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Safranbolu Houses :: Way of Life

ATITUDE TOWARDS NATURE

Man has given his greatest struggle for life against nature. Whenever he has finally conformed to nature, it has become easier to win this struggle. We can see that the way of life in Safranbolu is in harmony with nature. People enjoy the open air and make the most of their natural environment, creating a special life-style for summer and winter. When summer arrives they move to the summer resort from the winter settlement.

This system of seasonal migration is in a way a continuation of the national behaviour patterns of the Turks, since their nomadic times. In the summer, life goes on in a much cooler and airy place in the midst of nature, benefiting from all its blessings. The movement to higher plateaus in summer is very popular all over Turkey. Even in Istanbul people used to spend their summers in the less dense, greener and cooler areas of the city (e.g. the Bosphorus, the Princes' Islands, the cekmece lakes, the Camlica hill etc.).

The severe winter conditions in Safranbolu force the people to live close to one another in the protected areas within the valley. As soon as spring arrives and the trees start blooming (apple trees in particular), the excitement of moving to the resorts begins. This usually takes place in May. Charwomen are found for cleaning the summer houses; these are thoroughly swept, the floors, cupboards and shutters are rubbed clean and the walls are white-washed. Meanwhile preparations have begun in the winter house. Beddings are made into bundles and crockery is packed into baskets. They are loaded on horses or donkeys usually provided by the sharecropper villagers. A small caravan of eight to ten animals thus sets on its way towards the orchards. Fragile items such as dishes, cups, oil-lamps, water jugs and glasses are safely packed in baskets which people carry in their hands. The family cat, the hens and cock accompany this joyous caravan. Carpets, some chests arid other precious furniture are left in the rooms of Cinci Han for safekeeping; the main threat being fire. Not much furniture is carried to the summer house. Integrated with nature, the summer way of life has a certain simplicity about it; deeply felt and enjoyed by the people in those days.

The largest of the summer resorts is the Baglar region, followed by the Kirkille and Tokatli orchards. People owning large gardens with spring water from the quarters of Akcasu, Muslal and Gumus do not move to the summer resorts. Some have orchards in Ulukavakdibi, Karaman cukuru, Kayarli and Uzunkir, where they go to spend the day. The Greeks do not go to summer resorts either, they prefer to live in Kirankoy winter and summer. It being located on a higher site, summers are cooler in Kirankoy than it is in the rest of the winter settlement area and besides, the Greeks having vineyards and gardens do not have the tradition of seasonal migration. They go to the Suluk Lake beneath Inyakasi and to the Papaz Bagi (Priest's Orchard) for a recreational day. Occasionally, some of the richer Greeks rented summer houses at the outskirts of the Baglar district, just for pleasure.

After moving to the summer houses men have to commute daily to their work. The flow of men riding on donkey or horse-back lasts for two or three hours. Women only go downtown once every ten or fifteen days on donkeys, for their customary visit to the public baths.

The journey back usually starts at the end of October, depending on the weather. The fruit is gathered and prepared for winter. The return journey is organized in the same way, except that this time their loads are heavier. In good weather, daily or overnight trips are made to the summer houses to gather the remaining fruits and vegetables, or for other purposes. Some rich people leave guards in their summer houses, in which case they can leave behind certain furniture they will not be needing in the winter houses. But generally everything except cushions, pillows, some copperware, the rolling pin and dough board, an oil lamp and one mattress is brought back, as it is almost impossible to reach the orchards after snow-fall.

THE SELF-SUFFICIENT ECONOMY

The way of life in Safranbolu is based on a self-sufficient economy.

The society produces almost all that is needs. The additional revenue secured by handicrafts and commerce accumulates into wealth. The production process is fully reflected in the forms of the houses. Large families live within, as production necessitates manpower. Not only food but clothes too are produced at home. Cloth is woven, cut and sewn in almost every household to suit its various requirements, whether for wear or for other domestic uses. Through the experience of many centuries, food preservation techniques are developed so as to benefit all year round from the fruits and vegetables grown in summer. The houses have specific areas to serve this purpose.
Production is closely related to the seasons. Certain chores are performed at a certain time of the year, programmed according to a subconscious calendar.

TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS AND RELIGION

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 beds 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 this simplicity, however, there is an evident abundance. Food is plentiful and with lots of variety; rooms are many and large; even their houses are double! It is a healthy, problem-free society all in all.

Harem-Selamlik (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 (selamlik, harem). Usually, it is only the very rich who can afford to have this spatial organization. The Haci Memisler summer house is comprised of a harem and selamlik 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 selamlik quarters, on different floors and openings onto different streets. In the Haci Salih Pasa house also, there are two separate entrances and staircases for the harem and selamhk 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 selamlik. The selamlik 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 selamhk 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 selamllk 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 selamlik or separate servants for each, conform to traditions.

The Selamlik Pavilion: Some houses have a separate selamhk 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 selamlik rooms on the middle floor of some houses.

There are such pools in both of the "sehir" 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 selamlik pavilion of the 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 Baglar 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 selamlik 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 Baglar 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.

Ablution

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.

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