Note: This entry is part of a series about our 2012 trip to Turkey.
Since it’s now been over a year since our 2012 Turkey trip, I figured it was time I finish blogging about our amazing journey. After carefully studying Lonely Planet’s Turkey guide, we decided to make our second stop in Turkey the beautiful Ottoman-era city of Safranbolu.
Safranbolu is a UNESCO World Heritage site, being Turkey’s best-preserved Ottoman town. The old town is full of red-tiled buildings lining its cobblestone streets. Its distinctive dwellings of sun-dried bricks, wood, and stucco, marked by upper stories jutting out over the lower stories, are numerous and impressive.
We arranged travel to Safranbolu via overnight bus from Istanbul. The bus company picked us up at a travel agency near our hotel and shuttled us to the bus station to await our overnight bus. Bus travel in Turkey is efficient and mostly comfortable, if a bit confusing to English speakers. Many of the buses have free wi-fi and attendants serve refreshments (much like airlines). Unfortunately, none of the buses we took had bathroom facilities. During a long, overnight trip, the bus usually makes at least one stop at a truck-stop like facility where restrooms are available (usually at a cost of 1TL). The bus makes many other stops, but since instructions are never in English, it’s hard to know whether you’ll have time at that stop to use the facilities.
Anyway, we were dropped off at the bus company’s office in Karabuk (the newer part of town) where the attendant called our hotel for us. Even though it was 5:30AM, the innkeeper arrived to pick us up in his personal vehicle about 30 minutes later and drove us into the Çarşı (the old town market district). The innkeeper graciously allowed us to check-in early, where we quickly got under the covers to cuddle and warm ourselves up.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the 300-year-old Bastoncu Pansiyon for about 80 TL ($37) a night. The inn is run by a Turkish couple that speaks English and Japanese. The building is old and beautiful…and cold (in December). It was a rare opportunity to stay in a historic, Ottoman house. Our room, located on a corner of the house, was probably a bit cooler due to its position–we never did quite get warm but the innkeeper offered to move us to a more interior room when it opened up. We declined because the room itself was so interesting. It included a double and twin bed, as well as a very small private bathroom. A traditional Turkish breakfast was served each morning. They also offered a laundry service, which we didn’t take advantage of. The location is excellent; it is a short walk to the main market area, just down the street from one of the Ottoman house museums, and across the lane from a really good family-run restaurant. Safranbolu is so compact that no matter where you’re staying in the Çarşı, you can get where you need to go on foot. I do recommend wearing a pair of good hiking boots for navigating the cobblestone streets, which get quite slippery in the rain/snow.
Things To Do
Our first day in Safranbolu we visited the Kaymakamlar Muze Evi. This is the Ottoman house museum located down the street from our pension. The museum has limited interpretive signs in English, but we were still able to get a good idea about what was being described and how the home was used. The mannequins were a special treat!
Later in the night, we visited the market, where I purchased a handmade leather belt by a man who was very proud of being featured in several Korean travel guides. He had us join him for tea. There are ample opportunities for shopping in Safranbolu and we found the prices to be the most reasonable overall of all the places we visited. There were several items (especially metal items such as a Turkish Coffee Set, tea spoons, etc.) that we regretted not picking up here.
We spent our second day walking around town. It was cold, we were bundled up and wearing our hiking boots and rain gear to help cut the wind. We began by walking the hill up to the castle, which is the military and administrative center of the town. It includes the old Government Palace (Kent Tarihi Muzesi), the old Prison, the Clock Tower, Ammunition Building, and Gendermary Service Building. When we were there, we thought the view of town was its best attraction, since the Government Palace was closed the day we visited.
We continued our tour, wandering the streets of Safranbolu on foot. Every vantage point is a Kodak moment. Beauty is everywhere. The air smells of the coal seen billowing out of the many chimneys. And five times a day, the call to prayer rings out as it does throughout Turkey. We considered visiting the Hamam, as it is reputed to be one of Turkey’s best bathhouses, but we had run out of time after our wandering was complete. We did stop to eat and browse goods for sale, buying a baby’s shirt, several tablecloths, scarfs, and of course, the locally produced soda, Bağlar.
Each morning, our pension served a fabulous, traditional Turkish breakfast, which includes tomatoes, cucumber, olives, cheese, bread and homemade jam, a hard-boiled egg, etc. Twice we dined at the little family-run restaurant across from our pension called Safranbolu Sofrasi. The staff was kind and warm and the place cozy and snug. I had the dolma (stuffed grape leaves) twice and Brian finally got to try some Turkish coffee.
The first night we came across Kadioglu Sehzade Sofrasi, where we had another enjoyable and affordable meal.
Our other find was a cozy restaurant we found during our wandering of the second day, called Kazan Ocagi. It appeared to be run by a very friendly man and his wife and the food was excellent.
The next day, we were ready to make the journey to our next destination, Goreme. We took a different bus company, Metro, and our innkeeper kindly shuttled us to their office. Once there, we hopped on a small bus that took us to the otogar (bus station) where we boarded our bus to Ankara. In Ankara, we had to make a connection, which was a bit disconcerting because our bus was late and because no one spoke English, we weren’t sure if we had missed it! But it finally arrived and we were on our way to the mystical Cappadocia region. Story to be continued…