2011
03.08

SYNOPSIS:

A trip to ghost town Yörük Köyü, a visit to the disappointing City Museum, and more walking through Safranbolu.

Safranbolu used to be dead and empty before the restoration initiative in the 1970s, a local had told me yesterday.  “Dead and empty” took on a deeper meaning for me today as I hired a taxi to visit the nearby village of Yörük Köyü.

It could not have been more symbolic, but the only road in and out of the village goes right through the cemetery!  An eerie yet very picturesque effect, particularly with the snow that had fallen this morning…  Yes, snow.  I might have as well stayed in Michigan for that.  I wore 8 layers today to stay warm as I really did not bring any winter clothes.  I can only double, triple, or octagonal my thin summer wardrobe.  I have never seen anything like it; I mean a cemetery being the entrance to a village.  I wonder how that came about.   It could not have been more fitting for this dying town.

The village is so remote, not even buses go there.  You would have to hitchhike from the main road and only if you are lucky will there be a car going in that direction.  Literally, ¾ of all the houses are empty, boarded up, and are crumbling along towards a slow and certain death.  This is not quite yet an American-style ghost town, but it soon might be.  I saw no store, no workshop, no restaurant.  A few old people still live there, but there is no future.  If there is a present, is questionable.  There only seems to have been a past.  I hope my impression of this town was compounded by the snow and that it is not quite as bleak there in the summer.

All of the houses are of the same Ottoman 18th Century style as in Safranbolu.  Why I spent $35 for a taxi to see just one more, is beyond me.  Sometimes I do weird things.  But one of the houses in Yörük Köyü is open to visitors; those who make it out there.   What makes it special is that nothing has been restored in it.  Everything is truly original including the linens, the fixtures, and some fine fresco wall paintings.  These are details which have almost all been lost in Safranbolu.  I am sure this is due to the fact that this house never was abandoned.  It has been in the same family since its construction and the current occupant who led me around is the 8th generation in this family.  He still lives in the second floor.  The third floor is his “museum”.  The ground floor is a small souvenir shop.  I was very impressed that he did not push me into buying anything.  He even refused the tip I wanted to leave him!  After all, he most likely only got one visitor today paying $2.50 and he toured me around.

The second thing that had inspired my drive out there was a surviving village laundry of the same vintage as the Ottoman residences.  It was a simple square room with stone water basins in all four corners and drainage channels in the floor.  It had a central round stone table symbolically divided into 12 sections.  I read this was a minor Islamic sect’s reference to the 12 imams.  This sect was prominent in that particular village.  The stone table seemed flat, but it actually was slanted in a way that shorter women could comfortably wash at one end – beating the laundry over the table and working it with various tools – and the taller ones could work at the other end.  The difference was close to a foot!  This laundry was communally owned.  I guess you would just take your laundry there and work when you needed it.  How socially minded was that!

Yörük Köyü does not have any of the other features that make Safranbolu so special:  The picturesque setting, a museum, old mosques, a 17th Century caravanserai and an equally old hamam (bath).  I really don’t see how it could survive.  I wonder what will become of that mansion that has been in the family for 200 years one generation from now.  The owner has two children.  But they no longer live in the village.  What are the chances they would come back?  It must be heart-breaking to let something like this go.  But then, who knows?  Perhaps, it will become a “suburb” of Safranbolu?  If some sect again would need a quiet hideout – Yörük Köyü would be the place!

I dutifully completed my circle around Safranbolu today hitting the final ¼ of town which I had missed yesterday.  On the way I visited the impressive looking “castle” of Safranbolu which has been converted into the city museum.  There were artifacts and a photo display of Safranbolu but not a line was written in English!  How disappointing.   There was a historic clock tower which solved the mystery of the morning:  I swear I heard a bell ringing 8 times at 8 AM just like church bells ring the time in Europe.  But I knew there was no church in town.  I could not explain it.  It was the city’s bell tower; a nice touch.

I took way too many pictures of houses, chimneys, doors, and cute alleys.  I could not help it.  But there is little to tell about it.  I revisited the alley of the blacksmiths and this time three of them were working.  I watched them for a long time.  How much time and care goes into making into just a little ornament for a lock is amazing!

And so another day went in little Safranbolu.  The day ended as it had started with snow quietly falling down; not much, just enough to put a touch of white on everything without covering anything completely.  It made the cobblestones wet.  It’s hard enough to walk on these irregular stones and these undulating streets.  When these stones are wet, and the streets are steep (as they almost all are) – they are death traps.   And now I am heading out to the hamam.

Good night.