Nomad Village                        Population: 

There’s nothing like proximity to a major tourist attraction to cast a smaller rival into the shade. Thus it is with Yörükköyü, the small village east of Safranbolu, that would attract visitors by the thousand were it not for the greater appeal of its neighbour.

The village is quite extraordinary, with street after street of imposing half-timbered Ottoman houses, their upper storeys jutting out over the cobbles. As you drive in it is hard to believe that somewhere so lovely could be virtually abandoned. Nevertheless that has been Yörükköyü’s sad fate.

The village’s name alone comes as a surprise. In Turkish it means ‘nomad village’, which seems a contradiction in terms until you realize that it must have referred to the home of a group of local nomads who had decided to settle.

In fact the village was largely inhabited by adherents of the Bektaşı sect, followers of Hacı Bektaş Veli, a 13th-century mystic who promoted a four-stage path to spiritual enlightenment. The number 12 is important to the Bektaşıs who believe, like the Iranians, in 12 imams, the last of whom has simply vanished. As a result the number 12 crops up with unusual regularity around the village – in, for example, the old laundry, which boasts a 12-sided stone table, and in the local museum where frescoes on the wall depict a dozen carnations.

During the week Yörükköyü slumbers in solitude. However, at the weekend a few small cafes open to serve gözleme and ayran to those visitors who can tear themselves away from Safranbolu.

The best way to appreciate the village is probably to stay at the Tarihi Yörük Pansiyon which has a wonderfully peaceful location, a marvellous garden and very few mod cons. Most of the rooms have normal free-standing beds, but in one it is possible to stay Ottoman style, which means sleeping on the sedir (bench seating) at night and then storing the bedding away in a niche during the day.

Around town

There's not a great deal to do in Yörükköyü, although several happy hours can be spent just wandering the streets and inspecting the magnificent old houses, many of them sporting a pair of antlers above their door to ward off the evil eye. Over and again you find yourself wondering about the wealth that made it possible to build so many fine mansions (some 140 are listed as historic monuments), but those villagers who can be found to talk to are adamant that the money was made from baking bread.

The one unmissable site is the Sipahioğlu Konağı Gezi Evi, the privately-owned local museum.

This mansion is so enormous that the tour has to be offered in two parts, by far the livelier of the two being offered by an apple-cheeked countrywoman who speaks not a word of English but doesn’t let that stand in the way of communicating with her guests. As you wander round the house you will be able to inspect the same sort of built-in wooden furnishings that are commonplace in Safranbolu: revolving cupboard doors, built-in mouse traps, purpose-designed wooden niches to accommodate all life’s necessities.

Here, however, you will also be treated to a sign-language explanation of how hot water running behind the walls acted as central heating, and of how the primitive toilets worked. Perhaps the highlight of the visit is just sitting in the little wooden lantern on the roof which would have been used as a smoking retreat-with-a-view by male members of the family. The fez-stand against the wall serves as a reminder of an item of headgear that was once ubiquitous but which Atatürk rendered as illegal as the Bektaşı dervishes.

Other than the museum, you might want to seek out the 500-year-old çamaşırhane (laundry) which is far larger than most such communal washing places and boasts arched hearths for heating the water and a stone table that is not completely level so that taller women could work at one end and shorter ones at the other. For better or worse, it was recently turned into an art gallery.
There is also a quaint little village mosque with fire-fighting implements arranged on the wall like a Damien Hirst masterpiece.

Tarihi Yörük Pansiyon. Tel: 0370-737 2153

Transport info

There is no public transport to Yörükköyü although you can take a dolmuş east from Safranbolu to Konarı and then walk 1km from the road junction.

Alternatively you can take a taxi all the way from Safranbolu (11km) – make sure you agree on waiting time before setting out.

On the way back to Safranbolu you can stop at the pretty Cevrikköprü restaurant to try out kuyu kebabı, the local lamb delicacy, which is baked in a pit and then served with big flaps of bread to soak up the grease.



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