A century of benign neglect has saved Kastamonu’s treasures. This forgotten corner of the Black Sea – both the province and its capital, which share a name – is just waiting to be discovered. There are beautiful Mountains with stunning walks, crumbling mansions, ancient tombs, comfortable town-house hotels, fortifying farmhouse breakfasts – in short all the ingredients Cornucopia readers look for.
The old Silk Road city of Kastamonu is a place of unflashy charms that wears its heritage lightly. The bell of the clock tower still sounds the time in the old bazaars, in the city square with its early-twentieth-century palazzos, in the unkempt parks with their ancient rock-cut tombs, and around the hills where hundreds of handsome Ottoman mansions can be glimpsed amid the creeping concrete. The jewel in Kastamonu’s crown is a mosque in Kasaba, a tiny village with a flock or two of sheep, guarded by shepherdesses, in a sea of wheat fields. Built in 1366 the Mosque of Mahmut Bey is a brilliant relic of the golden age of the Anatolian beyliks, warring principalities that flourished when the great Byzantine and Seljuk empires were in decline - a time when Europe was in the dark ages and the Mongols were at the door. Whatever the inspiration may have been, the Mosque’s joyous ceiling is a gem to be treasured.
If driving from Istanbul, allow a comfortable six-seven hours. Leave the Ankara–Istanbul motorway at Gerede. The easiest drive is via Karabük–Safranbulu.
A car is really essential.