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Ottoman Elegance: Taraklı
SAKARYA’S SOUTHERN TOWNSHIP, TARAKLI MORE THAN DESERVES ITS TITLE OF SLOW CITY FOR ITS ELEGANT OTTOMAN MANSIONS, VIBRANT NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURE AND PRISTINE NATURE.
The Italian-based Cittaslow Movement has five members in Turkey, among them Taraklı, a charming town in Sakarya province. There are specific criteria for being a Slow City, such as eliminating fast-moving traffic and noise pollution, expanding the size and number of green areas and pedestrian zones, supporting farmers engaged in local production and sellers of their produce, and preserving local aesthetic elements. An old Ottoman settlement whose characteristic texture remains intact, Taraklı more than meets all these conditions. In his Book of Travels, Evliya Çelebi describes it as “an Ottoman village both fertile and famous for its vineyards, wooden spoons and combs.” Lying like an emerald green island midway between Istanbul and Ankara, Taraklı offers all these attractions year-round. Sixty percent covered in forest, the township boasts upwards of a hundred historic houses and stately mansions. Generally three-story and set in gardens, Taraklı houses exhibit traditional architectural elegance with their window grilles, cantilevered wooden balconies (cumba), historic pediments and intriguing door knockers. One of the old mansions on Taraklı Square has been restored and converted into an ethnographic museum known as the Kültür Evi (House of Culture). The 500-year-old Yunus Paşa Mosque meanwhile is a work of architect Mimar Sinan. It’s not hard to come across an historic bath or inn at any moment when strolling through the town’s narrow, cobbled streets. The chenar in the quarter of Yusuf Bey is exactly seven centuries old. And the fortress, which played such a key role in the region’s defense, is chock full of relics of a 4,000-year past. The ruins of a cistern and TRAVELdefense walls remind visitors that this was once a castle.
Taraklı also serves health tourism with its mineral-rich therapeutic spring waters. The Ottoman mud bath in the village of Hacıyakup Paşalar brings relief for dermatological conditions and rheumatism. The township is rich in natural beauty as well. Karagöl Highland some 21 kilometers northeast of Taraklı on slopes that are an extension of the Samanlı Mountains boasts areas suitable for nature walks and photography as well as tent and caravan camping. At 100 meters in altitude, the highland is also ideal for paragliding. What’s more, Hark Canyon and Cave near the village of Tuzla, Güngörmez Falls, Kemer Bridge, the Acısu River, Hıdırlık Hill, the Gürleyik River, Belengermesi, and the natural springs known as Hamza Pınar, Çile Pınar, Ak Çeşme and Çoban Çeşme are all worth a visit. Meanwhile the region’s unique handicrafts which, like wood carving, were on the verge of dying out, have been revived in recent years through local government initiatives. An array of gift items from central ceiling bosses and mirror-inlaid chests to wooden spoons and hand-carved wooden stools await buyers at shops around the township.
A FORGOTTEN TASTE: UHUT
Taraklı also boasts a sweet you’ve probably never even heard of: Uhut. No sugar is used in the preparation of this dish, a form of wheat porridge with a chewy consistency. The region’s chickpea mantı (ravioli) and köpük (foamy) halvah are famous too. And the çöğen root (Gypsophila or Baby’s Breath), which is popular in the area, is mixed with eggs, sugar and glucose and eaten with tahina (thick sesame oil).
• Taraklı Houses
• Yunus Paşa Mosque
• Karagöl Highland