A site settled by people since prehistory, Safranbolu hosted many
civilizations up until the Turkish conquest in 1196. Its previous names were
Theodorapolis and Dadybra. When the Seljuk Turks conquered the city, it was
named Zalifre. It adopted its present name in 1940.
Safranbolu is one of the rare examples of a typical Ottoman city that
survived to the present day. From the 13th century onwards, it was an important
caravan station in trade between the East and West.
Safranbolu enjoyed a long period of prosperity, playing a key role in the
caravan trade and as a result, its public and domestic architecture flourished
and reached its height in the 17th century. Travelers' inns, mosques, stores and
public baths were built during the period.
With the building of the railways in 19th century, the caravan trade came
to a halt. Safranbolu is one of the few towns that survived to the present day
without losing its original structure and architecture.
A busy marketplace with shops owned by artisans, blacksmiths and shoemakers
still reproduce original handcrafts of the Ottoman era. They include Erhan
Başkaya, who has made traditional leather flat-heeled yemini shoes for 32 years;
and new artisans like Saliha Korur, who makes dolls and other
Hüseyin Şahin Özdemir, 50, is one of the last blacksmiths reproducing
original doorknobs, hinges and latches. "I loved this work when I was small; I
learned it as an apprentice. But now apprenticeship is completely finished," he
Safranbolu's houses are made of stone, wood and iron, and are integral to
the architecture of the city. The rooms are spacious and high. The streets also
reflect the urban development and architecture of the era.
The true remnant of the old caravan trade is saffron, the most expensive,
and perhaps the most difficult spice to grow in the world. A gram costs 15
euros. When mixed with any liquid that weighs a hundred thousand times its
weight, the red stigmas of the saffron flower turn yellow.
Safranbolu is the only place in Turkey where saffron grows. The spice is
especially popular in Japan, Korea, Singapore and China, and is used to make
soaps, tea, saffron bulbs and body cream.
Turkish delights are another profitable industry still thriving in
Safranbolu. Made with saffron and an important tradition during the Ottoman
Empire, the first modern day Turkish delight shop established in Safranbolu has
been in business since 1942. Most of their products are exported to the United