal and wheel their way from eave to wooden eave.
Many travellers, indeed, forget quite how small Safranbolu is. A short walk in either direction from the centre will soon see you in the countryside, while even in town the backstreets – particularly those that head up to the park – are home to real people living real lives, away from hotels and scented souvenirs.