The Location of Safranbolu and Its Neighbouring Provinces, Sub-provinces and Villages

Safranbolu is a sub-provincial centre in the north-western Black Sea region,located at the cross-section of the 41°16' northern latitude and 32°41' eastern longitude. According to the present administrative system the neighbouring provinces are: Zonguldak, Kastamonu, Çankırı, Bolu; and the sub-provinces are: Karabük, Eflani, Ulus, Bartın, Araç, Eskipazar, Bulak, Tokatlı, Gayıza (İncekaya),Danaköy, Çiftlik, Kirpe (Düzce), Yazı, Konarı, Yürük, Akveren, Oğulveren, Davutobası, Çerçen, Hacılarobası, Bostanbükü, Karıt, Başköy, Kılavuzlar and Kapullu are some of the villages in the same region. Among these Bulak, Tokatlı, Gayıza, Danaköy, Yazı, Konarı, Yürük, Karıt, Bostanbükü and Kılavuzlar are of special significance to Safranbolu (Safranbolu Map).

Yürük village has long been an important centre close to Safranbolu, with its large houses and the labour it supplies to Istanbul, primarily in bakery.


The environs of Safranbolu have been an area of settlement ever since the Paleolithic Age. There are three large tumulus around Eflani. Homeros refers to this area as Paphlagonia. After the Persian and Hellenistic periods it became an even more densely populated region during the Roman and Byzantine eras.The 24 tumuli in the Safranbolu-Eflani region various rock-tombs,reliefs and a Roman temple in the village of Sipahiler, south of Safranbolu, are among the tangible evidence of these periods. There is no trace of either the Roman or the Byzantine era within the city of Safranbolu; neither is there any refence to its name during these periods. The historian Leonard suggests that Safranbolu could be the old Germia, while according to Ainsworth, as the city was formerly named Zafaran Boli, it could well have been Flaviopolis which literally has the same meaning: city of saffron5. Osman Turan writes that the city was named Dadybra before it was taken over by the Turks.

After the Turks came to Anatolia, the history of Safranbolu developed in relation to that of Kastamonu. This region was first occupied by the Turks at the the 12th century, during the reign of the Danışmentliler. Later it was recaptured by the Byzantines, but the Çobanoğulları settled here at the beginning of the 13th century. At the start, the Çobanoğulları were loyal to the Seljuks, then, Ilhanlılar. The chieftain of Çandaroğulları from the tribe of Kayı, established at Eflani towards the end of the 13th century, was also loyal first to the Seljuk to the İlhanlıs; was independent for a short period at the beginning of the 15th  century, and stayed in power until 1461, then becoming loyal to the Ottoamans. The name of the city is believed to be Zalifre or Zalifra during that period. Eski Cami, Süleyman Paşa Madrasa and Eski Hamam (Old Baths) in Safranbolu are from the period of the Candaroğulları. All through these periods and later in the Ottoman era, Kastamonu has always been the regional centre. Starting from the Çandaroğulları period, for a long time under the Ottoman rule Safranbolu was referred to as Taraklı Borlu.  The names Zağfiran Borlu and later Zağfiranbolu were used from the start of the 18th  Century onwards

Documentary research on the history of Safranbolu during the Ottoman period is very scarce. Some names may emerge when we look at its historical buildigs; Cinci  Hoca,  Köprülü  Mehmet  Paşa,  İzzet  Mehmet  Paşa  being among the prominent people who have left their mark on Safranbolu.

Sources of Building Materials


The stone used in building construction is obtained from the limestone rocks in the area. This hard, blue stone is utilized also for the manufacture of good quality lime. Another local material, "küfünk", a porous, lightweight stone is used as infill in the wood-frame construction and also for building chimneys; being easily sawed into shape.


Although every type of soil could be used in making adobe, those made out of  the soil brought specifically from Köprücek were preferred.


Roof tiles were hand-shaped in the villages of Çerçen, Bostanbükü and Çamlıca, and burnt in kilns.

Wood                                              .

Looking at the houses in Safranbolu we can see that very good quality wood has been generously used. Even today, more than half of the surrounding area is covered with forests. We can definitely say that this ratio was much higher in the old days. Today, 38 percent of the trees within the Karabük Forestry Management Area are firs, 30 percent beeches, 20 percent pines and 9 percent oaks.

Wood used in construction is mainly fir and pine; walnut and poplar have also been used sparingly. Orders for the required wood for buildings were made to mountain villages such as Gayıza, Tokatlıköy, Danaköy, Karaevli, Susundur, Arıcak and Başköy. They shaped the lumber which they had already felled with axes, and then fastening them to sides of mules brought it down mountain trails. Oxen  pulled down the thicker trees. Wood was cut either with hand saws or at saw-mills. In the first half of the 20th  century there were three saw-mills in Danaköy.

Mortars Lime: Good quality lime is produced from the blue limestones in the area which are burned in the forest land near Gayıza.

Mud mortar: It is produced from every type of soil in the same way as adobe clay is prepared.


No records have yet been encountered regarding any buildings from the Byzantine times in Safranbolu. Probably, the Hagios Stephanos church (Ulucami) in Kıranköy was built by Theodora. The Eski Cami mosque may have been trıansformed from a Byzantine church. The remains of buildings belonging to the  Turks start from the Candaroğulları period. These have undergone various repairs and transformations through time. Only the most significant buildings are listed below.

Religious Buildings

There are around 30 mosques. The oldest one is the Süleyman Paşa Camii (Eski Cami) mosque from the Candaroğulları period (14th century). The other most important ones are Köprülü Mehmet Paşa mosque (1662), İzzet Mehmet Paşa mosque (1779).

Educational Buildings

The Süleyman Paşa Madrasa (14th century) of which only the foundations exist today, is the only educational building worth noting.

Social Buildings

Cinci Hoca Hanı (Cinci Hodja Caravanserai 17th  century), Eski Hamam (Old Baths 14th  century), Yeni Hamam (New Baths,  17th  century). In addition to these buildings, approximately 180 fountains and 15 bridges can be listed.

Looking at these structures, we can assume that Safranbolu began to gain signifiance in the 14th century. It attracted the attention of some prominent statesmen starting from the 17th  century through the 18th  century; and since then, with the increase in its own economic power, continued to add many more buildings, mostly small mosques and fountains, to the existing stock.


Safranbolu owns the richest heritage of folklore in the area. Its traditions, customs, folk-tales, folk-songs, music and folk-dances are each worth thorough research. We can trace the characteristic features of the Turkish society behind each and every one of these folkloric items.


While studying the houses of Safranbolu, their spaciousness; their regular and steady construction; the wealth of their spatial organization; their large gardens with numerous fruit trees and ponds (either in open air or within pavilions); the fact that each family owned a summer and a winter house; plus the dignity, elegance and self-esteem of its people, all induce us to search for the causes of this prosperity.


As a result of the self sufficient economic system prevailing in the city, each family produces its own food. This consists of vegetables, fruit and food which is prepared and stored for seasonal consumption. Meat, oil and sugar is purchased from elsewhere. Most people of Safranbolu own fields in the vicinity  of the city. Formerly, there were extensive rice fields on the land where the Iron and Steel Factory is now situated. Wheat, barley, rice and straw came from these fıelds cultivated by the sharecroppers.


As the city takes its name from this flower and as it is still grown in the area, it will be appropriate to dwell in more detail on saffron. A member of the iridaceae family, saffron is a bulbous plant, in many ways resembling colchicum, with its pinkish purple flowers. It blooms in the months of September and October. The tips of its female organ (the stigma) are picked at dawn. The plant flowers a year after being planted. After its flowers have been picked for two succeeding years, the plant is rooted out. Tips gathered from 100,000 flowers add up to only a weight of 1 kg.

Utilization: Having  dyeing  and  medicinal  properties,  saffron  is  used in pharmaceuticals, dyeing and also as a flavouring in cooking. It is capable of colouring water a hundred thousand times its weight.

History: Homeros and Hippocrates refer to saffron. It has been cultivated in Iran and Kashmir for ages. The Mongolians introduced saffron to China, the Arabs to Şpain and the Crusaders to the rest of  Europe. In Ancient Greece and Rome it was chewed for its essence and medicinal properties and was also used as a dye.

Areas of Cultivation: Saffron is grown in Spain, France, Sicily, the outskir of the Appenines, Iran and Kashmir. In Turkey it is cultivated in Istanbul, Safranbolu, Adana and Bilecik. In three of the villages of Safranbolu (Ak Oğulveren and Davutobası) some of the families are still engaged in s production.

Economy: Satisfactory records regarding the economic value of saffron beginning of this century have not yet been revealed. We know that at th of the 19th century the October harvest of saffron was exported to Syri Egypt from Safranbolu. In 1923, 3200 Ottoman liras worth of saffron was sold to Ankara and Istanbul. Today, because the saffron grown in Turkey does not suffice to meet the internal demand, it is supplemented by imports

Animal Husbandry

In general, each household in the city owns a cow which is mainly kept for its milk. Every morning the herd is collected by a cowherd. The Angora goat is the most extensively husbanded animal in the area. Yogurt and butter are produced from milk. The male animals are preferred for slaughter. In Safranbolu, it is not customary to consume mutton. In autumn, "kavurma" a braised preserved meat, is prepared from goat's meat, to be consumed during the months when no fresh meat is available. Animal husbandry is also important for the other by-products: wool, hair and hide.

One other important area of production in the old times was bee-keeping exercised on the high plateaus. Honey was used as a substitute for sugar while  honeywax was exported. Honeywax was also utilized locally as a subsidiary  element by the shoe-makers.

Leather Manufacturing

The most significant area of production in Safranbolu was leather and leather goods. There is no records as to when leather production actually began in Safranbolu. It can be assumed however that the valley of the Tabakhane stream has been used for leather-tannig, being extremely suitable from many aspects: the topography both conceals the Unattractive sight of the tannery and prevents the unpleasent odours from reaching the mean settlement areas while the stream provides a natural recipient for contaminated water. The Ottomans were at a considerably advenced level in leater manufacturing until the end of the 18th century. Mordtmann notes that leather manufacturing had an economic value for Safranbolu in 1852 and 84 tanneries are listed in 1890. Considering that the population was around 7500 during the same period, leather tanning appears to be a very  intensive area of manufacture. Being somewhat protected from external influences along wiht the  delayed impact of industrialization on leather manufacturing this line of production continued to prosper in Safranbolu up to the middle of the 20th  century. Although the guilds were abolished by law in 1910 it was quite some time before their influence within the traditions died out. Later the export of partly treated leather to Europe became profitable and many a rich merchant emerged from amongst those in this trade. According to the booklet published by the Safranbolu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 415 workers were employed in a hundred tanneries. 430 people worked as shoe-makers, slipper-makers and in leather tailoring. Semi-manufactured leather of various kinds, graded from very fine to coarse leather worth 84.600 Ottoman liras were exported while 17.900 Ottoman liras worth of glazed and patent leather was imported from Europe. Hides of cows, bulls, goats and sheep worth 56.000 Ottoman liras were purchased from the area. There were 16 merchants dealing in leather goods in general and 5 merchants dealing specifically in footwear. During the same years the Safranbolu Tanners Company was about to complete a leather factory which unfortunately functioned for only a very short period.

The change of fashion in footwear and the mass production of less costly rubber shoes for the viillagers decreased the importance of shoe making. The semi-manufactured leather products products could not compete with the products of  the factories established in various places in Anatolia. Finally, the establishment of the nearby Iron and

Steel Factory nearly brought an end leather manufacturing.

The Tannery: It is situated within a valley along a stream, the Tabakhane which means tannery. It has its own mosque and coffee-house . The chemical content of the water springing from beneath the mosque is suitable for tanning. The hides left in natural or man-made pits alongside the valley mature within a certain period of time. Tanning is a time consuming and wearying job. Those working in this field were organised within the guild system. The best raw hides gathered from the area were transformed into leather of the finest quality after being treated. Traditional methods were employed in leather treatement. Today there are two workshops using the traditional methods which operate from time to time along with two others utilizing machinery.

The leather treated in the tanneries was purchased by the shoemakers, saddlers and manufacturers of leather goods.

Arasta (market place): The makers of lights shoes (yemeniciler) were gathered in the arasta in their self-owned shops. There were a total of 46 shops in the arasta. Three to five people worked in each of the tiny shops. Hung on strings, the light-shoes were exhibited in the shops.

Several types of shoes for men, women and children were produced at the beginning of the century. These were mainly sold to shoe-merchants coming from the neighbourhood, who arrived in Safranbolu with lots of animals and bundles. On Saturday afternoons the shoe makers packed the shoes which they had produced during the week into baskets and sold them to the wholesalers, who usually dropped by once every two weeks. In spite of the hard work which sometimes kept them busy until dawn, the shoe makers never became rich, but managed to sustain a modest life. Payments to the tanner were due every November. Money was not used until then.

During the War of Independence it was Safranbolu that supplied a great part of the army's need for footwear.  This  alone  is  sufficient  evidence  of  the effectiveness of its shoe-making trade. In 1923, 15000 Ottoman liras worth of shoes were sold to the neighbouring towns and villages.

 In 1975 there werea few shops still operating in the arasta.

Saddlers and Leather Workers: Horses and donkeys which were important means of transport were used in great numbers in and Safranbolu 46. For this reason saddle and harness making was a common field of production. The producers of saddles and harnesses were gathered in two separate streets in the çarşı, called "semerciler içi" and "saraçlar içi",  names denoting the crafts excersised within. It is known that in 1923 there were 120 people engaged in saddle-making.

There still are a few saddle-makers today .


As each household owned at least one or two saddle-horses, there was a suffıcient number of farriers engaged in horse-shoeing.


Ironmongers, which even today exist in the market area, were in a wellestablished branch of activity in the old days. Farming equipment, metal parts of harnesses, tools for wood and leather working, household utensils, tools and building elements such as axes, adzes, gimlets, hammers, nails, screws, hinges, locks, door handles, door knocks, iron hooks for window shutters latches and hooks etc...used in building construction were manufactured in the ironmongers' market.


Safranbolu was the copper market of the area. The shops which sell ready-made copperware today formerly produced all these themselves.


The philosophy of life inspired by traditions, customs and religion is to be content with very little. People of Safranbolu are thrifty; they have no tendency for luxury. Simplicity is everywhere. They sit and work on the floor, sleep in laid on the floor and eat at low tables. There is not much furniture in the homes. Even ornamentation is mostly limited to the properties such as color and texture of the  materials  used,  thus  preserving  their  natural  appearance. Consequently it is difficult to tell a rich man's house from a poor man's. In spite of simplicity, however, there is an evident abundance. Food is plentiful and ots of variety; rooms are many and large; even their houses are double! It a healthy, problem-free society all in all.

Harem-Selamlık  (Women's  Quarters-Men's  Quarters): 

Religion  and traditions close the house to the outside world. For this reason the gardens and interiors of houses are separated from the streets by high walls; the windows are latticed . Women are not seen by men outside the household. Sometimes, even in the same house, men and women live in separate quarters. There are examples of such houses in Safranbolu, divided into men's and women’s quarters (selamlık, harem). Usually, it is only the very rich who can to have this spatial organization. The Hacı Memişler summer house is comprised of a harem and selamlık built side by side. Among the examples studied in this book, the Kaymakamlar house is unique in that it is provided with separate entrances for the harem and selamlık quarters, on different floors and openings onto different streets. In the Hacı Salih Paşa house also, there two separate entrances and staircases for the harem and selamlık quarters. In other houses although there is a single entrance, a room which is easily accessible from the staircase, without unnecessary intrusion into the family life, is used as a selamlık. The selamlık rooms are treated with special care. In the older examples these rooms have top windows and their ceilings are decorated in a more sophisticated manner.

The Revolving Cupboard: As in the old days, it was not desirable that a woman be looked upon by a man from outside the household, even in her own home. Therefore special arrangements were made to secure her privacy. One of these was the revolving cupboard, designed so as to enable serving the men in the selamlık from the harem quarters, without being seen. The plates, tableware or cups used for serving food, coffee, syrups etc. were placed on the shelves of this revolving cupboard which was built in a cabinet between the harem and selamlık quarters, with doors opening to both sides. After turning the cupboard manually, anything on the shelves could be fetched from the other side. This design shows how the houses which do not have separate harem and selamlık or separate servants for each, conform to traditions.

The Selamlık Pavilion: Some houses have a separate selamlık pavilion in their gardens with one or more rooms. In most of them, there is a pool in the main sitting area. Pools are also to be found in the selamlık rooms on the middle floor of some houses.

There are such pools in both of the "şehir" houses of the Asmazlar. The parapet wall is about 50 to 60 cms from the floor. There are divans (sitting platforms) along the walls on all three sides. In the selamlık pavilion of Kurtlar summer house there is a raised platform with pillars along the window wall and a small fireplace for making coffee at one end of the pool-room.

The pavilion has two separate rooms and a toilet-washroom. The windows are unglazed. The main floor with the pond is the ground floor. In the Rauf Beyler house at the Bağlar district there is a very impressive pavilion. Its strictly symmetrical plan has an almost unique architectural concept with its two rooms with an eyvan in between; its large pool surrounded by divans and the beautifully decorated ceiling of the pool room which has a span of 8 metres. The selamlık pavilions open onto the garden which is entered through a separate street door. When the garden pavilion consists of a single room with a pool it is simply called "the pool room". Usually these rooms -which contain a pool, a fountain, divans and occasionally a small fireplace for making coffee- have a polygonal plan

In some houses in the Bağlar district which do not have spring water, the pool is replaced by a well, in which case the space is called the "well-room". With the divans on all sides, these rooms have the same refreshing function as the pool-rooms. Drinking water and fruits are chilled in the well.


The Moslem religion demands that ablution should be performed five times a day, before each ritual prayer. There are washrooms and ablution closets within the house for this purpose. Each room, which is the basic living unit is provided with an area and facilities for the performance of total ablution; a well thought- out solution from the point of view of the intimacy of family life. Considering the close relation between the two, the toilet is generally combined with the wash-room.

As a consequence of traditions, water used for washing dishes is never mixed with the sewage. It is either collected in a separate pool or runs freely through a wooden gutter into the garden. No specific space has been allocated for worship within the house. It is believed that the ritual prayers (namaz) can be performed anywhere that is clean enough.