Monday, December 21, 2015

Mushrooms with everything: Bolu and around

Mushrooms with everything: Bolu and around

Mushrooms with everything: Bolu and around
Beauty of Mudurnu (Photo: Pat Yale)

“We call this one grandfather's beard. This is the deer mushroom. And this one is called blonde girl.”
I've arrived in bolu in mushroom season and in front of the late 15th-century Kadı Cami, conspicuous only for its austerity, I bump into a man in a captain's cap wearing a T-shirt emblazoned “Yavuz Sultan Selim The Caliph.” He looks an unlikely mushroom advocate, but he rattles off the names of his products with all the enthusiasm of a car showroom salesman.

“We call it pretty girl, too,” cuts in a woman sitting beside him in the blue-and-red-striped şalvar that are the favored choice of local matrons. I look at the bowls and plates lined up in front of her. Some are filled with what look like sponges, others with what looks like seaweed. All of it, however, turns out to be fungus of one sort or another, and soon I'm being given a quick lesson in mushroom cookery.

The mushrooms are not the only things being sold in front of the mosque, though. Minutes later and I'm being handed raspberries and apples to taste. Bolu may have one of western Turkey's coolest climates, but clearly it makes for perfect market-gardening conditions.

Bolu is one of those towns that goes virtually ignored by foreign tourists, although it's popular with Turks who use it as a base for visiting the many lakes in the surrounding countryside and as an alternative base for visiting the ski resort at nearby Kartalkaya. In the last couple of years the entire town center has been redesigned to turn it into a pedestrian zone with a cycle path running down the middle. At one end brand-new restaurants and cafes dot landscaped parkland so designed that even the walls of the local branch of Burger King have plants running up and down their sides.

Unfortunately, the town remains low on serious tourist attractions. There's one old han and the slight remains of a Roman stadium, now hidden behind billboards. Otherwise the only thing that might draw a visitor in is the local archaeological museum. This showcases the finds from ancient Bithynia, which still crop up from time to time when new roads are being built.

Still, Bolu remains the best base for exploring the surrounding area with two significant caveats which are that the town-center hotels are disappointingly overpriced and old-fashioned, and that it's not at all easy for a visitor without a car to get to grips with the public transport system, with buses to local destinations leaving from different offices scattered all around town.


Probably the single most interesting place to go from Bolu is Mudurnu, a delightful small town to the southwest that glories in all the historic attractions its larger neighbor lacks.

Mudurnu is one of those towns that has found itself washed-up by the tide of history. Once upon a time it stood on one of the old Silk Roads that crisscrossed Anatolia, hence the fine 14th-century Yıldırım Beyazıt Cami that still survives along with its hamam in the town center. Nearby the bazaar is one of those that still echoes to the sound of copper-beaters, although gradually some of its old shops are being refurbished to sell the sort of handicrafts more attractive to visitors such as jewelry made from oya, the beads that used to be used to decorate women's headscarves.

If Bolu is low on good hotels, Mudurnu is awash with them especially if you are the type of visitor who rates character more highly than the latest in high-tech gadgetry. These hotels are mostly housed in beautifully restored Ottoman mansions dotted about the town center, some of them boasting inviting courtyards or gardens. Finest of them all is probably the Hacı Şakirler Konağı, which still retains all its Ottoman decoration on the inside as well as the outside.

If you're planning a visit to Mudurnu, you might like to know that it is also home to a rather lovely tradition known as the Esnaf Duası (the Tradesmen's Prayer). Every Friday immediately before lunchtime prayers in the Yıldırım Beyazıt Cami, the men from the bazaar line up in two rows in front of their shops to share hunks of bread and squares of lokum (Turkish delight) before praying together in the street. It's a quietly moving sight.


Directly south of Bolu a spectacular wooded road winds through the mountains and down past Seben Gölü (Lake Seben) to the small town of Seben. In itself the town is of no great interest. However, in the vicinity it's possible to visit two abandoned cave settlements, one at Solaklar, the other at Muslar. Unlike the more elaborate cave settlements of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia that have continued in use until today, the cave homes of Seben are no longer lived in and are much more like simple prehistoric rock shelters without the modern add-ons that made it possible for people to continue to live in the Cappadocian versions. As so often, no written records survive to fill us in on the history of the sites, although it is believed that they were inhabited in Phrygian times.

Rather unexpectedly, there are also the remains of what must have been a fine Byzantine church near Seben at Çeltikdere. The road to reach it wanders through a sequence of attractive villages with half-timbered farmhouses before disintegrating into a track that winds down to a beautiful, peaceful gorge. Here the church stands in complete collapse with just its apse with its arrow-slit windows still standing. It makes the perfect backdrop for a picnic.


Northeast of Bolu, the small town of Mengen was once the source of many of the chefs who cooked for the sultans in Constantinople. Today it still offers cookery courses in a department of the local university, although it can't be said that the restaurants around town offer anything to get too excited about. However, once a year cooks from all over Turkey descend on Mengen to take part in a lively festival, focal point of which is a pilav günü (rice day) at which visitors are served risotto from a giant cauldron. If you'd like to take a look make a note in your diary for the end of September next year.

Turkey's little Lake District

When it comes to lakes, foreign visitors tend to think first of the group of lakes in Western Anatolia around Eğirdir and Beyşehir, and then of Lake Van in the far east of the country. Turks, however, also think of the area around Bolu and in particular of Yedigöller, the cluster of small lakes in the forests north of the town. Rather surprisingly, given the amount of new road-building in the country, the roads to Yedigöller remain poor and no public transport serves the lakes.

This means that you may find it easier to visit either Gölcük, the pretty small lake just to the south of Bolu, or Abant Gölü (Lake Abant), the picture-perfect expanse of water set in woodland near Mudurnu. In high summer there are infrequent buses direct to Abant or you can take a taxi form Mudurnu. Several large hotels sit right beside the lake, but despite their five-star ratings they are not perhaps as modern as you might anticipate. Still, come here in the season when the water-lilies are in flower on the water (about now) and you probably won't be complaining. Alternatively, you can hold onto until a snowy winter day, then come here to be driven around the lake in a horse-drawn phaeton equipped with the equivalent of skis, a magical experience.

Hacı Şakirler Konağı, Mudurnu. Tel: 0374-421 3856
Hotel Kaşmir, Bolu. Tel: 0374-215 8614
Keyvanlar Konağı, Mudurnu. Tel: 0374-421 3750
Fuatbeyler Konağı, Mudurnu. Tel: 0374-421 2444

Bolu is conveniently located midway between İstanbul and Ankara, with frequent buses from both towns. The new bus station is remote from the town center and poorly served by public transport.
Keywords: mushrooms , bolu

Monday, December 7, 2015

Side has been attracting visitors for thousands of years

Side has been attracting visitors for thousands of years

Side has been attracting visitors for thousands of years
Temple of Apollo in Side, Antalya. (Photo: Cihan)

After thousands of years of settlement by newcomers ranging from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians to pirates, Arabs and Jews, the town of side on the Turkish Mediterranean coast is used to visitors.
Side (pronounced "see day") is on Turkey's southeastern coast, around 70 kilometers (40 miles) from the city of Antalya, a popular, developed tourist resort.
A peninsula just 1 kilometer long and 400 meters wide, Side is one of the most famous classical sites in Turkey.

(Photo: Cihan)
It is believed to have been founded by Greek settlers in the seventh century B.C., and its harbor and geography made it an attractive trade center for other occupiers, including Alexander the Great, Sicilian pirates and the Romans.
In the seventh century A.D. Arabs raided and burned Side, causing the beginning of its slow decline. Then, in 1895, Turkish Muslim refugees from Crete arrived and the revival began.
Here are tips from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer visitors the best local insights, for getting the most out of the Side area.

Explore the ruins

At the end of the road leading to the Old Town (Antik Side), an amphitheater on the left was built in the Roman style because Side didn't have a suitable hillside which could be hollowed out in the more usual Greek way.
Not as well-preserved as the one in nearby Aspendos, it still can seat up to 20,000 people and hosts jazz festivals, opera, and classical concerts during the summer months.

People watch the popular German entertainment show 'Wetten Dass...?' ('Bet it...?') hosted by Thomas Gottschalk at the ancient Roman amphitheatre of Aspendos. (Photo: AP)
Towards the Hellenistic main gate into the ancient city, you can stroll through the ruins of homes or shops, some of which still have their original mosaic floors.
Through the gate of the ancient city you come to a street flanked by colonnades. The remains of a Roman bath are here -- now a museum displaying Roman statues.
At the eastern edge of the peninsula, past the harbor to the left, stand the remains of the 2,000-year-old temple of apollo, at their most majestic at sunset. The Turkish government has been restoring the temple's columns, which saltwater has been eroding.

Getting around

The best way to explore Side is on foot. Its back streets hide small mosques, boutique hotels, quirky cottages and olive gardens.
At Side harbor you can get boat trips to Antalya, Manavgat or go on the trail of dolphins, which, if you are lucky, can be spotted off the peninsula.
On land, minibuses called dolmuş are a frequent, cheap and often entertaining way to get around -- if you are prepared to squeeze in. Taxis are available but set the price of your journey before climbing aboard.

Sun, sea, set sail

Side has long, hot summers and short, mild winters. In the peak season -- July and August -- temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or higher. Spring and autumn are more comfortable times to visit, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s but maybe the odd thunderstorm and rain.
Sun worshippers have plenty of choice with stretches of beach on both the east and west sides of the peninsula.
The west side was regenerated around five years ago with a promenade lined with restaurants and five-star hotels. The sea here is shallower and therefore more popular with some tourists.
The east side is less crowded and attracts more locals, especially on Sundays. Lined with beach bars, there is a more relaxed feel. The beach is wider, a bit rockier and the sea is slightly deeper, great for watersports and parasailing.

Shop till you drop

The center of Side is the place for leather goods, hand-woven rugs, pottery, designer handbags, jewelry, watches and sportswear -- but be prepared to haggle and explore the side streets for the best deals.
Manavgat, a working town just north of Side, might not be as glamorous but has plentiful and cheap markets twice a week, as well as plenty of sportswear and clothes shops. This is the place to experience the juiciest strawberries, cherries, melons and figs -- at pleasingly low prices.

Eating and drinking

For cheap snacks sample fresh corn cobs, or try a durum, a wrap filled with typical döner kebab ingredients.
For a few Turkish lira you can pick up the Turkish version of a pizza, called lahmacun -- an oval, thin dough topped with minced meat, herbs and tomatoes.
Opposite the Roman Baths in the Old Town, the family-run Ocakbaşı restaurant offers good value Turkish food in a beautiful garden surrounded by ruins. Savor the generous portions of complimentary meze. (
For food with a more elegant twist and for excellent views of the sea, try Aphrodite in the harbor, or Karma directly behind it. ( (
The Apollonik bar, named after the Temple of Apollo close by, has been in business for 55 years. The tiny building resembles something from Hansel and Gretel: grab a table outside under the sweet-smelling grape vines to watch the sunset and sample killer cocktails. (


Just three kilometers north of Manavgat are waterfalls on the Manavgat River. Boat trips reach here from Manavgat town but you can also drive to the Oymapınar Dam, a thundering tower of water.

A waterfall on Manavgat River. (Photo: Cihan)
Nearby is the Green Lake, named for the color of the water. This is a peaceful spot to escape the heat. Restaurants are signposted where you can eat by the lakeside and swim from floating jetties.
If the ruins of Side whetted your appetite for more antiquity, Aspendos, said to have the best-preserved Greek amphitheater, lies between Side and Antalya. Further south, the ruins of Perge include an acropolis dating back to the Bronze Age.
South of Antalya and inland, Pamukkale, or "cotton castle" in Turkish, looks just that. A World Heritage site, hot springs pop out of vast terraces of carbonated minerals which were produced over thousands of years by flowing water.

Random Posts

There was an error in this gadget


learn turkish (38) turkey (26) turkish (25) istanbul (23) study (20) classes (13) study turkish (13) tutor (13) washington dc (13) learn (12) teacher (12) language (11) travel in Turkey (10) lessons (8) virginia (8) 2011 (7) Turkish culture (7) dc (7) go Turkey (7) maryland (7) bethesda (6) culture (6) fairfax (6) travel (6) turkce (6) washington (6) iconic monuments (5) turkiye (5) video (5) english (4) ottoman empire (4) rockville (4) rumi (4) ottoman (3) usa (3) Antakya (2) aegean (2) alexandria (2) ankara (2) archeology (2) arlington (2) baltimore (2) black sea (2) bosphorus (2) byzantium (2) cappadocia (2) catalhoyuk (2) central asian (2) help (2) inebolu (2) iraqi (2) media (2) olympiad (2) private (2) proverbs (2) read (2) regions (2) silver spring (2) speak (2) students (2) turkic (2) turkish mediterranean (2) vocabulary (2) western europe (2) youtube (2) ATFA (1) Abrahamic (1) Culture Minister (1) Ertuğrul Günay (1) IELTS (1) Katharine Branning (1) Keywords: turkey (1) Lady Mary Montagu (1) MAFTAA (1) Princeton (1) TOBB (1) USSR (1) acquisition (1) adana (1) affordable (1) albania (1) alphabet (1) america (1) amerika (1) anatolia (1) ancient (1) anthropology (1) arab channels (1) arab countries (1) arlington indepedent media (1) arts (1) aya sofya (1) bati (1) bağlarbaşı (1) behramkale (1) berlin (1) best (1) bird (1) black sea coast (1) bogazici (1) books (1) burdur (1) business (1) buyuk ada (1) cami (1) career (1) carl holtman (1) cave dwellings (1) cay (1) chap petersen (1) cheap (1) cinema (1) cities of Turkey (1) civilization (1) civilizations (1) communication (1) course (1) courses (1) cyprus (1) departments (1) dialect (1) district (1) dressing (1) east european (1) eastern europe (1) education (1) embassy (1) england (1) enrolment (1) ephesus (1) european capital of culture (1) faculties (1) festival (1) forum (1) foundation (1) fox (1) fun (1) games (1) germany (1) grammer (1) grand bazaar (1) hacı bektaş veli (1) hagia sophia (1) hangman (1) high school (1) hindi (1) hodja (1) holiday (1) idyll (1) instruction (1) italian (1) italy (1) izmir (1) jazz (1) kosovo (1) kultur (1) languages (1) lanugage (1) learning (1) lebanon (1) lesson (1) lexicon (1) listen (1) literature (1) local dishes (1) macedonia (1) madrid (1) mahmut yeter (1) marmara (1) master (1) mediterranean coast (1) mevlana (1) middle east (1) monolingual (1) moscow (1) mosque (1) namik tan (1) nasreddin hoca (1) neolithic (1) nobel award (1) northeast (1) ohio (1) osmanli (1) pamukkale (1) paris (1) past (1) patient (1) phd program (1) pilgrimage (1) practice (1) practise (1) rome (1) rumiforum (1) russian (1) sailor (1) samsun (1) sayings (1) senator (1) skills (1) soap operas (1) soft power (1) soviet politics (1) special (1) springfield (1) student (1) style (1) sultan ahmet (1) summer school (1) teachers (1) testimonials (1) texas (1) topkapi (1) tour (1) tourist (1) trabzon (1) translating (1) treasures (1) trnaslating (1) turkish classes (1) understand (1) united states (1) university (1) urfa (1) vowel (1) washington diplomat (1) wikipedia (1) yesilcam (1) yunus emre (1) Üsküdar Pilavcı (1)