City of the Caesars: Kayseri

Kayseri, ancient caesarea, is one of Anatolia’s oldest cities. Lying in the shadow of mt. Erciyes, the argeaus of antiquity and sacred to the Greeks and Romans, it is Turkish culture’s virtual title deed to Anatolia.

The people of Kayseri are famous for their industriousness and commercial prowess. Perhaps for that reason the city’s past lies in the trading cultures that go back four thousand years. Situated at the northeast-southwest axis of Anatolia, Kayseri has been a center of attraction down the centuries at the intersection of the major trade routes. The colossal trade colonies of Kaniş and Karum, which brought Assyrian and Hittite merchants together at a distance of 20 kilometers from today’s city center, were perhaps the world’s first shopping centers and import/export hubs. And this aspect of the city has persisted uninterrupted down the ages. Location of one of the Roman Empire’s first mints in Anatolia with Mt. Argaeus stamped on its coins, Kayseri was a financial capital. Economy and trade in turn brought art and architecture to the city. As masterpieces of Turkish Islamic culture, the Seljuk and Danishmand caravanserais, tombs, mosques and baths have for centuries been the pride of this city, which boasts the largest number of Seljuk monuments in Anatolia after Konya. Among the architectural monuments of the Ottoman period, the Kurşunlu (Leaded) Mosque, the Mosque of Mehmed the Conqueror and the Kara Mustafa Pasha Mosque Complex at İncesu stand out.  And the Double Madrasa, the Revolving Tomb, and the caravanserais of Kocamustafapaşa, Karatay and Sultanhanı all bear witness today to the splendor of their periods. A major destination for faith tourism with its mosques and madrasas, Kayseri also boasts a church, a monastery and rock tombs, all worth seeing in the Erdemli Valley some 70 kilometers from the city center.

But Kayseri’s natural riches are as impressive as its historical and cultural treasures. The highest peak in Central Anatolia, Mt. Erciyes is the most prominent symbol of the city. Known as the mountain that recedes as one approaches and approaches as one recedes, Erciyes is a favorite destination of winter holiday makers with its fine, powdery snow. Scaling Mt. Erciyes, which is surrounded by steppe and plain, is quite popular with mountain climbers, and the area has no shortage of well-equipped facilities for winter tourism. Another of Erciyes’s impressive treasures are the wild horses that graze in the region’s natural pastures. Sultan Sazlığı Bird Sanctuary and Aladağlar National Park, the Salt Lake, the Seven Lakes and Kapuzbaşı Falls at Yahyalı make Kayseri one of Anatolia’s most important wild life refuges. The city welcomes visitors who come to see and photograph all the natural richness, in particular the birds that stop here on their annual migrations. The towns around Kayseri are also chock full of natural and cultural treasures all worth exploring. As one proceeds from the city center to Erkilet, Gesi, Talas and Hisarcık, the local vineyards immortalized in folk song add their beauty to that of this city of the steppe. And if you happen to come at grape harvest time, you will be in for a whole host of spectacular sights and tastes. Beginning with Bünyan, İncesu, Yahyalı, Develi and Talas, all Kayseri’s towns offer different cultural and natural treasures. Thermal tourism is another key aspect of winter tourism in the region. The Bayramhacı and Tekgöz spas welcome those seeking treatment for rheumatism, dermatological conditions and circulatory problems.

A cultural melting pot, Kayseri also boasts a rich cuisine. Among the hundreds of palate pleasing dishes that combine meat, vegetables and grain is Kayseri mantı (ravioli). At the same time the city’s original su böreği (cheese lasagna alla turca) and arabaşı soup take no back seat to its ravioli when it comes to flavor. Meanwhile the production of traditional pastırma (Turkish-style pastrami), which comes from Central Asia and is mentioned in the famous 18th century traveler Evliya Çelebi’s Book of Travels, is a succulent Kayseri treat famed beyond the borders of Turkey. And close behind pastırma and its many varieties is ‘sucuk’, a garlicky Turkish sausage. Offering the pinnacle of religious, natural and culinary treasures, Kayseri is a museum city that can be visited with pleasure any time of year. And when Anatolian hospitality with a smile is added to the picture, a visit to Kayseri at first opportunity becomes a must.

With its natural beauty and tourism opportunities, Mt. Erciyes is Kayseri’s main center of attraction.

The touristic facilities at Erciyes offer quality service in every season. Apart from winter sports, Erciyes is a must-see with its many fabulous opportunities for everything from nature walks to mountain climbing and mountain biking.

The free-roaming horses and wild beauty of the Erciyes steppe and plains give Kayseri a richness photographers will be passionate to capture.

The Aladağ Mountains, Kapuzbaşı Falls and Sultan Sazlığı National Park with its unspoiled nature and endemic and migratory bird species are among Kayseri’s must-see sights.

Hitit, Selçuklu ve Osmanlı eserleri ile Kayseri inanç ve kültür turizmine yönelik büyük bir potansiyele sahip. Manastır ve kilise kalıntıları, zengin müzeleri ile Kayseri’nin keşif rotaları gezginleri bekliyor.

With its Hittite, Seljuk and Ottoman monuments, Kayseri has a big potential for faith and cultural tourism. Kayseri awaits travelers keen to explore its rich museums and ruins of churches and monasteries.

Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Kayseri-Istanbul flights daily. For more information: www.turkishairlines.com

Winter Boon at Erciyes
The province’s face is changing daily following a spate of new investments in the last few years, with winter tourism in particular coming in for a 75 million euro chunk. A total 160 kilometers of ski runs are being created with a large number of state-of-the-art facilities in the 25 million square-meter area allocated for investment. Close to the entire mountain will become skiable thanks to the project.

Another of the perennial delights of Kayseri cuisine is yağlama, a popular snack in the region made of layers of thin dough filled with ground meat and spicy vegetables. And mantı (ravioli Kayseri-style) is virtually synonymous with the name of the city.

A traditional treat, Kayseri pastırma (pastrami) can be found at shops around the city. It comes in many varieties, but kuşgömü is widely acknowledged to be the best. Kayseri sucuk (garlic sausage) is another local product known around the world.

The Argaeus of antiquity, this legendary mountain is actually an extinct volcano. Highly developed in terms of winter tourism, Erciyes is a place where you can savor the pleasure of winter or take nature walks in spring.

Kayseri city center boasts dozens of historic monuments open to the public. Besides the mosques, madrasas and conical tombs, Kayseri Archaeology Museum and Kayseri City Museum are other must-see’s

Bünyan Carpets
Kayseri is famous for its carpets too. The handwoven products of the Bünyan area especially are valuable carpets highly sought-after abroad.

Sinan Taşcı Researcher
“Kayseri is a city whose economy is steadily growing and which uses technology intensively, and yet it is also a town that preserves and perpetuates its cultural values. You feel you have gone back in time as you tour the city surrounded on one side by Hittite monuments, on the other by Seljuk and Ottoman structures. Then you come back again to the present, to modern life. As a Kayseri native, I invite everyone to visit this magnificent city.”