OTTOMAN VILLAGES

Due to urban expansion many towns and villages have undergone rapid development, which has resulted in the wholesale destruction of the traditional way of life. Thankfully someone recognised the loss of this important part of Turkish heritage and across the country a large number of towns and villages have not only been spared but have also been restored and rejuvenated. The prime example is Safranbolu which sits on the North Central Anatolian Plain in the shadow of mountainous scenery.

It became an important location on the trade route used for the passage of goods being transported to the Black Sea, to the north, during Ottoman times.The wealthy traders and landowners bestowed on the town many fine buildings and hundreds of wooden Konaks.

Saffron, the highly priced commodity, prized for its delicate flavour and colour, was harvested from the thousands of Autumnal Crocuses that surround the town and its name is derived from the word Saffron.

With the onset of World War One and the founding of the Republic, the town fell into decline, as it lost its Armenian and Greek residents, who made up for a quarter of the population. The gracious mansions quickly fell into disrepair and remained that way until the early 70's when the Belediye realized the potential for tourism and commenced a huge restoration programme.

Today it is a picturesque town which is home to a large number of the timber framed houses that sit at the bottom of a valley and is virtually a living museum. The timber and stucco homes have been lovingly restored to their former glory, over the last 40 years or so.

The Konaks today serve as hotels and restaurants. But its delightful charm, initially attracted only a few tourists, as it is a little off the beaten track. Over the last decade the numbers of visitors has increased considerably. A stroll through the narrow cobbled passages is as though one is stepping back in time. The best time to explore the back streets is just before sunset, when the dark wooden beams and their cracked plaster, are bathed in the warm light.

The town is a "World Heritage Site" but remains a living, breathing area where "normal life" continues, which, hopefully, will aid its continued restoration and conservation.

Some 10Km from the ancient city of Ephesus is the beautiful village of Sirince which is built into the hilside and is surrounded by orchards and olive groves. This pretty village was named by its Greek residents “Cirkince”, “ugly”, because they did not want to be bothered by, nor to share the beauty of their village, with foreigners. But after a number of years the name was changed to “Sirinci”, “pretty”. When one looks across the panorama from atop of the village one understands why the name was changedToday the village is a perfect blend of Turk-Greek culture, as of the 1920's, and all the typical Greek houses have kept their original outside characteristics. The interiors have not been neglected and many are filled with authentic furnishings. Some of the most beautiful houses are open to visitors and in the courtyard of one there is beautifully restored Orthodox church. The narrow streets of the village belong to the women, where they sell handcrafts and olive oil. Another favorite with visitors to Sirince is its wine, which can be sampled in its many small cafés.

South of İzmir is the village of Birgi, . Its narrow cobbled alleyways are filled with lovingly restored and cared for stone houses built in true Ottoman style.

The village of Yesilyurt sits at the foot of Mount Ida on the Gulf of Edremit and has a population of about 200 inhabitants who make their living from the Olive Oil, that is famous throughout the country. The 500year old village is filled with traditional stone Ottoman houses and, although a popular tourist attraction, it has retained a unique atmosphere.

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