x0x Land of Minstrels
- x0x Land of Minstrels
* By Hüsran Yaþar
Early in the morning the town awakens to the shouts of young boys selling
simit - crispy rings of bread sprinkled with sesame seeds. There is no
confusion, no rush. Uþak is a small city where the distances are too short
to make getting to work a problem. Our determination to see as much as
possible in the least time was out of keeping with the relaxed local
atmosphere, but Uþak is used to these brief visitors who touch down for a
couple of nights and then disappear off. The visitors that the town
expects to welcome are businessmen in the leather trade and textile
industry, cirit players and salesmen. They cannot be said to have been
expecting us, because almost everyone was astonished to hear why we had
come, including the boy waiter in Sofra Restaurant where we ate both
evenings who asked us what there was to write about Uþak, and we replied
What isnt there to write about? I suppose his question reflected the
modest side of the Uþak character, since we found lots to see and discover
in this land of the Yörük and Türkmen, people of nomadic origin.
Uþak, which became a province in 1953, is located on the site of the
ancient Temenothyrai, which was renamed Flaviopolis in the first century
AD after the Flavian dynasty of Roman emperors. The city continued to
thrive under the Byzantines, and with the arrival of Türkmen settlers
became known as Uþþak, derived from the word aþýk, meaning minstrel.
In ancient times the region was ruled successively by the Assuwans,
Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Macedonians, the Kingdom of
Pergamum, and the Romans from 129 BC. Under the Byzantines Uþak was part
of the thema of Anatolikon for seven centuries before being conquered for
the first time by the Türkmen tribes in 1076. Uþak then changed hands on
numerous occasions, belonging at various times to the Anatolian Seljuks,
the Crusaders and the Byzantines.
In the 13th century, when Uþak was under Seljuk rule, the Turkish
Germiyanoðullarý clan moved here from Malatya, and in 1429 it became part
of the Ottoman Empire. Until the 19th century Uþak was a district attached
to the sub-province of Kütahya in the province of Hüdavendigar (Bursa).
During the War of Independence Uþak was occupied by Greek forces for two
Following the establishment of the Turkish Republic, Uþak developed
rapidly, becoming one of the first Turkish cities to have electric
lighting, for example. Modern Uþak is a place where there are traces of
its long past all around. The legendary Uþak carpets were a legacy both of
Turkic nomad tradition and the cultural wealth of the Lydian Kingdom.
Cirit (jereed), an equestrian sport in which two teams toss a javelin is
part of the Türkmen heritage and still widely played in the region.
Keþkek, a dish of mutton and wheat which always takes pride of place on
the menu at weddings and other ceremonial occasions, is a newcomer here,
thought to have been introduced by Turkish migrants from Thrace after the
First World War. The Macedonians are represented by the ruins of the city
of Blaundus established after they conquered the region in the 4th century
BC, the Romans by Sebaste, whose ruins are near the village of Selçikler,
the Ottomans by Çataltepe Bridge over the Gediz river, and the Turkish
Republic by the Göðem Victory Memorial. In short, reminders of Uþaks long
past are everywhere.
We spent our first day looking at the old Uþak houses in the
neighbourhoods of Aybey, Iþýk, Karaaðaç and Kurtuluþ, and visiting the Ulu
Mosque, Burma Mosque, Aliaða Fountain, Cimcim Fountain, Hacýgedik Han, and
the Goldsmiths Market. The old houses from the Ottoman period are
relatively few in number, but those that remain are now under
Hacýgedik Han opposite Ulu Mosque has long since left its busy past
behind, and has been derelict since the 1960s. Once this han accommodated
merchants from villages, districts and provinces all over the region, and
perhaps travellers like ourselves in the rooms around its courtyard. Today
some of the rooms whose roofs are still sound are used for storage. In
those days a regular market was held here for the famous paþalar grapes
which grow in the village of Paþalar near Karahallý. Merchants came to the
han, tethered their donkey or horse in the stable, sold their goods, and
after paying the han keeper set off for home.
That evening we ate dinner in the restaurant of the Dülgeroðlu Hotel,
which was built by a French architect for Tiritoðlu Paþa in 1898. It was
later used as the council house, and finally after six years of
restoration work opened as a hotel in 1996. Originally known as Paþa Han
or Taþ Han, today the Dülgeroðlu Hotel, with its restaurant, bar and tea
room, is one of the best in the city.
At weekends in fine weather the people of Uþak head for some of the beauty
spots out of town. The most popular of these is Murat Daðý, a mountain
renowned for its sweet air, spring water and woods, and it is hard to find
a table in the open-air restaurants here in summer. Other popular
excursion places are Gediz Spa, Hamam Boðazý and Örencik, and for picnics
the lakes of Göðem, Takmak and Karaaðaç.
The village of Selçikler near the small town of Sivaslý is home to an
ancient city now hardly visible amidst the orchards and tobacco fields.
Sebaste was founded on the advice of the Oracle of Apollo by the Roman
emperor Augustus, and under the Byzantines became a bishopric. A museum is
now being built near the site.
From Selçikler we set out for Karahallý along a road lined by vineyards
and orchards. We wanted to see Cýlandras Bridge over the River Banaz. We
parked in the nearby picnic area and followed the sound of water through
the pine trees to the bridge. The number of wooden picnic tables in the
shade of the trees and along the river bank showed that this, too, was a
popular resort for the people of Uþak.
Cýlandras is a narrow bridge connecting the steep sides of the river. The
air was balmy and nightingales were singing. We crossed over the bridge
and followed the ancient water channel hewn into the rocky cliff. The
reward for taking this somewhat alarming route was a delightful view of
the river winding up the valley, its waters skimmed by the branches of
Next we headed for Ulubey, following the yellow signposts indicating
sights of interest which started near Sülümenli village. Shortly before
sunset we arrived at Blaundus, where we found ourselves looking at the
most spectacular view we had so far seen in Uþak. The ancient city was at
its most splendid as it prepared for the sunset. The hilltop on which we
stood projected into the deep valley, and commanded a view far into the
distance. A single gate to the north leads into Blaundus, which is
surrounded by walls on all sides. The fierce wind had sculpted the bushes
and trees into strange shapes.
Soon after it was established by the Macedonians, Blaundus became a
frontier garrison town belonging to the Kingdom of Pergamum, and
subsequently passed to the Romans. The citys symbol was a pair of horses.
There are large numbers of rocks tombs along the valleys leading into the
Ulubey canyons. After watching the sun set from Blaundus we returned to
We reserved the last day for Uþak Archaeological Museum, which since it
became home to the Treasure of Karun in 1995 has seen a sharp rise in the
number of visitors. Many holidaymakers travelling south to the
Mediterranean during the summer months now make a detour through Uþak in
order to see the treasure, instead of taking the usual route through
Afyon. Both the burial mounds where the treasure was discovered are also
open to the public.
As we went around the museum we conversed with museum director Kâzým
Akbýyýk, who told us about the local cuisine, a non-antiquarian interest
of his. He explained that the people of Uþak eat a lot of goats meat,
about the local speciality çomlek eti (meat cooked in a pottery jar), home
made baklava and the dessert known as hoþmerim made with goats milk
My parting question to Kâzým Akbýyýk was what to eat in Uþak when short of
time. How fortunate I had thought to ask him, because before leaving we
ate bükleme, a kind of thin griddle bread similar to the better known
gözleme, with delicious fillings, and the memory is still with me.
* Hüsran Yaþar is a journalist.