Posted by: Gideon | September 22, 2010

Turkey with Kids: Istanbul to Safranbolu.

We left Istanbul on a Safranbolu bus bound for…Safranbolu.

Turkish buses are a special experience.  Firstly, the whole country travels by bus – it’s the way it’s been for decades and bus travel does not necessarily equal cheap travel. In fact, the budget airlines flying internally today in Turkey are often cheaper than the equivalent bus journey – but the bus goes everywhere. Buses come in various classes – the top of the line buses are really comfortable – seats that recline back a long way, wi-fi…And in every bus you’ll find an attendant who’ll hand out water or soda on request (as well as tea and coffee), and every so often will hand out cakes, muffins and cookies. All buses are air-conditioned (soe better than others) and best of all bus travel gives one a chance to actually meet everyday people – who invariably are interested in finding out more about you. And if they don’t speak English then sign language can be very friendly too.

Picturesque Safranbolu

Our bus would take about five hours. It took over 90 minutes just to exit Istanbul and then we were traveling through north-west Turkey. Safranbolu was once a major saffron growing center – but today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous as one of the very last surviving true Ottoman towns, which has been completely bypassed by modern developments. It’s somewhat off the tourist track, though it’s an easy day trip from the capital, Ankara.

On arrival we went to our Pensiyon (the Turkish version of a European B&B) – I’d read a lot of good things about the Bastoncu Pensiyon – it was a very old building, with authentic rooms and best of all, a real WC ie the bathroom was actually in the closet!! Most of us don’t stop to think why bathrooms have been called WC’s (water closets) – in Safranbolu you see why – inside one of the closets is the bathroom. Surely the most interesting bathroom we have ever come across!

Inside a real W.C.

We explored the town in the afternoon/evening – Safranbolu is beautiful to look at , but the fact is that after about two hours we had seen everything – the mosques, hammams, stores, climbed a hill. Unfortunately not much felt really genuine – it all looked as if it had been renovated just for the tourists – all the stores sold junk although the Turkish Delight candy stores were interesting – it was quite fascinating watching the candy being made. And we did find a real shoemaker, who Eitan was totally enthralled with – watching this old man shape a shoe and hammer in the nails. I don’t think kids today understand what a real craftsman is anymore.

There are “real” people living in Safranbolu – but overall, our impression was less than great – the people were not friendly (very unusual for Turkey) and it was all quite tacky.

A real shoemaker

Back in our hotel it was unbearably hot, and they had no air conditioning or even fans. We sweated out the night, and were quite pleased to be on our way the following morning. As for those great reviews on Tripadvisor, take them with a pinch of Salt.

PS: For more info on how I can plan a great family trip to Turkey for you, click here.

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