Safranbolu in panoramic view

Safranbolu in panoramic view

Wilco Van HERPEN
Safranbolu in panoramic view

Safranbolu became more professional in its approach of tourism and became more popular for tourists. It is a cute, nice and photogenic place. Photo, Sena OK

There is a man, Sena Ok, who together with Nihan Çınar, are the distributers of Sigma lenses, Velbon tripods and Swarovski binoculars ever since 2009. When I went to their office a couple of weeks ago, he proudly showed me some “toys for big boys” photography accessories. It was the GigaPan, some kind of miraculous machine that takes extraordinary panoramic photographs. I wanted to see how the machine worked, so I asked Sena if he would be interested in a trip to Safranbolu, which in my opinion, is one of the many interesting old Ottoman cities in Turkey. 

One week later, I found myself accompanied by Sena in Safranbolu. We went out early to avoid the early autumn sun. Sena had a couple of places in mind where he wanted to use his Gigapan; most of them were panoramic views of Safranbolu from a high point of view. The system was actually quite easy. All you need is a very good tripod, the Gigapan and a Digital Single Reflex Camera (DSLR). The most important detail you have to take care of is that your tripod is leveled. If you make a mistake here, you can forget about a nice panorama. Via computer, you decide the point from where the camera starts the photo and the point where it stops. Push the start button and the rest goes by itself. The machine is not more than a box of 15 X 20 cm, so it will not take up too much space in your bag. After a couple of tries, anyone who knows the basics of photography can do the job with the Gigapan and come home with the most impressive pictures that will blow all your other photography-appreciating friends out of their shoes (Dutch saying…).


It was nice to be back in Safranbolu. The last time I visited Safranbolu was three years ago and a lot had changed. Safranbolu became more popular for tourists and with it changings have begun. Where six years ago, you could walk freely on the aqueduct, nowadays there is a big fence that prevents visitors to climb on the high aqueduct. For me, that was a quite reasonable thing to do. To walk on the aqueduct is a very dangerous thing to do; I think the height of the aqueduct is about 50 meters. The thing that disturbed me, though, was a toilet stall placed in front of this beautiful Ottoman aqueduct. It does not matter from which angle you want to take a picture; you will always find that horrible toilet in your picture. It became a circus there with people selling souvenirs and some cheap looking places where you can have a tea or something else to drink. As soon as we finished taking pictures here, we went back to the old city of Safranbolu, where, because the tourism season was almost finished, we could walk around quietly without being “disturbed” by hundreds of tourists. I write disturbed because generally while taking pictures, a huge group of tourists suddenly shows up and walks in front of the camera, hindering us from taking the picture we had in mind. 

Cute, nice, photogenic

Safranbolu was Safranbolu as it always has been; cute, nice and photogenic. But there are little things that show Safranbolu became more professional in its approach of tourism. An old blacksmith I spoke with six years ago was the owner of four shops that sell things ranging from copper to iron souvenirs. Three years ago, he was complaining about his situation, telling me the municipality did not do enough for the entrepreneurs. When I met him this time, he had a smile that went from one ear to the other. But six years ago, he was still making all the things himself; nowadays most of the things he sold were factory made. I was fortunate enough to find a couple of shops that still sell handmade souvenirs; one black smith was banging his big hammer on plates of iron. Once the iron became too cold, he put it in the fire and once the iron was orange-hot, he continued banging the iron again. He was making locks for houses, but not the kind of locks we generally see; those locks were meant for old houses being restored into their old glorious, original state. You can find those locks on houses from Adana to Zonguldak, but there are almost no craftsmen who know how to make those kinds of locks anymore. Another nice shop I found was one that makes its own wooden souvenirs. Beautiful salad bowls, candle holders or toys. You name it; they have it. 

While walking around I took some nice pictures, but I was impressed by what Sena was doing. The only disadvantage is you need to take time, a lot of time, to take pictures. But in the end, the result is mind blowing. I like walking around, having a chat while taking pictures of people and work quickly, but I am seriously considering buying one of those panoramic instruments. It is like the situation of Safranbolu, things are changing and there might be some negative points (I personally love to work with film instead of digital), but at the same time you have to make the best out of the situation and use what is available. Safranbolu might have lost some of its authentic character. Fortunately, there are always some people who are aware of it and try to do something more authentic or original. That is why I believe in Safranbolu and its future. This will always be a nice town to spend a couple of days.