Safranbolu is a town and district of the Karabük Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. It is about two hundred kilometers north of Ankara and about a hundred kilometers south of the Black Sea coast - situated 9 kilometers north of the city of Karabük. Former Turkish names of the town were Zalifre and Taraklıborlu and in Greek Saframpolis. It was part of Kastamonu Province until 1923 and Zonguldak Province between 1923 and 1995. The district covers an area of 1,000 square kilometers or 386 square miles and the town lies at an elevation of 485 meters or 1,591 feet. The Old Town preserves many old buildings, with 1,008 registered as historical artifacts. These are: 1 private museum, 25 mosques, 5 tombs, 8 historical fountains, 5 Turkish baths, 3 caravanserais, 1 historical clock tower, 1 sundial and hundreds of houses and mansions. Also there are mounds from ancient settlements, rock tombs and historical bridges. The Old Town is situated in a deep ravine in a fairly dry area in the rain shadow of the mountains. The New Town can be found on the plateau about two kilometers west of the Old Town. The name of the town comes from the word saffron and the Greek word for city polis due to the fact that Safranbolu was a trading center and known for growing saffron. Today saffron is still alive at the village of Davutobası which is 22 kilometers east of Safranbolu and which probably produces one of the best quality saffrons in the world. Safranbolu was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1994 due to its well-preserved Ottoman architecture.
Safranbolu is situated in the western Black Sea region of Turkey, though located 50 kilometers inland in the mountains. The bus trip from Istanbul takes about 6 hours and from Ankara it takes around 3 hours. Traveling by car from Ankara it is 220 kilometers. The closest train station is in Karabük about 10-15 kilometers away. There are daily trains from Zonguldak and Ankara to Karabuk but are quite slow compared to the buses. Dolmuses regularly drive the 2 kilometers between the old town (Turkish: Çarşı) and the new town center where buses are likely to drop you off and pick you up. Some intercity buses might drop you off in the nearby steel town of Karabük. From there you can find a dolmus into Safranbolu and once in the old town, everything is reachable by foot. Safranbolu is famous for its Ottoman houses both in old town (Turkish: Çarşı) and the neighbourhood of Bağlar. The literal translation of Bağlar means orchards, and it has qualified as a UNESCO World Heritage sight. Mencilis (Bulak) Cave which is 3 kilometers from the city center is the 4th biggest cave in Turkey.
Enjoy a tea inside the Cinci Hanı which is a massive hotel in the center of the old town. Wandering around the city you will see a great deal of the Ottoman houses, but to see inside go to one of the historic homes open to the public. Kaymakamlar Müze Evi is located just above Bastoncu Pansiyon to the south-east of Cinci Hanı. Go further and keep walking up the hill and take in the excellent views at Hıdırlık Tepesi. The area of most intrigue to tourists is located in Çarşı, seen from the castle to the north, the area is also called Eski Safranbolu. Hidirlik Hill to the south is the location of two monuments and was used as an outdoor site for rituals in centuries past.
First known as Paphlagonia, Safranbolu has been part of many different civilizations in its history including the Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans. It was conquered by the Turks in 1196. The town reached its economic and cultural zenith during the Ottoman Empire due in part to its position as an important stop on the Istanbul to Sinop trade route. Thus, during the 17th century, its importance improved the commerce and wealth of the region. During this period it had close relations with Istanbul and Kastamonu, and state officials from the Ottoman Palace had important pieces of art in Safranbolu. The wealthy residents of the town built large houses made from wood and stucco, many of which still survive. During the 19th century nearly a fourth of the population were Ottoman Greeks who left after World War I.
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