Since the 16th century, Kutahya has been renowned as a center of legendary ceramic artistry. The entire city mosques, hotels, fountains, and even the bus station is tiled with intricate patterns of blue and white. Students from Dumlupinar University help keep the city young, and Kutahya’s open square, lined with numerous internet cafes and shops, creates a busy street scene. But away from the city center, families still live in aging Ottoman houses and women laboriously wash their rugs in the street. Close to Kutahya rest the dramatic ruins of Aizanoi, an ancient Roman city with a spectacularly well-preserved temple.
Kutahya is a regional capital sprawled at the base of large hills. The otogar, better known as the çinigar (tile-station) for its elaborate tile decorations, is about 1km out of town, northeast of the center on Atatürk Bui. Much more convenient, however, is the bus terminal on Afyon Cad. just off the main square (Belediye Meydanı). All buses leaving the otogar also stop at the centrally located terminal about 5min. after their departure.
Buses: To: Afyon (1hr., 6 per day 9:30am-7:30pm, $2.70); Ankara (4hr., 10 per day 8am-2am, $8); Antalya (6hr.; 11am, 12:30pm, 1:30am; $10); Bodrum (7hr., 1:30am, $13.75); Bursa (2hr., 7 per day 8:15am-3:30am, $7.50); Denizli (1hr., 2 per day 1:30am-7:30pm, $8.75); Eskişehir (1hr., every hr., $1.50); İstanbul (6hr., 9 per day 6am-1:30am, $12.50); İzmir (6hr.; 6 per day 10:30am-1:30pm; $9, students $7.50); Konya (5hr., 4 per day 11am-1:30am, $10); Mersin (10hr., 11am, $16).
ORIENTATION & PRACTICAL INFORMATION
From the bus station, cross a courtyard onto Atatürk Bul., turn right, and follow the road past many shops, eateries and internet cafés to Belediye Meydanı, the main square, with a roundabout, giant clock tower, and beautiful giant ceramic fountain. Starting perpendicular to Atatürk Bul. and running northwest, Adnan Menderes Bul. leads to several hotels and ceramics outlets. Across the roundabout from Atatürk Bul. and leading southwest is Kutahya’s main drag, Cumhuriyet Cad., featuring numerous banks, hotels, and restaurants, as well as the PTT and the Ulu Camii. The Dönenler Camii and Kutahya’s museums are in the neighborhood of the Ulu Camii; from here scenic winding streets with some fascinating Ottoman houses and really good views lead (fairly steeply) uphill to the fortress.
- Tourist Office: A booth is on Belediye Meydanı, providing excellent maps of the city and colorful brochures describing its many attractions. Open M-Sa 9:30am-12:30pm and 1:30-6pm. There’s also a relatively unhelpful Tourism Director’s Office, Inside the Vilayet Building on Belediye Meydanı.
- Hospital: 223 60 53. Across from the Vilayet Bina, a 5min. walk up Afyon Cad.
- Internet Access: There are dozens of internet cafés in Kutahya. One of the best is Gence Internet, No. 11 Asım Gündüz Cad. (223 53 63). $.40 per hr. Open 9am-midnight.
- PTT: On Cumhuriyet Cad, toward the Ulu Camii and the museums. Telephones and a currency exchange. Open 24hr.
Postal Code: 43000.
The best cheap places are scattered around Belediye Meydanı.
Hotel Yüksel, Afyon Cad. (212 01 11). Friendly management, and the cheapest rooms in town, with Turkish toilets and showers. Clean doubles with phone $3.
Otel Gönen (224 77 99 or 224 78 00; fax 224 78 01), Menderes Buhran, Belediye Meydanı. In the main square. All rooms with private shower, toilet, and TV. Singles $15, students $10.50; doubles $22, students $18.
Otel Köşk, Belediye Meydanı Lise Cad. No:1 (216 20 24), In the main square. Well-equipped rooms with hot water, TV, phone, and bath. Singles $6, doubles $9.
Otel Benli, 4 Cumhuriyet Cad. (216 13 77). If there’s no room anywhere else. Centrally located, with Turkish toilets but its rooms are not as clean as Yüksel’s. Singles $5, $4 for students; doubles $7, $6 for students; triples $10, $9 for students.
Cheap kebap restaurants line Cumhuriyet Cad. and Lise Cad., by the roundabout.
Hisar Çaybahçesi, in the kale (castle), below the Döner Gazino restaurant. For a unique çay experience, order the semaver, an elegant teapot-like device which brews tea over hot coals ($1.25 for 2 people). Open 9am-noon.
Antep Sofrası (224 39 60), on Atatürk Bul. One of the best restaurants in Kutahya, with a beautiful wooden exterior and delicious food. A hearty meal of ayran, lahmacun, kebap, and baklava costs about $3. Open 24hr.
Döner Gazino (212 10 04), at the top of the kale. Take dolmuş #1 to save a half hour’s walk uphill from Belediye Meydanı. The best place to spend an afternoon in Kutahya. Housed in what was once the fortress’s central turret, this slowly revolving restaurant provides striking views and refreshing çay ($.35). Try the izgaralar ($1).
İnci Patisserie has three locations in the city. The best is on Atatürk Bul. (223 00 27). From Belediye head toward the otogar; after a short walk you’ll see and smell it on your left. A friendly atmosphere to go with an enticing selection of pastries. Doubles as a café with two floors. Open 7am-midnight.
People come to Kutahya to see tiles. Though the industry had withered to one artisan early in the 20th century, today it seems like everyone makes tiles. Shops selling local ceramics are concentrated along Atatürk Bul. on the way to the otogar and along Menderes and Abdurahman Kasa Bul. near the roundabout. Every July, Kutahya celebrates its craft for three weeks at the Dumlupınar Fuarı, Turkey’s largest handicrafts fair. Consult the tourist office for fair dates.
Kutahya’s mosques and museums are clustered at the end of Cumhuriyet Cad., a 10min. walk uphill from Belediye Meydanı. Closest to town is the 14th- century Dönenler Camii (on Cumhuriyet Cad.), one of the few remaining mevlevihanesi (dervish meeting places) in all of Turkey. In dervish services, musicians sat on the platform encircling the central chamber while dervishes revolved on the floor below. Today Dönenler Camii functions only as a mosque. Though covered by thick green carpet, a trap door in the center of the door leads to a sacred well. Further along Cumhuriyet Cad. and in the midst of a colorful bazaar lies Ulu Camii (Great Mosque), originally built in 1410 but renovated in the 17t.h century by master architect Sinan. The mosque’s medrese houses Ktitahya’s archaeological museum, at Börekçiler Mahallesi, on Ulu Camii Cad. It’s worth visiting this small museum for its works ranging from the late Paleolithic era to the Ottoman period, including artifacts from nearby Alzanoi. (223 69 90. Open Tu-Su 9am-5pm. $1.50, students free.) Kutahya’s Tile Museum (Çini Müzesi) is behind the Ulu Camii on Gediz Cad. Hard-core porcelain enthusiasts will love its displayed works from çini masters, some dating from as early as the 14th century. (Open Tu-Su 8:30am-noon and l:30-5:30pm or so. $.75, students free). The Kossuth Museum at. Börek Mahallesi, Macar Sokak (Hungarian Street), commemorates Kossuth Lâjos (1802-1894), the leader of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution, who found refuge in Afyon. Set in a three-story wooden house where he lived, the museum exhibits tell Kossuth’s life story and show the house as it was in the 19th century. (223 62 14. Open Tu-Su 9am-noon and l:30-5pm. $1.75; students free.)
No visit to Kutahya is complete without a stop at the sprawling kale, where the breathtaking view of the plain and distant mountains compensates for the schlep. Either walk uphill along Ertuğrul Gazi Cad. from the Ulu Camii and then bear left onto Kale Sok., or take dolmuş #1 and ask for the kale. The dolmuş will drop you off at a cobblestone path. It’s a 15min walk uphill with beautiful views to the top.
Kutahya’s most striking Ottoman houses line Germiyan Sok., reached by taking a left off Menderes Bul. just after it intersects with Kapan Cad. In order to preserve Kutahya’s crumbling architectural heritage, the Turkish Ministry of Culture recently allotted money to purchase and restore five antique houses. Recover from all that walking at one of Kutahya’s baths. The 700-year-old Küçük Hamam, at 65 Cumhuriyet Cad. near Küçükparlc tea garden, houses an elegant marble interior and sauna. (Open 6am-11pm. $1.75, students $1.50.) Built in 1549, Balıklı Hamam has twin domed hot-rooms and separate rooms for men and women. (223 43 54. $1.75, students $1.50.) To get to Balıklı Hamam, walk along Cumhuriyet Cad. and turn right onto Balıklı Cad., near Küçükpark.
DAYTRIP FROIVI KUTAHYA: AIZANOI
The ruins of Aizanoi lie in and around the small town of Çavdarhisar. Buses leave the Kutahya otogar (1.hr., 12 per day 6am-2am, $1.50), stopping at a BP gas station in the center of Çavdarhisar. Ask for the return schedule when you buy your ticket. From the bus stop, walk about 1km west on the road to Emet and Aizanoi, over a small bridge. Site open daily 8am-noon and l:30-5:30pm. $1, students free.
Among Turkey’s Greco-Roman ruins, Aizanoi is special because it is so low-key. The walk to Aizanoi passes through a rural peasant agricultural community, providing a glimpse of Anatolian country life. The incongruity between the old and the new is striking the 2nd-century temple to Zeus stands opposite a mosque, amid rolling fields and old farmers tending their lands with tractors.
Every so often a motorbike whizzes along the road leading to the temple. Tire temple is about a 15min. walk directly down the road sign-posted for Emet and Aizonoi and over the bridge. You’ll pass a couple of coffee shops, lots of ducks, and few passers-by. The friendly guard Nazim Erras will let you in and allow you to explore the fallen pillars and stones which litter the site (the effect of a 1970 earthquake). The north and west sides of the temple are in excellent condition and allow you to imagine what the complete structure would have been like. Underneath the temple is a vast barrel vaulted chamber. Research suggests the chamber may have served as an oracle or a storeroom for grain. Such a giant cellar is unusual for Roman temple architecture and is unparalleled in Asia Minor. Exiting the temple, take the road on your right to along a winding farm path to the remains of the gymnasium, stadium and theater complex.
Not much is left of the gymnasium you may find a shepherd resting with his flock but continue to the stadium and theatre complex, which remain reasonably well preserved despite the earthquake. Aizanoi is the only known ancient city where the stadium and theater were in one facility. The climb up the stairs to the top of the theater provides a sense of its enormous capacity. On the way back, ask Nazim to show you the baths, in a warehouse a short walk away. They feature mosaic floors with mythological figures. The remains of the city’s marketplace are to the right of the temple on the way back to Çavdarhisar.
If you’re hungry, stop for a bite at Tan-Pa Lokantası (351 30 07), in front of the BP gas station. While you wait for a bus back to Kutahya, you can fill up here on decent köfte, rice, vegetables, and ayran for $3.