Discovering an Anatolian city unprepared for mass tourism

Discovering an Anatolian city unprepared for mass tourism

Wilco van HERPEN ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Discovering an Anatolian city unprepared for mass tourism

The old neighborhood of Çankırı, which welcomes visitors to the Central Anatolian locale, is situated at the foot of a mountain. There are a wealth of old Ottoman houses scattered throughout the center of the province, but many are in poor condition.

Besides the fascinating salt mines, Çankırı itself is a nice place to spend a day. What I generally do is just walk around without an aim so I can be open to surprises. Most of the time something really interesting crosses my path, so for me this way of discovering a city or town works perfectly. Of course I do have an aim. Generally that will be one of the oldest areas of that place because life is always going on in these areas. I have to tell you, Çankırı is not yet ready for tourism. There is just one big, good-quality hotel and there are a number of small restaurants where you can eat good and cheap food. Especially over the weekend it might be a bit busy with people coming over from Ankara, but if you visit Çankırı during the week you might find that you are the only tourist wandering the streets of Çankırı.

A small problem while walking in the streets of Çankırı might be the lack of people who speak English (or another foreign language). For you walking around that might be a problem, but it adds to the feeling that you are in a place that is not touristic at all; no people who try to sell you strange plastic souvenirs, no pushers who try to get you in some obscure hotel. A couple of Turkish words might be enough to change your maybe otherwise a bit boring day into a wonderful experience.

Best time to visit Çankırı
Winters will be very harsh and summers burning hot so therefore I advise you to visit Çankırı in early spring or autumn. But if you want to catch some nice light the absolute best time to go to Çankırı is wintertime. It might be cold but on a sunny day you can take some beautiful pictures. After 3 p.m. the shadows become longer, the light slowly turns yellow and from yellow to orange and for you, as a tourist and photographer, this gives you another view of the old neighborhood you are walking in.

So after this long instruction, where do you go? I would advise you to start at the castle. The castle is situated on top of the mountain overlooking Çankırı. Not much remains from the castle but it gives you a nice overview of the whole area. You can have a tea over there after which you go down into the city. The old neighborhood of Çankırı is situated at the foot of the mountain so after going down and entering the city you will find yourself in the old neighborhood. This is the start of your Çankırı old city tour adventure. Although there are quite a lot of houses restored you still can find many houses that remain in critical condition. The strange thing is that it gives me a strange twisted feeling; on the one hand I feel sorry that the state of those houses is so bad. It would be so nice if all those houses would be restored. At the same time I like it because it gives a more nostalgic feeling to the whole neighborhood.

Wandering the streets of Çankırı I had a couple of very nice surprises. One of them was a small museum in the old quarter. All the things on display came from people who live in that quarter and wanted to share the old things they had in their houses: old records, old pictures and – for me the most impressive part of the collection – old documents that remained from the Ottoman period. Some of them nicely displayed but many of them just piled up waiting for the time to come. It would be nice if they could archive this treasure and keep it in a well-protected environment with for example humidity control and ultraviolet protection for the old documents. It makes me wonder how many treasures are still hidden away in the houses of people in Turkey. Okay, there are the archives in Ankara with thousands and thousands of documents, but even more are still waiting to be discovered in attics somewhere in houses in Turkey.

Old men in shops
What would Çankırı be without some shops that sell salt? While walking around I found a little shop. A very old man sat in front of his shop and it looked as if he was part of the shop decoration. Amid all different kinds of salt the man, with a beard as white as salt, blended in perfectly. Chunks of salt, ground salt or salt lamps, he had it all. Inside the shop was a big salt mill. A customer can buy his salt and the salt will be ground right away. Generally you see old men in these kinds of shops, but I was surprised to see his grandson helping the old man.

Do not expect fancy restaurants in Çankırı, but there are a couple of places where you can have marvelous food. I hope you will visit Çankırı soon because if you just enjoy it half as much as I did then still it will be an unforgettable day for you and your family.