A town in the shadow of the mountains: Taraklı
WILCO VAN HERPENFor people who want to get a taste of the architecture of Safranbolu but who do not like its crowded streets, there are two alternatives: Göynük or Taraklı. Taraklı is a small place, and its main street is not really spectacular. But just off the main street, you can find many old Ottoman houses, many of them restored, some of them still in a very poor condition.
Taraklı, just a half-hour drive away from Göynük, is much smaller than the latter. You can actually see the whole place in one day but for me, that was not enough. The advantage of staying more than one day in the same place is that the second time you walk around the village, you might see something different.
When I arrived in Taraklı the weather forecast was not very promising. Actually it should have been raining when I arrived, but I was lucky; a nice autumn sun was shining over the top of the mountains that encircle Taraklı. The weather was quite nice and the light was beautiful, so I decided to climb a hill that has a perfect lookout over the little town. While climbing up, I was happy it hadn’t rained earlier in the day as the path leading to the top of the hill was quite steep and narrow, and it would have been impossible to climb it if it had rained.
Once I reached the top of the hill, I was rewarded with a beautiful view. A golden blanket of the setting autumn sun covered the whole town. The wonderful colors of dying leaves gave me a last impression of the beauty and magical way Mother Nature is working. The view was quite nice. From this point, I could oversee the whole town and the way it was “squeezed” in between the mountains surrounding Taraklı. The old Ottoman houses in between the golden and green leaves offered a breathtaking picture.
Once I was down in the town center, I decided to turn left and headed for the plane tree. While heading toward the tree, I walked through an old neighborhood with many houses that had been restored. Just a couple of them were still in their old and sad situation, but I got the feeling that the people here really cared about their town and were consequently doing their utmost to restore the remaining neglected buildings.
Soon, however, dark clouds began to appear in the sky overhead, crowding out the light. Finally I arrived at the plane tree, but I was little impressed; I had seen many more plane trees that were at least double the age and double the size of this tree, such as one in Hatay. The nice thing with this plane was that the inside was hollow, so an adult could actually stand upright in the old tree.
The next day I woke up early and inspect the outdoors; it had rained a lot last night and the clouds were still covering the mountains as if it were a tablecloth. More and more clouds enveloped the sky, and it did not take long before the first drops of rain came pouring down. Within half an hour, it was pouring down, and everyone was trying to find a nice hiding place for themselves and their goods.
But the rain disappeared as fast as it had come. The sun came through the clouds and within no time, people had started opening their stalls – within 10 minutes, it was business as usual. Street vendors started walking around again and uncovered their goods. Life quickly went back to normal. This was the kind of weather situation I liked. The huge black clouds were slowly drifting away; the sun started shining and all the wet houses, streets and trees were glistening in the sunlight. All of a sudden a rainbow appeared in front of me, and a couple of minutes later I even saw a second one. I love this season, the smell, the light and the color; it’s all like magic.
A bit further away, I saw an old house with a white door and some red branches trying to escape from a gate. In spite of its simplicity, it was beautiful to see how the plant was reaching out for its freedom. Across the square was an old house waiting for better times and sporting a for-sale sign. This house was huge and would make a nice boutique hotel, but the amount of work that would be required for the house was incredible.
The thing I like about places like Taraklı and Göynük is that commerce has not yet taken over although there are a couple of places near the town center that sell souvenirs, wooden handmade thing like spoons and rolling pins. Moreover, there was enough food for sale: from tea to honey and tarhana çorbası, a soup made by local women that feature a mixture of yogurt and grains mixed with all kind of herbs and sometimes even tomatoes, there was lots on offer.
For me it was time to eat. Taraklı has a couple of restaurants where you can eat any kind of Turkish food, and one or two restaurants that serve local food. You should try their yaprak dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and eat their tarhana soup. With a nicely filled stomach, I went back to my hotel. The hotel I stayed in was another old mansion being restored and transformed into a boutique hotel but it was still adorned with all sorts of beautiful old things like lamps, mirrors, radios and more.