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BEYPAZARI

The Lord's Market                         Population: 35,000

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Festival: First weekend in June

Beypazarı is a small town just over an hour’s drive west of Ankara that was, until recently, almost unknown even though it had once played an important role as a staging post on the trade route linking İstanbul to Baghdad.

Then a go-ahead mayor recognized that the old part of town, with its vast number (around 3,500) of old Ottoman houses, had the potential to turn itself into a sort of Safranbolu-lite at the same time as the Park Group, who own a huge coal-fired power station nearby, decided that they would like to plough some of their profits back into the community.DSC04996

The results have been quite staggering. Before the project began Beypazarı was lucky if it saw 2,500 visitors in a year. At the last count that number had risen to a staggering 150,000 visitors, most of them pouring in over the summer months.

It’s not hard to see what attracts them. As the bus pulls up you could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about since it drops you on the main road where all is as concrete as ever. But it’s only a short walk into the old town where at once you are astounded at how much of the old townscape has survived.

If Beypazarı has a problem it is that it is in danger of turning into an Ottoman-themed Disneyland, with the emphasis on tourism slowly draining away the authentic life of the town. The same could, of course, be said of Safranbolu, Göreme, or just about anywhere else that has a large tourism industry, and the locals no doubt prefer jobs and a steady income to “authenticity” anyway.

In any case it would be churlish to do anything other than congratulate Beypazarı on its well-deserved success.

A great time to visit is during the annual festival that glories in the grab-bag title of “Tarihi Evler, El Sanatları, Havuç ve Güveç Festivali (Historic Houses, Handicrafts, Carrot and Stew Festival)!”

Around town

Heart of the action is Alaattin Sokak, the cobbled main street, where locals gather behind makeshift stalls to sell dried fruit and nuts, and all manner of carrot-flavored items: juice, helva, ice cream, even lokum (Turkish delight).DSC05020

Alongside these healthy offerings they also tout what look like printed tablecloths but which are – as you’ll see if you venture into the main fruit and veg market (look out for the 10-fingered pumpkins) – the type of head covering-cum-shawl, called a bürgü, worn by many of the Beypazarılı women.

This market revs up over the weekend when many more people arrive to try and tempt the tourists. It’s all very colourful if only they would let you inspect their wares in peace.

The main street is surrounded by some of the town’s more imposing mansions, most of them now converted into restaurants or hotels. The hotels tend to be charming, boutique-style Ottoman offerings where your bed might come with a satin quilt and your towels might be presented to you wrapped in what looks like a cotton envelope. Your bathroom may also turn out to be tucked inside what looks as if it should be the wardrobe – very authentic if perhaps a little claustrophobic too.

DSC05027For the time being the street is cobbled, with a median strip running down it to help accommodate all the stalls. However, plans on show in the Halk Evi (People's House) suggest that a stream with small bridges crossing over it may soon be re-introduced.

The most historically interesting of the restaurants is housed in what was once the huge Taş Mektep (Stone School), whose walls are still adorned with photos of early 20th-century students (this is typical of Beypazarı where a lot of effort seems to have been put into ensuring that the local people are remembered as well as the historic infrastructure).

The town makes much of its distinctive cuisine and especially of its tarhana soups, gözlemes, and stews. To taste them at their best, try to visit over a weekend or in high summer when a fast turnover ensures that everything will be fresh rather than reheated.

If you opt to stay in one of the Ottoman mansions you’ll get a good idea of the sort of interior decoration favored by the locals in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, if you’re only visiting on a day trip there’s also an excellent Beypazarı Museum (closed Mondays) which showcases what one of the more impressive houses would have looked like in its heyday.

Most of the house-museums in better-known Safranbolu go unfurnished, but the one in Beypazarı has been redecorated with locally donated items. Most impressive is the bridal chamber which has been very beautifully refurnished, although the original kitchens are also very interesting. In the grounds of the museum you can also inspect some old marble columns and gravestones dating back to Roman times, as well as a wooden barn on stilts of a type that used to be common around here.

The original museum now has a rival that bills itself as Turkey’s “first and only living museum”. Housed in another fine Ottoman mansion with an especially impressive reconstructed kitchen, it aims to reintroduce visitors to Ottoman handicrafts such as ebru (paper marbling), which is a great idea in theory. Unfortunately unless you time your visit for a weekend (or the festival, of course) you may arrive to find no one there to entertain you.

DSC05008Like Safranbolu, Beypazarı still retains a wonderful old market quarter, the sort of place where you can hear people tap-tap-tapping at their copperwork from first light, and where big blackened clay pots are piled up outside the fırıns (bakeries) waiting to be filled with the piping hot stews which are one of the local claims to fame.

Under the shade of vines old men sip their teas and play a quick round of tavla (backgammon), while in the slightly glitzier cafes their womenfolk try to interest visitors in “80 katlı baklavası”, a local variant on the usual baklava which is said to be made with 80 layers of flaky pastry.

Sleeping

Akşemseddin Otel. Tel: 0312-763 0112

Beyzade Konağı. Tel: 0312-763 4140

Beypazarı İpekyolu Konağı. Tel: 0312-762 2722

Me’vaların Konağı

Müftüzade Konağı: Tel: 0312-763 3130

Hacı Bostan: Tel: 0312-763 0837

Transport info

Beytaş dolmuşes run to Beypazarı from Ankara’s Etlik bus terminal (NOT ASTİ). You can also pick them up outside the Akköprü Metro station provided there are seats available.

Onward transport direct to İstanbul is harder to find, although Metro has one early morning bus on a few days a week. It’s worth knowing that it stops at a very nice café around 11am if you have to skip your hotel breakfast.

Day trip destinations

Ankara

Göynük

İnözü Vadisi

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-177344-beypazari----where-the-carrot-is-king.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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