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BOLVADİN

The Roman Polybotum                                        Population: 32,000

DSCN1462Market day: Wednesday

The small town of Bolvadin, due east of Afyon, may not be the most obvious excursion destination but those who make it here may be pleasantly surprised by what they find. it's a place that still moves at the pace of the horse carts used to transport goods and people around town, and it's a place where crumbling old houses that could do with a makeover co-exist with imaginative ideas like painting the bus stops to look like houses. Unexpectedly, the mayor when I visited in 2013 turned out to be a woman. 

Around town

The most obvious place to start exploring is the Lala Sinan Paşa İmaret Cami, an early Ottoman (1481) single-domed structure with a portico whose columns rest on a mix of bases obviously taken fron the site of old Polybotum or another Ottoman building. Bolvadinmosque

Nearby the Hacı Mahmut Cami was built in 1906 at the time when Sultan Abdülhamid II had commissioned the extensive rebuilding of Afyon after a fire. If you wander around the back streets nearby you will come across many brightly coloured Ottoman houses that were probably built at the same time as well as simpler ones that were made of brick coated with mud and topped off with roofs made from local reeds.

The town centre radiates out from the huge, shed-like Çarşı Cami that was built in 1904. The narrow streets of the bazaar, with some buildings of stone and others of wood, is still pleasingly unmodernised, full of old-fashioned shoe shops and barber's salons rather than branches of the usual chain stores. 

There are several attractive fountains around town whose curved roofs mirror a local feature of the houses.

Further afield

BolvadinbridgeBolvadin's most impressive single sight is the Kırkgöz Köprüsü (40 Eyes Bridge) although you may have some trouble finding it in the fields. As you come into Bolvadin from Çay look for signs on the right to the Sanay Sitesi (Industrial Zone). Drive through this, turn right and drive on until you come to the modern bridge across the Akarçay river - the Kırkgöz Köprüsü is on the far side of it. 

The bridge was originally commissioned with 40 arches by the Byzantine Emperor Manual Komnenus in 1150, but Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent had the great Sinan extend it to 64 arches. Only 56 of the arches survive today (in comparision, the uzun köprü (long bidge) at Uzunköprü (Long Bridge) in Thrace has 174 arches). Look carefully at the stonework and you'll be able to see more pieces of old masonry from Polybotum reused. Recent restoration has removed any traces of Sinan's work in creating steps and a namazgah (outdoor praying area) beside the bridge. 

A short drive east from Bolvadin will bring you to the village of Dereköy on the shores of Eber Gölü (Lake Eber). Most villagers here make their living from cutting hasır (reeds), a task carried out in November. At other times you will see tepee-shaped reedstacks all around the village awaiting export via Mersin to Europe for use as thatching.Bolvadinreeds

Sleeping

You will probably want to visit Bolvadin on a day trip from Afyon but the central Polybotum Otel (Tel: 0272-612 7212) offers clean, serviceable rooms should you want to stay.

Transport info

Buses from Afyon's Yeni Otogar travel to Bolvadin via Çay, taking about an hour and a half to complete the run.

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