Afyonkarahisar UNESCO gastronomy city abode for travelers, for those coming from the King’s Way or the Silk Road, for those in the past and those in the present.
By Veyis DURDU, Ancient Anatolian Culinary arts instructor UNESCO creative cities network
Afyonkarahisar is a city that has been an abode for travelers, for those coming from the King’s Way or the Silk Road, for those in the past and those in the present. The warm thermal waters that take a stand against the cool air in every season, the cuisine that is identified with kaymak (creamy dairy product similar to clotted cream), the friendly people -all are surprising and pleasant. Moreover, the flavors of this city have been registered with UNESCO and Afyonkarahisar has been added to the 2019 UNESCO Creative City Network. When one considers local flavors like sausages, cream, village potato bread, keşkek, and Turkish delight, it is clear that this is a local culinary tradition that deserves recognition. For this reason, now is the perfect time to discover the local flavors of Afyonkarahisar.
Afyonkarahisar is the official name of this city since 2005, but Afyon is still used by the people. The Karahisar Castle is positioned upon a gigantic rock, at a height of 226 meters; the city offers a plain but sincere face to us. Ulu Mosque, positioned on 40 wooden pillars, with bedazzling decoration -even if it is a bit worn- has been one of the symbols of the city from the Seljuk era. Without wandering too far from the extraordinary beauty of the mosque, I heed the call of the historical mansions that are arranged opposite it. A mansion decorated with historical furniture and decorations has been turned into a cafe where you can try traditional dishes. One of these pastries made with lentils, Bükme is considered to be the best accompaniment of tea in this region. There is a secret to the flavor that emerges from mixing pastry with lentils; according to people from Afyon, “If it is homemade, and if it is cooked in a stone oven, it will be perfect.”
While continuing to walk down the streets, I enter the gravitational pull of Sultan Divani Mevlevihane, which is on Türbe Avenue. According to tradition, the mevlevihane, which dates back to the 18th century, is second only to the Konya Mevlevihane. During the era of Sultan Divani, a seventh-generation descendant of Rumi, this location was a center for the Mevlevi traditions. Accompanied by those who are looking out of their windows and by those who ask after my health, I arrive at the Millet Turkish Baths, with its cut-stone façade. The baths, constructed by Armenian craftsmen who lived in the region at the time, is a part of Afyon’s multicultural past.
A different story awaits you at every corner in Afyon. On the side streets, I come across felt workmanship, the oldest craft unique to this region. The masters who turn wool into felt work hard but take the time to greet me. When I look at the windows of the antique shops, I pass through the doors framed with beautiful stone carvings and enter the Aşçı Legless Restaurant. A small and modest shop that has been run by the same family for four generations, its menu consists of lamb kebab and cream bread kadayıf. It is important to get here early; If you wait until the evening, you will not be able to get enough of the delicious lamb kebab..
The shops on Uzun Çarşı that sell sweets and sausages are always jam-packed. Turkish delight with cream can be found up and down the street. There are long queues in front of the sweet shops… After seeing the historical Taşhan Bedesten (covered bazaar), which was built in the middle of the 17th century, and resting in the open courtyard for a while, I enter the mansion. The mansion, which carries traces of Ottoman civic architecture, has been restored and transformed into the Culture and Art House, a place that celebrates the daily life of the region. Climbing the stairs and opening the doors is like traveling to another time, to different traditions and lifestyles.
I continue my journey through the city by passing Gedik Ahmet Paşa Mosque, with its twisted minaret, and the Archeological Museum, where the cultural heritage of Afyon is carefully preserved. Its rich collection stokes the imagination.
The Alimoğlu Music Museum, which is on the ground floor of the conservatory, gives the visitor a different museum experience, with instruments that have been collected from the four corners of the globe. It is possible to listen to every instrument in the museum, while also eavesdropping on the melodies that emerge from the conservatory’s classrooms.
Afyon has always been a favorite for different civilizations due to its fertile soil and strategic position. Starting with the Hattis, many civilizations put down roots here, leaving deep traces. To explore this region, where beautiful nature combines with history, I stop by the Ayazini village, which was the settlement area of the Phrygians, and get lost in the Phrygian Valley. The atmosphere here is absolutely unique. The geological structure of the Phrygian Valley, with its volcanic tuffs, is a wide area that stretches to the borders of neighboring cities. This world, with the Phrygian and Roman tombs, the chapels and monuments, is unreal.
The fact that the Phrygian Valley is close to thermal waters has always made this region attractive to travelers. From ancient times to today, Afyon’s thermal baths have been a source of healing and health and there are many alternatives to make your journey more enjoyable. You should definitely visit Eber Lake, with its unspoiled natural beauty. Eber Lake is approximately one hour from the center of Afyon. The lake is surrounded by reed beds, and a number of different species of birds stop by here, making this a beautiful place to enjoy nature.
Though some places may be well known , we often find it hard to take the time to truly explore them . Located on the junction of major cities in Turkey , Afyonkarahisar is one of the sometimes overlooked spots definitely worth visiting .
Copyright images: Veyis Durdu, Researcher of Ancient Anatolian Cuisine , History and Culture. Gastronomy Projects Consultant.