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MELİH USLU BARIŞ HASAN BEDİR
Ankara's hidden yard
Like a photograph of the old days, Beypazarı, nestled in a steep valley not far from Ankara, harbors vestiges of Ottoman times in its historic hans, baths and mansions and its market that keeps the ancient handicrafts alive.
Spread over undulating hills overlooking a valley, Beypazarı lies at the edge of a deep lake basin 98 kilometers northwest of Ankara. An ordinary Anatolian town at first glance, the township begins to reveal its beauties as you get closer. The Ottoman mansions for which this township, situated at the bottom and on the two slopes of a valley, is famous are scattered mainly along the streets with a valley view. Abandoned to their fate for many years out of neglect, all of them are under protection today. Imparting life to the hills, the houses stand like so many film sets waiting to be dismantled followed the shoot. Shy rosy-cheeked glances from between the curtains however offer sufficient proof that the Beypazarı Houses, far from being soulless touristic mockups, are living, breathing residences.
Streets full of surprises...
Usually three stories high, Beypazarı Houses are built of stone on their lower stories while the upper ones consist of a wood frame filled in with mud adobe.
Beypazarı, which was destroyed a number of times by fire throughout its history, suffered its biggest conflagration in 1884. Even the newest of the historic houses in this town that managed to rise from its own ashes every time is a hundred years old. Judging by the brochures advertising the mansions recently converted into popular hotels, there are even some three-hundred-year-old houses in the area. The cantilevered balconies and wooden window grilles, the cornices under the eaves and over the doors, and the creative wooden door knockers of these houses set in gardens exemplify the elegance of the local architecture.
A town that has reinvented itself
Dozens of Beypazarı houses have been gained for tourism in the recent restoration boom that has swept the town. One of them, Hakim Evi or the Judge's House, an example of the township's 19th century architecture, is used for tourism today. Artifacts from the township's history are displayed in the Beypazarı Museum, which is housed in an historic old wood frame mansion. You can get a bird's-eye view of the area's oldest settlements - the districts of Cumhuriyet, İstiklal, Zafer and Beytepe - as well as the historic market from the hill known as Karcıkaya, where children also hold kite-flying contests. The Sultan Alaaddin Mosque, one of area's oldest structures, was built in 1225 by the Seljuk Sultan Aladdin Keykubad. This single-minaret mosque whose walls are made of brick rises in the district called Paşa. Every stranger is greeted with a warm welcome in Beypazarı, where time moves slowly, and while this may strike a modern urban person as strange, here it is completely ordinary.
Beypazar, the bazaar
Beypazarı's history goes back to the earliest times. A place of settlement to several civilizations since the Hittites, the area in its time came under Phrygian, Galatian, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman rule. Known to the Romans as Lagania, it was Anastasiopolis to the Byzantines. A major stop on the road from Baghdad to Istanbul in the Seljuk period, the town was conquered by the Germiyanoglu Principality. In the same period it acquired the name Beypazarı owing to the large market (pazar) that began to go up in the district which bears that name today. Perhaps Central and Western Anatolia's most colorful bazaar, Beypazarı has been in existence since Ottoman times. Reduced to ashes in the great fire of 1884, it was rebuilt entirely in stone.
BeypazarI 'dry bread' and filigree
A kind of bread known as 'kuru' (dry) and resembling a small, crisp 'simit' is peculiar to the region and a popular snack with tourists. You will find it frequently in bakeries and pastry shops. 'Kuru', which stays fresh for a whole year, used to be made in every household in Beypazarı and was traditionally offered to foreign visitors.
A handicraft unique to this locale is 'telkâri' or filigree, which has survived from the Ottoman period thanks to the traditional master-apprentice relationship which still thrives today. Filigree, which is of Middle Eastern origin and whose name is synonymous with cities such as Mardin and Diyarbakır, has also been produced in Beypazarı for centuries. This art, which is made by producing fine gold and silver wire and then bending it into aesthetically pleasing shapes, came to the area approximately three centuries ago through the 'Akhi' brotherhood, a professional organization based on principles of equality and tolerance, and acquired a new form in the hands of the local masters.
A miniature Cappadocia
Suluhan should definitely be your next stop after the historic Beypazarı market! Built in the Ottoman architectural style, this building in the town center was used for years as a caravanserai. Other structures dating back to Ottoman times include the area's many 'türbe's or tombs.. The Gazi Gündünalp Türbe at the village of Hırkatepe and the Yediler Türbe or Tomb of the Twelve along the road known as the Bağ Yolu (Vineyard Way) are said to be places of burial for Ottoman soldiers and religious scholars. The Boğazkesen Kumbet, situated on a rise at the intersection of Acıbağlar and the village of Derbentçik in the north of the township, is a domed structure of one room said to date back to Seljuk times. Adaören Castle, located in the upper part of an old mine near the village of Adaören and left from the Roman period, shares its isolation only with the valley of the Kirmir River. This time we to go see the area's natural wonder, the İnözü Valley, accompanied along the way by the ubiquitous chicken farms that have sprung up in recent years. The small İnözü River, which arises in the foothills of the village of Uşakgöl, is joined by several other small streams before it flows through İnözü Valley and Beypazarı to its confluence with the Kirmir. The caves that dot the steep slopes on either side of this valley seem to keep a watchful eye over the town at all times. Difficult of access on the rocky slopes, these caves were used as churches and rock tombs in the Early Byzantine Period. Around the village of Dereli, earth formations resembling 'Fairy Chimneys' have been produced as a result of natural erosion of the local volcanic rock, turning the area into a virtual miniature Cappadocia.
A source of natural spring water in the area known as Karakoca is just one of the many therapeutic underground springs in the region. Another of the many riches of this township, which serves health tourism with its Dutlu-Tahtalı Thermal Facilities and Ayaş Spa, is the carrot. Carrot ice cream, carrot juice, carrot soap, carrot pudding and even carrot sausage, are produced here. Not to mention carrot-flavored Turkish Delight, Beypazarı is a place that has succeeded in preserving its identity and its soul despite the rapid development of tourism. To discover lasting traces of everyday life in the Ottoman period, go one day to Beypazarı as if you were visiting your Grandma, and listen to the stories told by the historic mansions that line its stone-paved streets. They have a lot to tell you.