APPLE SYRUP, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR GROUNDED IN WATER MILL, TAŞKÖPRÜ GARLIC, FLAX SEEDS, POUCHED YOGURT, TOSYA RICE… KASTAMONU LIVES ON ITS OWN REMEDIES.
As soon as I climbed down the steps of the historical Kastamonu Municipality Mansion, dating from the 1910s, I look back; the structure looks dignified and solemn. This example of the National Architectural current seems like it implies that the magnificence is not nostalgia, when it comes to government buildings. The structure is now a boutique hotel, which is named as the Ottoman Palace. The work of the same period and the current State Mansion that is located at the Cumhuriyet Square continues its mission without a change.
It is Wednesday, marketplace day for Kastamonu. Kendir Kapanı (Yanık Building) had been built by Yanıkoğlu Hacı İsmail Ağa as a commercial building. The structure is still being used for trade after 270 years. The villagers carry out of the rooms of the three storey building sacks full of combed hemp ready to be made into ropes. The rooms are located along the wooden hallways that surround the courtyard. I do not recognize most of the produce grown in this city, which used to export almond and walnut to Rome once upon a time. For example, ‘üryani plum’ (a type of thin-skinned plum.) As if the villager can read my mind, she replies, “You cannot see it anywhere else but Kastamonu…” The first wheat that was planted by human: einkorn. It existed in 10 thousand BC and it still does. Women tell its story: “After the harvest, we boil them in large cauldrons, later dry, and finally shell them. Dried dark üryani plum roll-ups are not eaten; they are smashed in water and drunk. Apple syrup, whole wheat grounded in water mill, Taşköprü garlic, flax seed, pouched yogurt, Tosya rice… Kastamonu lives on its own remedies.
An extraordinary shrine
There is a shrine in every corner of this city of saints. Aşıklı Sultan Shrine is among the most significant ones. The middle one among the five symbolic coffins inside belongs to Aşıklı Sultan or Yanık (Burnt) Saint as the locals call him. When the Turks were fighting to take over the castle from the Byzantines, the commander, Aşıklı Sultan was shot with an arrow to death in 1116. He was buried where he was shot. A shrine was built over his burial place later. According to the popular belief, someone who visited the shrine in the first years of our Republic got mad when his wish didn’t come true and lit the shrine on fire. The fire was put out after Aşıklı Sultan entered the governor’s dream to warn him. That is why sultan’s feet that can be seen through the glass end of his coffin are burnt.
What was your motive, Moni!
The Kastamonu Castle will be visible eventually at the end of the streets where the old wooden townhouses of the city are lined. The structure is the only reminiscence of the Byzantine. According to a romantic legend about the origins of the city’s name; Moni, the beautiful daughter of the Byzantine landlord, sees the commander of the Turkish soldiers, who siege the castle, from the bastions and falls in love with him. The Turks are about to give in, because the resistance of the Byzantine landlord is strong. One night, Moni sends her maid with the key to the castle to the Turkish bey’s tent. She tells him not give in the siege and Moni is in love with him, and then hands him the key. In short time, the Turks begin to attack once again; however, the landlord learns about his daughter’s treason. The father has her daughter and forty friends of her thrown down the castle’s bastions. Meanwhile, the landlord screams in pain, “What was your motive, Moni!”
Shoe stores, jewelers, pastrami sellers are lined on Belediye Street. Greeks and Armenians used to settle heavily in Kastamonu. Most of the Armenians used to sell shoes for living. In one of the shops, pastrami is being sliced; onions are being chopped. Kastamonu’s famous bread with meat is consumed often with pastrami. A woman who enters the shop orders “pastrami enough to fill one loaf of bread…” The young man stops chopping onions and prepares and packs a mixture of sliced pastrami, chopped onions, and red pepper flakes. This package is going to go to the oven to be used to make pastrami bread. Only someone who loves pastrami bread would do this they say, instead of eating at a restaurant.
Dynamic life in the square
The Nasrullah Bridge or Taş Köprü is located over Karaçomak River that divides the city. The Clock Tower is on one side of the bridge, and the Kastamonu Castle is on the other. According to a rumor, the clock was expelled to Kastamonu because its sound caused the favor of the sultan have a miscarriage. You can arrive to the center of the city Nasrullah Square after passing Balkapanı Han, Nalburlar Market Street, and Cem Sultan Han, which carries the name of Cem Sultan who became the governor when he was a child.
The first women’s meeting
The populace of Kastamonu meets in Saman Pazarı, which is a section of today’s square, to protest the invasion of İzmir by Greeks on May 16, 1919. Among the meetings done during the war, this demonstration that was organized by women only on December 10, 1919 is known as the first women’s meeting of Turkey.
Our National Anthem was first sung here
Mehmet Akif Ersoy gives his speech that supports the War of Independence at the stand in Nasrullah Mosque located in the square. The National Anthem was first sung at this stand before even it was accepted officially as our national anthem. The belief about the waters that flow from the beautiful marble fountains of the mosque in different colors in different lights of the day says, “The one who drinks once from the Nasrullah Fountain, comes to Kastamonu at least seven times or stays in Kastamonu.”
Kastamonu is an Anatolian city with a character that seems to become more beautiful as you get to know it deeper. It opens to snowy mountains, deep canyons, and beaches at times, as it offers peace in shrines, or takes you to the castle under the bay windows of the wooden townhomes to enjoy the view. Front facades of the many of the 534 certified townhomes have different architectural styles. The governor’s office had bought the historical structures of the town, many dating from the Ottoman period; they were renovated to gain function. Many of them came back to life by becoming hosts of non-governmental organizations, charitable foundations, and museums. The scents of spices, the sound of the copper being hammered, and the patience of the women who weave carpet in the Münire Madrasah please our souls. Kastamonu might be an introverted town; however, its doors are always open to those who would like to know it better.
Kastamonu Museum of Town History, Liva Pasha Ethnographical Museum, Ellezler Townhome Museum of Hand Woven Goods, and Museum of Archeology will satisfy the museum enthusiasts.
Try the mortar coffee and the natural Kastamonu pastrami, which is prepared by sun drying the meat in the summer’s heat after covering it with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic, and çemen.
Make sure that dried cornelian cherry soup mix, üryani plum, whole grain rice, whole wheat flour grounded in water mill, flax seeds, einkorn are in your shopping list.