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My Silk Road The Piglet stumbles across the continent

67 - Onwards and inland - "pizza" at Kayseri

TURKEY | Friday, 30 November 2012 | Views [516]

Turkey - Kayseri - double walls of the Roman citadel

Turkey - Kayseri - double walls of the Roman citadel

Modern tourists don't often pause at Kayseri but it was a major stop on the old trading route.  Like Antioch, it was first a Roman metropolis which then became Christian, but Kayseri then fell to the Seljuks (13thC rulers who respected the co-existence of Islam and Christianity) who in turn fell to the Mongols before being conquered by the Ottomans.  It is today a small town growing into a city, hectic compared to laid-back Antioch.  It has the hustle bustle of fast food chains and trendy clothes stores alongside mosques, spice shops and stores selling the large dried sausages typical in Kayseri. 

Enroute to Kayseri is the Payas Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Kulliyesi.  A Kulliyesi is a religious complex that contains a mosque, madrese (seminary) and lodgings, and with religious destinations, there is often a bazaar that has grown around the area.  Sokollu Mehmet Pasa was a 16thC Ottoman Grand Vizier who wielded great power under several Sultans and presumably the complex was built under his command.  The Kulliyesi is now under renovation so one could only visit the mosque which looks as if it has been completely rebuilt in more recent times.  But remains of the columns from the original structure are still standing at the side of the mosque.  There is also a sign indicating that the 17thC traveler Evliya Celebi had once stopped here.  The old caravanserai lies outside to the right of the mosque.  It is now locked for what looks like intensive renovation.  But peering through the gates, I could see a long hall with the typical arched recesses for living and storage.  Beyond the hall was a bazaar which is apparently being restored to be a hotel (hmmm).  Opposite the caravanserai is an old citadel encircled by a dry moat.  The walls of the citadel still stand but there is a locked metal gate barring further access beyond the first entrance.   With some imagination, one can visualize the entire original complex that encompassed religious, commercial and military features serving a wide population.

Kayseri lies a good six hours’ drive inland from Antioch.   Arriving at around 1 pm, we have a lunch of kebabs (overcooked chicken – bad) and a “pizza” (pide) with the Kayseri sausage and cheese.  The sausage resembles a very lean salamior pastrami and is very salty.  I’m told that it is normally eaten sliced, for breakfast.   The pizza may have been tastier if the dough were thinner and crispier.   The heavy dough called for some brisk post-lunch walking to aid digestion.

The main historical site in Kayseri is a Roman citadel with double walls.  The inside of the citadel is now a desultory bazaar selling jewellery and tourist souvenirs.  The walls also encompass a modern mosque.  Opposite the Roman citadel is the 13thC Hunat Hatun Kulliyesi, founded by the wife of the Seijuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I.    The mosque is large and in typical Seljuk style – simple but substantial, in plain dark stone – and has a carved wooden mimbar that was crafted without any nails.  The Sultana’s tomb is at one corner of the mosque.  Just outside the entrance of the mosque is a hammam which has been in use for decades.  The story goes that a man had come close to the mosque many times but could not bring himself to enter as he felt unclean despite the normal ablutions.  The hamman was built as a result.

From Kayseri, Cappadocia is only another hour’s drive and we arrive just around sunset.   


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