Safranbolu’s old city turns back the clock to a 19th-century Ottoman town nowhere else in Turkey is there such a concentration of old Ottoman houses, making the city’ somewhat of a living museum. The elegant wooden houses have been well preserved and restored, and new construction is confined to Yeni Safranbolu, the new town, 2km above the old city. The restoration began in 1975, and today, many of the houses are converted to hotels or gezi evleri (houses open to visitors). The town was placed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1994 in recognition of its extensive preservation efforts.
THE BLACK SEA FERRY
For travel in either direction along the Black Sea coast between İstanbul, Zonguldak, Sinop, Trabzon, and Rize, the Black Sea Ferry provides the most novel, hassle-free, and direct route. Service may also include Giresun in the future.
Tickets are sold at Turkish maritime lines offices in each city’s harbor area. In İstanbul, make purchases at the Karaköy terminal. The quality of on-board lodging ranges from A/2 (comfortable, with a two-person bunk) to B/4 (crowded, with four people) to airline-style seats (“Pullman seats“), which are the cheapest.
The ferries leave İstanbul Mondays at 2pm, from the dock at Sarayburnu, a five minute walk along the shore from the Sirkeci train station. Boarding starts at 1pm. The boat docks at Samsun around 4pm on Tuesday and at Trabzon about 8am on Wednesday. The return trip leaves Trabzon on Wednesdays at 7pm, hits Samsun at 9am on Thursday, and reaches İstanbul Friday at 1pm.
Though costly, food and drinks are sold on board (the purser on the main deck sells the required restaurant vouchers). A better bet is to bring your own groceries. There are also a few small markets near the pier entrance at Samsun.
If the seas are rough (which is rare in the summer), bring along Dramamine or other over-the-counter motion sickness medications. Even in rough seas, however, the hauntingly beautiful nighttime seascape and the unusual mode of travel make it worthwhile.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Safranbolu has two distinct sections: the old town, called Çarşı, and the largely uninteresting new one, called Yeni Safranbolu or Kıranköy. The heart of Çarşı and its center of transportation is the main square, Çarşı Meydanı. If you stand in the square and look toward the old baths, you will see three streets. On the extreme left, Kastamonu Yollu leads to the Çarşı Pansiyon. The next street, Akin Sok., runs to the Cinci Han, an old kervansaray. To the right, Yukarı Çarşı Sok. leads to the Arasna, the site of the tourist office and a number of touristy shops. Behind you, Hilmi Bayramgil Cad. runs to the new town,
- Banks: TC Ziraat Bankası, behind Cinci Han, has an ATM. Open M-F 8:30am-noon and 1-5pm. Currency and traveler’s check exchange close at 4:30pm.
- Hamam: The 250-year-old Tarihi Cinci Hamamı, In the center of Çarşı, is large and clean. Separate sections for men and women. Bath $3; kese $.75; massage $1.20. Open for women 10am-8pm, for men 6am-11pm.
- Hospital: ( 712 11 87), in the new town, behind the Kız Sağlık Meslek Lisesi.
- Internet Access: Only available in New Safranbolu. Try Cyberland Internet Cafe, Yavuz ishanı, İnönü Mah., Kaya Erdem Cad. $.80 per hr. Open daily 10am-11pm.
- PTT: On Hamamönü Sok., near the Çarşı Pansiyon. Open M-Sa 8:30am-12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm. A bigger PTT, is on Sadri Artunç Cad., in Bağlar. Open daily 8am-11pm.
Postal Code: 78600
Safranbolu is popular year-round, and accommodations tend to fill up on weekends. If possible, make reservations a few days in advance. New Safranbolu is a hilly 2km road from Çarşı. Frequent dolmuş make the trip, too. Old Safranbolu’s accommodations sometimes inflate their prices for tourists.
OLD SAFRANBOLU (ÇARŞI)
Otel Teras, Çarşı Meydanı, 4 Mescit Sok. ( 725 17 48). Conveniently located directly off the main square in a magnificent Ottoman house. 6 decorated, clean, modern rooms with bath and TV at reasonable prices. Breakfast included, served on a pleasant terrace. Singles $16; doubles $24; triples $32.
Çarşı Pansiyon, 1 Bozkurt Sok. ( 725 10 79), east of the small PTT office. A great budget option, Çarşı has 12 simple rooms, 4 with private bath and 2 with Ottoman-style floor mattresses. Breakfast included. Singles $8; doubles $16; triples $25.
Kadıoğlu Şehzade Konakları, 24 Mescit Sok., Hacıhalıl Mah. (725 27 62; fax 712 56). Rooms with bath, phone, TV. Breakfast included. Singles $19; doubles $32. Şehir Pansiyon, Akçasu Mah. No. 10 (712 19 70), beyond Çarşı, heading 100m uphill on Akçasu Sok., just past the Dağdelen Camii. 8 rooms, 3 with bath, and 4 with hill views. Breakfast included. Singles $14; doubles $24; triples $32.
Hotel Gülen, 2 Utku Sok., Ulu Camii Karşısı (725 10 82). From the roundabout in New Safranbolu heading toward Çarşı, take the 2nd right onto Cumhuriyet Cad.; the hotel is about 200m ahead. An incredible bargain. Stay in an authentic Ottoman house with a splendid rustic interior for rock-bottom prices. Charismatic owner offers 9 rooms, 4 with bath. Singles $3; doubles $6.50; triples $9.50.
Konak Hotel, 4 Sağlık Sok. (725 24 85), on the left as you walk 150m from the roundabout toward Çarşı. 12 comfortable, clean, renovated rooms, 5 with bath and TV. Breakfast $1.25. Singles $10; doubles $20; triples $32.
Safran Ocakbaşı (712 10 76), Çarşı Meydanı, Hamamönü Sok. Serves good food in a small, clean restaurant at reasonable prices. Kanat (wing) şiş $1.30. Free ayran. Karaüzümier Gezi Evi Kafeterya, Hacı Halil Mah., Mescit Sok No. 20 (725 14 49), up the road from Otel Teras. This museum-house serves 5 varieties of gözleme ($1), with dolma ($1.50) and erik suyu ($.80), in a lovely garden or inside in the Ottoman salon. Admission to the house is free if you eat in the restaurant.
Kadıoğlu Şehzade Sofrası, 8 Arasta Sok. (712 50 91; fax 712 56 57), on the main square. Though a bit touristy, it’s one of the places where you can try kuyu kebap ($3), made by hanging a whole lamb in a specially prepared underground pit and roasting it for hours, and Safranbolu bükme (sweet dessert; $2). Decor includes Ottoman couches, low tables, and a bubbling fountain. Open daily 8am-l 1pm.
Çevrikköprü Tesisleri ( 737 24 61; fax 737 21 19), about 6km from Safranbolu on the road to Kastamonu. Take one of the hourly dolmuş from Çarşı toward Yörük Köyü and ask to be let off at the restaurant. They specialize in kuyu kebap. The meat is particularly tender (250g portion $3). In addition to gözleme, baklava, and pide, they also have a pool full of live trout ($2). Open daily 9am-midnight.
Safranbolu’s highlight is unquestionably its architecture. Traditional wooden mansions are characterized by an overhanging second floor and highly ornate ceiling decorations. Their complex floor plans were designed to maximize comfort and to keep men and women separated. To see the architecture up close, take a peek inside the fancier hotels or visit the gezi evleri, restored houses that accept visitors for a small fee.
The best place to start is Kaymakamlar Evi (Governor’s Residence), the local museum. Enter through the courtyard, where the animals were originally kept. The house has two knockers: each would indicate the gender of the caller to the members of the household, so a resident of the same sex could answer the door.
Various tools and utensils are on display in the courtyard, including wooden cone frustums used for making ayran. Upstairs, the elaborate construction and decoration of the home attest to the complexity and grandeur of Safranbolu’s Ottoman houses. One of the most unusual features is the döner dolabı, a rotating cabinet set in the wall between the kitchen and the dining room that allowed female residents to serve food to male guests without showing themselves. After your tour, sip tea ($.25) in the garden. (To get to the house from the square, walk along Akın Sok. to the Cinci Han; Kaymakamlar is on the little street past the TC Ziraat Bankası and behind the Cinci Han. (712 66 78. $.80, students $.40. Open daily 9am-9pm; in winter 9am-5pm.)
Kileciler Evi, at the intersection of Akpmar Sok. and Sışayan Sok., 300m down Manifaturacılar Sok., heading away from the Cinci Han and main square, is worth the walk. This house boasts a gorgeous exterior, trellised balcony, and restored interior. 712 82 00. Open M-F 9am-7pm, Sa-Su 9am-8pm. $.80, students $.40.)
Other gezi evleri include the Karaüzümler Gezi Evi, on Mescit Sok. past the Otel Teras. Though more worn than Kaymakamlar, the rough, unfinished, wood-rein- forced facade of this 97-year-old building is an interesting change from the flat white of other mansions. (Open daily 9am-10pm. $.70, students $.30.) On Hükümet Sok., high on a hill past the Tahsin Bey Konağı, the Mümtazlar Evi has an interesting octagonal room on the top floor, as well as a tea garden (tea $.25; cappucino $1.25) with a great view, (a 712 63 59. Open daily 8:30am-midnight. $.80.)
Walk up the narrow broken street past Kaymakamlar Evi to reach Hıdırlık Tepesi, a lookout point with fantastic views of Safranbolu in all its antiqued glory. Hıdırlık Tepesi houses the tomb of Hasan Paşa, an Ottoman notable exiled to Safranbolu in 1843. Peek through the tiny barred slit to see his elaborately carved wooden tomb and the hundreds of coins thrown in by visitors. Also visit the grave of Candaroğlu Hıdır Paşa, who conquered Safranbolu in 1358.
Uphill from the Mümtazlar Evi is the old government, building, or Hükümet Binası, a 19th-century structure that’s prettier from a distance. On Manifaturacılar Sok. past the Cinci Han, the İzzet Paşa Camii, buüt in 1796, has exquisite calligraphy. The more central 17th-century Köprülü Mehmet Paşa Camii, across from the Cinci Han, is less exciting, but its courtyard opens onto the very touristed Yemeniciler Arastası, the shopping arcade that houses the tourist office. An oval-shaped complex, this was once home to Safranbolu’s famous shoe industry. Today, cafes and gift shops crowd the intimate arcade.
Most of Safranbolu’s nightlife centers around the Cinci Han. There’s an excellent range of bars, most offering live music, in the central square.
Beyaz Ev Pub, 18-20 Pazar Yeri (s 712 52 53), behind the Cinci Han. A friendly environment, with great live music and draft beer ($1.50). Be sure to sign their guestbook a collection of compliments, witticisms, and poems by foreign patrons In various stages of intoxication. Live guitar and saz music W and F-Sa. Open daily 11am-2am.
Arasna Bar, Arasta Arkası Sok., No. 4 (712 41 70; fax 725 30 82), on the ground floor of the Arasna Hotel. Hosts an enthusiastic crowd on F and Sa, when live music plays from 10pm. Beer $1.75.
Hangar Disco and Bar (712 67 27), in PazarYeri, behind the Cinci Han. A compact, crowded dance floor in Old Safranbolu’s only disco. Beer $2. Cover $3 1-6pm, $4 7pm- 3am; first drink and munchies included. Open daily 1pm-2am.
Turku Cafe Bar, 22 Pazar Yeri (725 46 66), next to Hangar Disco. Live Turkish folk music W and F-Su 9pm-lam. Beer $1.50. Open llam-2am.
Safranbolu Photography House and Kültür Café (712 65 83). Based in an old stone house just underneath the Hıdırlık Tepesi, this chill cafe-photography gallery Is an excellent place to take in Safranbolu from above, The owner, Turqud Ertugrul, will gladly show you his pictures of Safranbolu and the house.