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UŞAK

Home to a Lydian treasure trove              Population: 190,000

UsakstatueBack in the 16th and 17th centuries Uşak in Western Anatolia was a town known for making stupendous carpets - you can see some magnificent examples in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and the Carpet Museum in İstanbul. Today it's a thoroughly modern place with unusually well-laid streets and pavements.

In this rather unlikely setting you will stumble upon one of Turkey’s richest museums, housing the Kanun Treasure, a fantastic horde of silver and gold supposedly named after an especially wealthy individual mentioned in the Koran.

Around Güre village in the valley of the Gediz River, 25km west of Uşak, ancient burial mounds covered the remains of some of the Lydian kings who ruled this area in the 6th century BC. In the 1960s grave robbers hacked into the mounds and uncovered a treasure trove of more than 350 gold, silver and glass artefacts. Most of these items found their way to the United States where they were put on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After a long legal battle they were finally returned to Turkey in 1993 and put on display in Uşak Museum (closed Mondays). Then in 2006 there was an outcry when an anonymous tip-off revealed that a fake had been substituted for a lovely gold brooch. The museum director was eventually convicted of doing this. Usakcart

It’s well worth going out of your way to see the collection, which includes some elegant silver bowls, a silver jug with the tiny figure of a naked acrobat forming a handle, and some very Egyptian-looking jewellery.

Just as wonderful are the remains of wall paintings depicting a young woman in a long scarf and red robe, and a young man and woman facing each other, their long almond-shaped eyes harking back to Egyptian prototypes. Other wall paintings are thought to have been destroyed by the grave robbers.

Tip: When work on building a new train station is completed the old station may become a new museum to house the treasure.

UsakmusThe current museum lurks in a side street behind an enormous monument to Atatürk. Leaping out at the front are three equestrian statues of the great man, while, at the back, peasants manhandle a huge wooden cart. Above all this rampant activity, a calm civilian Atatürk stands between male and female figures symbolizing art and science. Only Kastamonu has anything to compare with it.

Cumhuriet Caddesi, Uşak's partially pedestrianised high street, continues north from the statue to Cumhuriyet Meydanı where two mosques, the Ulu Cami and the Burmalı Cami, stand virtually side by side. The Burmalı Cami (1570) boasts a wonderful fluted brick minaret, while the Ulu Cami (1406) has a 19th-century narthex, with a sequence of plastered domes.

The back streets are full of crumbling Ottoman houses that are now being restored. One of them, the Latife Hanım Evi, has been converted into a cultural centre. Even more beautiful is the Tekeşoğlu Hacı Abdülkadir Konaği.Usakhos

Near the Ulu Cami there are also remains of a couple of hans. The early 20th-century Bedesten is now full of jewellery shops. A new Kent Müzesi (City Museum, closed Mondays) can also be visited near the Burmalı Cami.

Sleeping

Dülgeroğlu Hotel

Transport info

Regular buses from İzmir to Uşak pass through Kula. From Uşak buses also run to Afyon and Konya.

You can easily get to Uşak by train from İzmir's Alsancak station too. 

Day trip destinations

Blaundos

Dumlupınar

Kula

This article first appeared in Sunday's Zaman

KULA AND UŞAK: FORGOTTEN TOWNS OF WESTERN ANATOLIA

It really is a mystery why some towns manage to suck in visitors by the busload while others languish in obscurity. What it does mean, however, is that there is still plenty of Turkey to be discovered by those prepared to venture off the beaten track. Take Western Anatolia, for example. When even Afyon struggles to attract tourists, what hope can there be for even less well-known places, places like Kula and Uşak, for example? So why should you bother? Well, because Kula was the birthplace of Turkey’s seventh president, while Uşak is home to one of the country’s greatest – and least visited - archeological treasures.

Kula is backed by Turkey’s youngest volcanic cone and is well known to geologists for the lava fields that surround it. It was here that Kenan Evren, the general responsible for the 1980 military coup who became Turkey’s seventh president, was born in 1918. The main road whips past the outskirts of town, so you need to turn off the highway and head for the center to find out what makes it tick. As soon as you see the signpost pointing to the Bakırcılar Arastası (Coppermakers’ Market), the Demirciler Arastası (Ironworkers’ Market), and the Leblebciler Arastası (Chickpea-sellers’ Market) you’ll realize that this is somewhere rather special. Sure enough, by some miracle Kula has managed to hang onto its original shopping area, complete with cobbled streets, brick-gabled shops, and quaint cafes where you can barely see through the windows for the condensation.

At the far end of the market stands a hamam dating back to 1351 but no longer in use. Nearby, however, you will come across a few old-fashioned felt-makers still hard at work. These days machines pound the wool to make the felt, but in the past the workers would have taken it into the steamy hamam and used their upper bodies to pound it. Elsewhere in Turkey, felt-making is making an arty comeback. Here, however, it’s still used for workaday purposes like lining the bottoms of shoes and saddles.

Cross the empty square just past the hamam and you will quickly find yourself lost amid narrow streets of old, brightly-colored Ottoman houses, one of them soon to become a superb hotel. Signs point to the Kenan Evren Etnografya Müzesi and the Türk Evi which face each other across the street. In the past Kula had a large Greek population who lived in konak-style houses with rooms opening off a covered hallway. The Turks, on the other hand, lived in houses with the rooms opening off a courtyard. Kenan Evren was born in a konak-style house whose rooms are maintained as they were when he lived there. Across the road, the Turkish house shows off several rooms ringed with sedirs (bench seats), as well as a sitting area open to the elements; the photographs of early 20th-century Kula that decorate the walls are particularly fascinating. Afterwards, if you keep walking up the street you will come to the ruins of a fine old church standing abandoned beside the local football pitch.

Uşak’s charms are a little less obvious. What was once a town famous for its fine carpets (magnificent examples hang in İstanbul’s Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum) is now a thoroughly modern place with unusually well-laid streets and pavements. In this rather unlikely setting you will stumble upon one of Turkey’s richest museums, housing the Kanun Treasure, a fantastic horde of silver and gold supposedly named after an especially wealthy individual mentioned in the Koran. Around Güre village in the valley of the Gediz River, 25 kilometers west of Uşak, ancient burial mounds covered the remains of some of the Lydian kings who ruled this area in the 6th century BC. In the 1960s grave robbers hacked into the mounds and uncovered a treasure trove of more than 350 gold, silver and glass artefacts. Most of these items found their way to the United States where they were put on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. After a long legal battle they were finally returned to Turkey in 1993, but instead of going on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, where they would have been seen by thousands of visitors every year, they were given to the tiny Uşak Museum. Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, last year there was an outcry when an anonymous tip-off revealed that a fake had been substituted for a particularly lovely gold brooch.

It’s well worth going out of your way to see the collection, which includes some elegant silver bowls, a silver jug with the tiny figure of a naked acrobat forming a handle, and some very Egyptian-looking jewellery. Just as wonderful are the remains of wall paintings depicting a young woman in a long scarf and red robe, and a young man and woman facing each other, their long almond-shaped eyes harking back to Egyptian prototypes. Other wall paintings are thought to have been destroyed by the grave robbers.

As you leave the museum, it’s also worth casting an eye over the odds and ends scattered about the garden. Here are ancient marble columns and capitals, tombstones inscribed in Latin and Greek, and huge great pots – items that museums in less blessed parts of the world would give their eye-teeth to own, but which are just so much historical flotsam and jetsam in Uşak

The museum lurks in a side street behind one of the most overbearing monuments to Atatürk ever to grace a Turkish town centre. Leaping out at the front are three equestrian statues of the great man, while, at the back, peasants manhandle a huge wooden cart. Above all this rampant activity, a calm civilian Atatürk stands between male and female figures symbolizing art and science. Only Kastamonu has anything to compare with it.

Uşak high street continues north from the statue to Cumhuriyet Meydanı where two mosques, the Ulu Cami and the Burmalı Cami, stand virtually side by side. The Burmalı Cami (1570) boasts a wonderful fluted brick minaret, while the Ulu Cami (1406) has a 19th-century narthex, with a sequence of plastered domes. Like Kula’s, the back streets of Uşak are full of crumbling Ottoman houses, one of them, the Latife Hanım Evi, recently restored to serve as a cultural center.

For the time being Kula offers overnighters only the elderly Volkan Hotel. Uşak, however, has a number of business-class hotels and the fine Dülgeroğlu Hotel, housed in a converted warehouse dating back to 1898 and close to the Sarraflar Çarşısı (Jewellery Market), a stylish old shopping arcade which would, with careful investment, look as splendid as anything in London or Paris.

If you have your own car, it’s worth knowing that to the east of Kula a side road leads to Yanıkyöre and some dramatic rock formations reminiscent of the more famous fairy chimneys in Cappadocia. And just east of Uşak a sign reading ‘abideler’ leads to the monuments to commemorate the 1922 Battle of Dumlupınar that marked a turning point in the Turkish War of Independence.

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