The Silk Road through Safranbolu in Turkey is the historic caravan trail through leading from Iran, India and China to Europe. It allowed Safranbolu to trade and prosper and enabled people of different religions to come into contact over millennia. The journeys and conquests of Alexander the Great probably created the Silk Road. The next step in the development of the road was when the Romans developed a liking for silk. The Byzantines took this to the next level and finally the Seljuk Turks did even better. They improved roads and built hundreds of beautiful caravan-serais to encourage trade with the east.
Kastamonu, a Turkish Market Town
According to the UNESCO, the silk road follows this direction in the north: Trabzon, Amasya, Kastamonu, Izmit, Istanbul and Edirne. On my way back to Istanbul I stopped at Kastamonu and Safranbolu, two of the most amazing places on the Silk Road. Click the various images below the enlarge the pictures.
Kastamonu is another ancient town in the former Turkish empire. The first record of the local castle is from the 11th century when Isaac I Komnenos, Byzantine Emperor ordered its construction in 1057. The fortress’ name was Castra Komnenon. The town and the surrounding area developed into a rich agricultural region, also serving as a stopping station for the caravans. The old town has some very pretty houses and winding roads up and down the various hills.
The city is also home to a major market where the villagers bring their fresh produce on a daily basis. I was there on a Friday and it seemed to be a big market day. The market covers several streets and has two major multi-story halls. At the center are the old fashioned restaurants where I had the most amazing meat-filled bread. Everyone seemed very friendly and if you stop at a stall to buy something, they will invited you in for a cup of tea.
Related: Scenic Drive: Istanbul to Akcakoce
I spent quite a few hours in the town, first walking around the historic district then up to the castle. I had lunch at the market hall then headed out to Safranbolu. If you would like to read more about Kastamonu, please click this link.
Safranbolu and the Caravanserai
The road to Safranbolu is a four lane highway from Kastamonu, so it was quite easy to get there. Safranbolu is a UNESCO world heritage site. The entire town has been preserved as it was 600 years ago! I was quite fascinated to see the old houses and streets, as well as the blacksmiths, ice cream makers and saffron sellers.
Part of the town is the medieval industrial district with carpenters, blacksmiths and tailors lining the streets. At the center of town was the original historic caravanserai. The walls of the building were at least two meters thick and it had only one gate. At the center courtyard was the original water fountain and stairs going up to the higher levels. Stepping through the door really felt like a step back in time. They were playing original Turkish music and staff dressed up in historic dresses.
Once I checked in and parked the car I went for a long walk around town. It doesn’t matter which way you start, it is all preserved and just looks fabulous. The UNESCO site says this about the town: “Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route from the 13th century until the advent of the railway. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese originate from 1322. During its apogee in the 17th century, Safranbolu’s architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire.”
The city has three districts: Çukur, the market place area of the inner city, the area of Kıranköy, and Bağlar. Walking around the entire city takes a good day and is well worth a visit.
The Blacksmith and the Ice Cream Stall
My favourite part of town was the blacksmith shop and the ice cream stall. The blacksmith allowed me to make my hands dirty and help him out in his hard work. Watch the video below to see me create a huge nail. After the hard work I stopped off at the ice cream stall where they sold ice cream made using original recipes from hundreds of years ago. It tasted absolutely delicious.
The Gypsy Wedding and the Turkish Bath
I was there on a Saturday and it happened to be a gypsy wedding in one of the houses. When I walked past and looked what was going on they invited me inside. At the end of the video below you can see what the wedding was like. They were very friendly people and invited me for dinner which was great.
After the impromptu dinner I headed back to the caravanserai and then to the bath. The bath house originates from the 14th century and is simply breathtaking. As soon as you walk in history will surround you. Nothing at all has changed in the building in over 700 years and locals still use it as their ancestors did. I spent a couple of hours in the steam room, sauna, cold room and even got a massage, then went back to sleep.
The drive to Istanbul should have been an easy one, but I didn’t realize I needed a motorway ticket to exit. I also had no idea how to register, so unfortunately I received a fine afterwards. Make sure to tell the letting agency that you are planning to use the motorways and buy the appropriate ticket before you enter.
Turkey Silk Road Video
You can read the first part of this article here. If you enjoyed this post and want to read a similar story, scroll down to see the related posts section. You might also want to watch some of my other videos on Youtube.