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Yörük Köy: A Mansion of Perfect Modesty

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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Issue 47, 2012 Queen of the Nomads
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 47
  • A Nomad Among Nomads

    She was born to be a New York society beauty, but the late Josephine Powell’s chosen world was that of the Anatolian Nomad. Five years after her death, her archive of photographs recording old Anatolia in all its glory will see the light of day in Istanbul

  • A Dutch Treat

    As Turkey and the Netherlands celebrate
    400 years of fruitful trade with a series of spectacular exhibitions in both countries, Philip Mansel, author of a new history of the Levant, reflects on the curious role of the Dutch at the Sublime Porte

  • Fly in the Face of Fashion

    Rather than follow the crowd and dismiss Ankara as a dull, soulless modern capital, says Patricia Daunt, visitors should take time to discover why the famed Angora of old, twice capital in ancient times, is back on the map.

  • The Wines They Are A-Changing

    Over the past decade Turkey’s wine industry has come of age. It is now more than ready to join the grown-ups of the wine-producing world. Kevin Gould and the Cornucopia team pick the best of a sparkling bunch. Photographs by Berrin Torolsan.
    Cornucopia’s self-guided wine tours

  • Bloodshed in the Balkans

    The First Balkan War, a hundred years ago, is an obscure affair, overshadowed by the First World War that followed. But it ended the Ottoman Empire in Europe and came close to ending Turkey itself. It left almost half a million refugees and three times as many dead. David Barchard tells the story of a catastrophic conflict

  • The Daredevil Scholar

    With a taste for adventure Indiana Jones would appreciate, the Dutch architectural historian Machiel Kiel has risked life and limb in his mission to expose the annihilation of Ottoman monuments in the Balkans. The art historian Holta Vrioni pays tribute to his work and exploits

  • The Curious Cabinet of Cornelis Calkoen

    When Amsterdam’s renovated Rijksmuseum reopens in 2013, the public will be able to visit the Turkish Cabinet of Cornelis Calkoen, the Dutch republic’s ambassador to Istanbul from 1727 to 1744. For more than a century now the museum has been the keeper of his collection of paintings.

  • The Coolest Thing

    ‘Never swim before the first watermelon rind falls into the water,’ goes an old Istanbul saying. By the time they ripen, the sea will have reached just the right temperature for swimming.

Buy the issue
Issue 47, 2012 Queen of the Nomads
£10.00 / $12.72 / 409.48 TL
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