Uşak

Who wouldn’t love to read a book about his beloved city? If only that book would never end, if only its sentences would paint pictures. If only it would describe warm feelings and fond memories. Finally, if only knowledge and love would have gone into it and through it a person could actually touch that city’s millennia-old stones...

Who wouldn’t love to read a book about his beloved city? If only that book would never end, if only its sentences would paint pictures. If only it would describe warm feelings and fond memories. Finally, if only knowledge and love would have gone into it and through it a person could actually touch that city’s millennia-old stones...

Who would not want to write such a book? But it’s not easy. For a language distilled down the centuries from countries near and far begins to course through the heart, permeating our world with hitherto unseen beauty. Part longing, part separation, exile is experienced all over again, at one step limpid waters, at the next fertile lands. The wings of a dove dispel the mist on the horizon, and rain wets the battered pavements. And the city greets you, making you feel it is your father.

Sometimes a city is a legend; sometimes it is love... In the quiet hours towards morning it sets a great dossier in front of you. Inside it are files upon files of civilizations. And the voices of ancient peoples begin to resound in the corridors of history.

In the file on this city, first of all cannon fire begins to be heard on 1 September 1922. Cries of pain rebound off the deserted walls. On the most glorious day of the Turkish War of Independence, General Trikopis, commander of the Greek armies, has surrendered his sword to Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers. The second file entered the folder in 1429 when the town came under the rule of the emergent Ottoman state. Later pages are filled, one after the other, with the Germiyan principality (1414-1429), the Karamanids (1402-1414), the footsteps of Bayezid I, known as ‘the Lightning Bolt’, (1391-1402), and the appearance of the Seljuks. Later, amid the dusty layers other civilizations loom out of the mist. These are memories filed in dossiers where legend clashes with history, rumor with document. When you open to the page on 700 years of Byzantine intrigue, you find files chronicling Rome’s toppling walls (2nd century B.C. - 395 A.D.), the faded colors of the Kingdom of Pergamon, and the adventures of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian State (4th century B.C.). Then the Lydians, who invented money (6th century B.C.), and the tinkling bells of the trading caravans arriving at markets along the Royal Road or on the city square. Meanwhile, the din of the bitter clashes between the Lydians and the Phrygians and the elation over the Luwian conquests (2500-1000 B.C.) blot out the light of the Hittite sun (4000 B.C.) We are in the city of buried treasure! The city of treasures steeped in millennia of war, millennia of love...

UŞAK OR UŞŞAK?
Countless stories have been told about the name of the city, countless stories that have now been lost. According to one that was not lost, the village of Mende to the south of the city was once a large town known as Mendos. The Oğuz Turks came here, took the town and changed the name to ‘Mende’. At the time, the place where Uşak stands today was a dairy farm belonging to a certain gentleman by the name of Mende Bey. Seven noble youths worked here, milking and tending the water buffalo. These young men,  each one of whom was an ‘aşık’, or lover, burning with enthusiasm for a different profession, never left the dairy farm; but oh what journeys they made every night in their dreams! These inward adventures filled one with art, another with wealth, yet another with love of God. The youngest of the seven spiritually exalted youths in time became the most mature lover. At the sight of their fervor, Mende Bey aspired to be one of them. And so an eighth was added to the seven. What’s more, he deemed his beautiful young daughter to be worthy of the youngest. But would the young girl accept this proposal? As fate would have it, the father’s idea was already present in the girl’s heart. And when the Bey and his daughter joined the seven ‘aşık’s, the wedding was celebrated on the dairy farm for nine days, each day dedicated to one of the now eight fervent men. And on the tenth day the city was renamed ‘the land of Uşşak’ (plural of ‘âşık’, which means ‘lover’).

YOUNG MAN WHO SLEEPS IN BEDS OF GOLD
Dominating Central Western Anatolia with its undulating highlands and high pine forests, Uşak itself is like a fiery youth. Bathing in thermal springs by day and dreaming under the stars by night, this youngblood is said to have slept in beds of gold down the ages. The pillow where he laid his head was Akmonia, the world’s first mint (700 B.C. - 300 A.D.); his gold-embroidered quilts were Sebaste, the city of golden necropolises Sebaste (at Sivaslı, 4000 B.C.), Alexander the Great’s mint, Blaundos (at Ulubey, 3rd century B.C.), and the Lydian kings’ rivers of gold which covered him on cold nights.

AS RICH AS CROESUS
As is written in the ancient books, Croesus (aka Karun) was so rich that the keys to his kingdom could be carried by forty mules only with great difficulty. The expression, ‘as rich as Croesus’, testifies to the truth of this legend.

According to Herodotus, Croesus was the last of the last kings of the three dynasties that ruled the Kingdom of Lydia, which was founded in the 7th millennium B.C. Rivers of gold flowed in his country when he ascended to the throne in 560 B.C. As Lydia’s fourteenth king, Croesus ruled fourteen years until, following fourteen days of looting and plundering, he lost both his kingdom and his head. Naturally the cause of the conflict was gold. What was left of the gold that Roman grave robbers plundered many ages later in a virtual ‘gold rush’ was removed by new treasure hunters in 1965, 1966 and 1968, straying as far afield as the United States, to New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Years later, following a thousand and one ruses and diplomatic efforts it still has not been returned. The museum’s 363-piece collection is perhaps only one-millionth of that legendary treasure. But even so it is of dazzling magnificence to behold.

PATTERNS AND COLORS EMBODYING THE EMOTIONS
European ‘orientalist’ painters of the 19th century were enchanted by carpet designs. And while the encyclopedias might not say so, these are all Uşak carpets. With central medallion and star patterns, these carpets represent the 15th, 16th and 17th century classical period of Turkish carpet making. Carpet weaving however has fallen victim to modern life, replaced by the rise of the Eşme kilim (flatweave). As delicate as the knots in an old silk carpet, as pure as the hearts of the young girls who weave them, their patterns as deep as eyes clouded with sadness, these kilims continue their journey today, finding their way into your heart and making you feel as if you are about to enter a magical realm.
If you come in May to the International Eşme Kilim, Culture and Art Festival, or in April to the National Jereed Competition, you can sit on a kilim and eat keşkek, a local mutton stew made with wheat or barley.

STOPOVER FOR SPACE ALIENS
If you believe the daily papers, the Uşak region is, on account of its gold, one of the places most frequently visited by creatures from outer space. If this is true, then we don’t think it’s the ‘gold’ they are coming for, which is under the earth after all, but instead what is on the ground. For the beauty of Ulubey Canyon is something they could never find in their own world.

The world’s second largest canyon following its counterpart in Colorado, this valley is 45 kilometers long and 500-1000 meters wide with a depth of up to 170 meters in places. And the Clandras Bridge and ancient city of Blaundos (Sülümenli) you’ll stop at on your way will astonish you more than once at every meter and leave you speechless with awe.