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Not far from the World Heritage city of Safranbolu lies the quiet village of Yörük Köyü, once famed for its valiant cavalry. As part of her continuing series on Anatolia’s country houses, Berrin Torolsan visits the Sipahioğlu Konak, a beautifully built mansion of satisfying simplicity and unassuming flair.
The Black Sea towns of Safranbolu and Kastamonu are on old caravan routes and were flourishing trade centres in Ottoman times. Like so many cities in modern Turkey, Safranbolu is in danger of being swamped by its industrial other half, Karabük. But out of sight of the main road, 10 kilometres east of Safranbolu, is a village called Yörük Köyü, which is magically preserved in a time warp.
The mother town, Safranbolu, was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1994, and Yörük Köyü, with its cream-plastered classical Ottoman houses, is also part of a conservation zone, though it remains charmingly under-restored. The stone walls and wooden roofs and minarets of its two small mosques were last reconstructed in the 18th century. The 16th-century hamam is in ruins, but the old communal washing hall, or çamaşırhane, where village woman meet over laundry to share gossip and sing songs, was restored in 1996. It is a popular meeting place, a club for women, just as the village’s only coffee house is still the men’s club, untouched, a place for elders to reflect on the old days, on country matters and affairs of state, or to play backgammon. Every house has running water, but a few street fountains still channel spring water from the hills – such a luxury.
The Sipahioğlus’ mansion is not the grandest of the houses of Yörük Köyü, a town house rather than a mansion. It has three storeys, like most of the others, and its simple, well-proportioned features give it a modest but elegant aspect from outside. Stone walls on the ground floor support two timber-framed upper floors. The infill of mud brick is plastered and whitewashed but timber beams are left exposed. The entrance hall, or eyvan, as it is called here, is paved with slate. In larger houses there are courtyards, known as hayat. A timber staircase leads to a small landing where there is a larder – today it is the kitchen, which would originally have been out in the garden or courtyard.
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