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ZİLE

He came, he saw, he conquered                    Population: 34,500

ViewMarket days: Tuesday and Friday

South of Amasya, this small inland town is famous as the place where, in 47 BC, Julius Caesar uttered his immortal words Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). He had just defeated Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates VI Eupator, who had led a Pontic revolt against the Romans. 

Once you get there, however, there's not much to show for Caesar. Instead you'll be stunned - and hopefully delighted - to find that Zile retains one of Turkey's most complete Ottoman townscapes, with street upon street of small wood and plaster houses interspersed with the odd grand konak (mansion). What makes this so especially remarkable is that most of the houses are still lived in when so often the old houses in city centres are just shattered shells. streetscape

The remains of a castle said to date back to Pontic times still survive above the modern town. The walls and the tower over the entrance have recently been completely rebuilt and the interior is now a large and lively picnicking area with a tea garden and a few sad animals (including dogs) and birds in cages. Scattered about are reminders of the more ancient past, with bits of sarcophagi and old gravestones with Ancient Greek inscriptions. The views out over the red-tiled roofs of the different mahalles are magnificent.

Around town

The Ottoman houses aside, Zile also has a number of old mosques, hamams and other structures dotted about.

If you come by bus you should get out in front of the Taceddin İbrahim Paşa Hamam which dates back to 1494 and was being restored in 2012. It was once part of a mosque complex that included the pretty brick-built mosque uphill behind it that was built in 1497. That, however, was largely rebuilt in 1640 when it was renamed the Boyacı Hasan Ağa Cami after its new benefactor.

Facing the hamam across the road is the Bedesten Cami,  which started life as a market building in 1495 as part of the same complex. Converted into a mosque, it was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1939 but has since been repaired and reopened. 

Nearby is the Ulu (Nasuh Paşa) Cami which also suffered badly in an earthquake and was largely rebuilt between 1901 and 1909. the original mosque was a work of 1267 paid for by Mehmed Zaluli during the reign of the Selçuk leader Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev. The huge dome has been beautifully repainted recently. 

ElbasBut perhaps the most beautiful of all the mosques is actually the much newer (19th century) Elbaşoğlu Cami that you pass on the left as you come into town. Not particularly special from the outside, it turns out to have a spectacularly beautiful wooden interior with a lovely carved ceiling surrounded by an elegant calligraphic inscription and paintings of flowers. It's a style that could almost be folk art but here works a treat. There is another like it in Yozgat town centre apparently. 

Sleeping

In August 2012 the town center Gaydaroğlu Konaği was being restored to become a boutique hotel. Otherwise the best choice of places to stay is in Tokat.

Transport info

There are buses every half-hour or so from Turhal (20km).

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