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BABAESKİ

"Old Father" Town                      Population:

Festival: Kakava - early May

Babaeski is one of those places that comes as a complete surprise despite the fact that it boasts a mosque designed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan, and one of the most exquisite stone bridges to be found anywhere in the country. What's more, both these sights are right beside the bus station, so it could hardly be handier to explore.

Around town

The Cedit Ali Paşa Mosque was built in 1572, and while it may not live up to the high standards set by Sinan's masterpiece, the Selimiye in Edirne it's still an attractive building, its single minaret and dome reconstructed at a later date as shown in photographs displayed in the porch. The most recent renovation, only completed in 2008, has left the interior impressively glistening and new.

Right beside it is the Mimar Sinan Köprüsü (bridge), which is reminiscent of the one spanning the Meriç River in Edirne. Seventy-two meters long and with six graceful arches, it was designed in 1633 by an architect called Çoban ("Shepherd") Kasım Ağa.

Traffic still pounds across it, which makes it hard to appreciate the two central kiosks where it should be possible to stand and gaze at the stream below, but if you clamber down the banks behind the riverside tea gardens, you'll be able to get close enough to the arches to appreciate the decorative flourishes on the keystones -- which will leave you with nothing but contempt for the crude metal footbridge the modern town planners have provided as a nearby alternative.

In the fields around Babaeski, you will probably see Roma (gypsy) women herding their sheep or weaving the huge straw baskets, which they sell in local markets. Their produce goes on sale in local street markets, especially the one in Uzunköprü, another town further south which is also renowned for its bridge.

This is a part of Turkey with a large settled Roma population who seem to have arrived in the 15th century. Every May they host the colourful Kakava festival, a Balkan gypsy gathering to celebrate the coming of summer; it is identical to Hıdrellez, the festival also celebrated in early May 9 by Turkey's Alevi minority population around Antakya and by the Roma residents in İstanbul. It's a lively occasion with lots of music and daredevils vaulting over bonfires.

Sleeping

Most people will probably want to stay either in nearby Edirne or in İstanbul for a better choice of accommodation.

Transport info

You can get a bus to Babaeski from Kırklareli or Edirne.

Driving between Babaeski and  Kırklareli you'll pass a pleasantly rural Kent Ormanı (City Forest) that makes a great place for a picnic.

 

 

 

 

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