WINTER TOWNS THAT APPRECIATE GUESTS AND HOST AMPLE CONVERSATIONS BY THE SIDE OF WOODSTOVES

Towns and villages are small, unspoilt, authentic and naive… They have better-defined personalities than many popular holiday destinations and insist on not changing. Even if they were acquanted with tourism, the rhythm of life would not change much. They assume their purest and truest selves in winter. Humble food is cooked in boarding houses, shared with whoever comes, beds are made on the floor for guests and meetings and chats by the side of woodstoves in cold winter nights are sincere.

Admit that pleasurable journeys are possible even in winter season in Turkey and get rid of your prejudices. Will one get cold or suffer at the site where he or she will go? Is it rainy or are the trekking routes muddy? These aside, if you are seeking a place far from the madding crowd, winter season is an appropriate opportunity for this. Towns are amazing places in the rain, in the snow, or during a storm. The colors of kerchief laces in the Tire bazaar are extremely vivid despite winter; while the immortal fire on the hills of Çırali continues to burn even in the rain, Olympos is the last resort one can take refuge; and lightning in Heraklia by the side of Lake Bafa illuminate the Athena Temple…

The Spirit of the Aegean is in the Tuesday Bazaar
Tire is one of towns in the Aegean region that has maintained its identity most. At a distance of 80 km to İzmir and a one-time location for the Ottoman Mint, Tire’s Tuesday Bazaar (Sali Pazari in Turkish) is the first attraction that comes to mind. The Tuesday Bazaar provides joy and leasure not only with its range of products but also its sincere sellers reflecting the spiritof the Aegean Region. All features of a herb-based cuisine of the Aegean Region are observed in the dishes of Tire, some of whose inhabitans are immigrants from Crete. Herbs collected in the mountains overflow the stalls in the bazaars. Moreover, the Tire kofte (meatballs), which is made by using pure minced meat kneaded with salt, tomates and butter, has a distinct flavor. The game Karambol, which is one of the characteristic aspects of life in Tire, can be watched in Alaybeyi Park, which is Tire’s only outdoor Karambol field, and if you like, you can even learn how it is played from its players, most of whom are veterans. Tire’s religious structures and mosques, a large majority of which date back to the 15th century, are prominent examples of the Ottoman Era classical structures. Ulu Cami (Mosque), Yeni Cami, Tahtakale Cami and Complex, Yeşil İmaret Monastery, Kurt and Doğancıyan Monastery, Yoğurtluzade Complex, an opne tomb built in the name of Ibn Melek, a tutor for the future sultans of Aydınoğulları and Ottomans, the Necip Pasha Library, which houses about 2400 lithographs and manuscripts dating back to the period of Principalities, The Tire Museum, and the Ali Efe Inn, where those who come to the Tire Bazaar “park” their donkeys or horses, and nostalgic shops like blacksmiths’ are located.

DO NOT MISS
Have chats with the last representatives of endangered crafts such as rope makers, slipper makers, quilt makers and felt makers at Tuesday Bazaar.

A TASTE BREAK
Eat traditonal Tire kofte at Portakal Pazarı Meydanlığı (Orange Bazaar Square). Do not forget to eat whey cheese covered with mulberry jam, or try famous pedlar Şambalici. Kaplan Dağ Restaurant (Kaplan Mountain Restaurant) (0232 512 66 52, www.kaplandag.com) is a sine qua non of your trip to Tire.

A PHOTOGRAPHY BREAK
The Kaplan Plateau, which offers the best view of the Tire Plain and where long trekkings occur.

DID YOU KNOW?
Karambol is a traditional game played in a similar manner to snooker brought by the Jews who came from Spain. 

ACCOMODATION
The Gülcüoğlu Konakları (Estates) (0232 511 06 14, www.gulcuoglukonaklari.com bear traces of Levantines who lived here in the past.

From Architect Sinan’s House to Gesi Bağları (Vineyards of Gesi)…
There are towns in the vicinity of Kayseri, a rapidly developing, majestic and rich city in Central Turkey, that are in stark contrast with its modernity. Once, Muslims, Rums ( Greeks of Turkish nationality) and Armenians lived together in Ağırnas, a typical Anatolian village representing the Oriental culture. Besides the underground cities, rock-carved houses, graves, galleries and rock churches, the most striking feature of the village, whose history dates back to the early 16th century, is that famous architect Sinan was born here. Today, his house is open for visits.

The Gesi Vineyards, which have inspired songs and are renowned for their green trees and abundant water springs, also host Gesi Kuş Evleri(Birds’ Nests). Though they have lost their function now, they were used to collect pigeons’ manure in the past.

Germir, the birthplace of the mother of famous American film director Elia Kazan, the son of a Rum family from  Kayseri, is a small settlement with a distinctive character. 150- 200 year-old stone houses, life overflowing out of homes into the streets,  yıllık taş evleri, kapı önü yaşamı, 427th and 428th streets and the Germir Church, which was used as a barn for some time, are worth seeing.

DO NOT MISS
See the basement of Architect Sinan’s house in Ağırnas, and the inside of th ebirds’ nests in the Vineyards of Gesi.

Beauties that are worth the rough terrain
Though the Eastern Black Sea region is not among the winter destinations, sometimes causes one to forget all kinds of unfavorable weather conditions thannks to its magnificent geography. The center of tourism in the region, Yusufeli is one of the first places that jump to mind when it comes to Trans Kaçkar tours and rafting on the River Çoruh. It is not possible to any of these in winter, but Georgian churches spread over a pristine terrain in Yusufeli, which reflects characteristics of Eastern Anatolia Region rather than the Black Sea Region by virtue of its climate and landscape, are worth seeing. In addition to The Barhal Church in Altıparmak, a mountain village located at an elevation of 1000 meters, the 32 km-narrow-and-winding road will put before you extraordinary scenes. The road extending along the Barhal creek reaches the village, which is distant but has a dizzying nature, passing through waterfalls spurting from rocks, forests, wooden houses with gardens and trout farms. The journey takes about one and half hours. You can observe the style of Georgian and Armenian masters when you enter Barhal Church, which has a feel of European Gothic architecture. Işhan Church is in better shape than the other Georgian churches. The church, which is made of cut stone and has a red-and-white dome, is 1000 years old.

A PHOTOGRAPHY BREAK
One of the best views of the church, together with the geography of where it is located, can be obtained from the minaret of the village mosque.

A SAYING?
The lace o f İşhan, The gaze of Parhal, The seat of Öşvank”

The tranquil winter of the last resort
If you are one of those come to Antalya in summer, then you should a give it a try in the winter season. When you get off the bus at the Çıralı turning and begin to walk down the 7-km road, you will have to admit how extraordinary nature is. There is no sound other than the insects’, smells are more distinct and the air is like syrup. When you reach the shore of Çıralı, you notice how far this town, an already discovered familiar destination mad in summer, is from its summer craze in winter. This small and beautiful town overlooking one of the best beaches of the Mediterranean, is in a deep state of tranquility. As if it has not been discovered yet… Çıralı is a “last resort” to take shelter in winter, be it rainy or stormy.

DO NOT
Climb to Yanartaş (Burning Stone in Turkish)(Chiamera) and warm yourself by the side of the infinite fire.

ACCOMODATION
Kibala Hotel, with its magnificant location, garden and bungalows (0242 825 70 96, www.kibalahotel.com) is open all year round. Walks on the Lycian Road, wood-burning stoves and tasty dishes…

WHAT IS IT WRITTEN THERE ?
The Greek inscription on a sailles, mastless and oarless ship carved on one of the monumental graves in the harbor at the end of the ancient city of Olympos reads as follows: “The ship anchored at the last harbor, never to depart again / ‘Cause there is no hope either from the wind or the daylight / After Captain Eudemos quit the bright dawn / His ship, shoert-lived like the day, was buried there like a broken wave…”

The land of Turcoman Yuruks (nomads)
Taşkale is a small town in Central Anatolia. Once, it was famous for its madder. Today, this settlement, where women come together to weave “machine-made carpets” and where, though rarely, mothers and daughters sit at the loom to prepare trousseau, possesses one of Turkey’s most impressive mysteries not discovered by tourism yet: Manazan Caves… Having a stroll in these mind-bending caves carved on soft tuff rocks in Taşkale Canyon is a creepy experience. The land of Turcoman yuruks (nomadic people of Turkic origin) who came from Central Asia, Taşkale is alive both in summer and in winter. The caves are five-storey collective settlements belonging to the Byznatine period indeed. Local people call the storeys of the caves with names such as Kumkale Sandcastle), At Meydanı (Horse Square) and Ölüler Meydanı (The Piazza of the Dead). Today, to move from one storey to the other, one has to crawl through short tunnels and climb vertical shafts that have recesses on their surfaces for hands and feet. The top storey, i.e. The Piazza of the Dead, where once 100-150 bodies were unearthed and which is forty meters in length and five meters in height, ruined by treasure hunters, the rock-carved church that could hold five hundred people, galleries and tunnels are worth seeing. It is possible to see reflections of shaman rituals, which are of importance in the lives of Asian nomads, in Thetarical Plays of Taşkale. Once a wedding entertainment, it is now an event usually performed for tourists.

DO NOT MISS
An old chapel carved on tuff rock, used as a barn and then converted into a mosque called Taş Mescit… The body of a clothed young woman in Karaman Museum dating from the 6th to 7th century, found at the bottom of the Manazan Caves…

A modest town, a magnificant estate
Birgi, with its Ottoman estates decorated with cypress tree and sun motifs, sparrow nests, and with its narrow streets, is a better preserved town than most settlements in Western Anatolia. This settlement, situated on the side of a large plain watered by the Küçük Menderes River on the outskirts of black-pine covered Mount Bozdağ, seems, at first sight, to be slumbering. Some women plant potatoes in the field, others weave rags and hall rugs at their looms in their houses which they do not open to strangers without their husbands’ permission, or bake, in street tandoors (ovens) in their neighborhoods, bread of chickpea yeast they prepared the previous day. Silk weaving has almost disappeared in the course of time. The most striking structure in Birgi, a protected archaeological and urban site, is Çakırağa Estate, which is in stark contrast with its its modesty. Hand-drawn figures and fascinating woodwork which Çakır Ağa (Lord Çakır) had engraved on the walls of the rooms called Istanbul and Izmir in the Estate to alleviate the homesickness of his two wives, one from Istanbul and the other from Izmir, are works of artists he brought from France as well as local ones. Dating from the 14th century, Ulu Cami (Mosque), with its pulpit built without nails and decorated with 3 thousand pieces and 175 motifs, is worth seeing. Right behind the mosque are Birgi’s most beautiful and intact streets. The houses on II Beyzade Sokak, Cami-i Kebir Caddesi or Bahadır Bey Sokak, and the view of Bozdağ, towards which the streets extend, are impressive. Birgi is at the same time the birthplace of Imam Birgivi, one of the greatest scholars of the 16th century. The madrasah (university) where he taught is still in good shape today.

 A TASTE BREAK
While waiting for stuffed vine leaves and boreks (pastry) to arrive at the ethnographic coffee house Konak Kahve and Andaç Evi next to Çakırağa Konağı (Çakırağa Sok. No: 6, 0232 531 60 69), you can have a chat on memory-filled antiques with its owners Gülsün, a teacher of philosophy, and Emin Başaranbilek, a painter and an archaeologist as well as a volunteering tourism ambassador for Birgi and an official working for the ÇEKÜL Foundation.

CONTACT FOR INFORMATION
Emin Başaranbilek, Çekül Foundation liason person (0533) 351 16 11

Waking up to the smell of earth…
Watching the Athena Temple, The Byzantine Castle and the ruins on the islets in the lake illuminated by lightnings during a storm at night… Joining the villagers on their way to pick the olives that fell during the storm… Tasting jams made using produce collected freshly from the garden, sampling home-made butter and cheese… Waking up to the smell of earth in the morning after a winter rain… You will find nature in its wildest in Kapıkırı (Herakleia) on the coast of Lake Bafa. Those who enjoy trekking and seeking a humble holiday may have a good time in these shores of the Aegean Sea. This is a peaceful settlement with roosters, cows and cultivated fields and overlooking an immense lake at the foot of the Beşparmak Mountain ranges covered with strangely-shaped volcanic rocks appearing to have fallen from the sky. There are traces left by cavemen in the mountains and traces left by monks retired to solitude in monasteries at higher elevations. There is no specific season to eat grey mullet by Lake Bafa. Most boarding houses organize trekking tours and offer food.

DO NOT MISS
See the prehistoric caves and rock drawings in the region with a good guide. Go trekking to theYediler Manastırı (The Monastery of the Seven)hidden on the outskirts of the Latmos Dağları (Mountain ranges). Its reclusion cell is a cove carving into a rond rock and its ceiling is decorated with frescoes.

A PHOTOGRAPHY BREAK
There is a breathtaking view of the lake from the rocks above the Yediler Manastırı.

 A TASTY BREAK
Though found rare, eel cooked in an earthenware pot is a specialty.

ACCOMODATION
The brothers Kubilay and Tamer Konukseveri owners of the hospitable family boarding house Selene’s Pansiyon & Restaurant (0252 543 52 21, www.latmosherakleia.com) are quite experienced in trekking. It is also pleasurable to go on a cruise in their boat on the lake.

A triumph of the stone and the master
Midyat is one  of the settlements in Southeast Turkey that has best preserved its identity and is still unspoilt. Mesapotamian culture was engraved like a lace using limestone known as Katori, a fairly malleable material. Watch this stone town from the terrace of the State Guesthouse, which is an old Assyrian house used as a guesthouse. Flat roofs, which are important living spaces in the Southeast, also grow more vibrant here in summer months. When you find yourselves in narrow streets of Midyat surrounded by high walls, you think that it is best to go sightseeing by getting lost among these labyrinths. The old part of Midyat is very impressive as a whole. This ancient Assyrian settlement has witnessed extensive emigration in the course of time. As in Mardin, most of the remaining Assyrians make a living out of telkari, silver filigree dating 2500 years back. Another majestic bulding like the State Guesthouse is the Old Hospital, which served as a military hospital in the past.

SHOPPING
Silver filigree is the art of silver working done entirely by hand. Silver is made into thin wires, then wrought into small motifs and different jewellery and decorative objects are produced when these motifs are brought together. Workmanship is extremely masterly.

ACCOMODATION
Kasr-ı Nehroz (0482 464 25 25, www.hotelnehroz.com) is a 1200-year-old mansion.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
The villages of Turabdin, each situated on top of a hill, are the right stuff for those who want to go out of the way. These villages, which you may have difficulty finding on a map although they are near Midyat, are quite mysterious in their dereliction in the middle of nowhere.