Service with a smile in charming Göynük

Service with a smile in charming Göynük

Wilco Van Herpen
Service with a smile in charming Göynük Just a three-hour drive away from Istanbul, Göynük has many things to offer the visitor. It has architecture, a beautiful natural environment, opportunities for off-road excitement and some nice restaurants to boot. Although it’s a little town, they have more and better places to eat then Göreme in Cappadocia, for example.

I advise you to go early in the morning when the sun rises just above the mountains near Göynük. There’s dew in the grass, and the beautiful, deep-blue sky opens up in front of you as the clouds slowly drift away. I stopped for a moment, took some pictures and continued. The first thing I did after I arrived in Göynük was buy a couple of açma and poğaça (some very nice Turkish pastries that can be filled with minced meat, potatoes or cheese) and sat down on a bench in the center of town. While eating my poğaça, the smell of roasted chestnuts filled the air. I could not resist and bought a portion. The chestnuts were small but very tasty.

Göynük, being surrounded by mountains, is the perfect place for an off-road adventure. And that’s where the problems might start because not everybody owns an off-road vehicle. Well, then there is good news for you. Together with some friends, my friend Temel, who knows the area like the back of his hand, started an off-road club five years ago. They made trips in the area and decided that they wanted to share their information with other people, subsequently organizing themselves as an official off-road club. The Göynük off-road club can advise you, or you can even join the group on one of its trips. It is a beautiful initiative and, according to your wishes, Temel and his friends can show the yayla (highlands) near Göynük, the forest or make a nice tour to one of the lakes.

If you want action and are not afraid of getting dirty, then a forest trip might be the perfect trip for you. The car gets stuck in the mud and has to be pulled out. Everybody has to work together to solve the problem. You might end up covered in mud (because you were at the wrong place when the wheels were spinning in the mud) from head to toe, but this only adds to the adventure experience of the trip.
Going to the highlands is another adventure. The highland has one of the most beautiful views you can imagine and is the perfect spot to have a nice barbeque.

If you want to know more about this club or want to join them for a trip you can visit their Facebook site (goynukoffroad) or get in touch with Temel ( to get more information. I promise you, you will have the time of your life.  All they might want from you is a small fee to cover their fuel costs.

On Monday it is market day in Göynük and from all the surrounding villages, people will come to Göynük. The generally quiet village suddenly becomes as busy as a shopping mall in Istanbul on a Sunday afternoon. But if you ask me, here in Göynük I found one of the best malls of Turkey: In the open air, people are vending their goods. Whether it’s homemade cheese, butter, bread, real village eggs, hand-knitted socks or wooden spoons, name it and it’s here.

What’s not here is loud music, a food court on the third floor or security at the doors. Instead, you can eat in one of the many little local restaurants that serves everything from sulu yemek (cooked food in its own bouillon), all different kinds of soups (try the işkembe or paça çorbası, soup made of intestines) or, during the season, mushrooms. I had my, very, late lunch in Konak restaurant and loved all the food they served. The chef is a woman who is just 21 years old, but she cooks like a teyze (auntie); if this is only her start I wonder how and where, as a chef, she will end up. She is very talented. I ate stuffed grape leaves that were served in a clay scale, and it was sizzling hot. As a side dish some very nice village yoghurt completed the perfection of the dish.

The market stalls are all over the city center and it is such a nice thing to see the interaction of all the villagers. Everyone knows everyone and this is the place to learn the latest gossip and village news. But the most important thing is that everybody is friendly and they all respond with a smiley face. There are no pushy sellers trying to drag you into a sale, but rather patient people who still take their time to help you. The old Ottoman houses, most of which are restored, give this place a picturesque feeling. Within the “valley,” the highest place is the saat kulesi (clock tower) and from here you have an incredible view of Göynük. It’s a steep climb but once you reach the clock tower you will forget all about your tiredness and enjoy the view of this little town.