THE FIRST ANATOLIAN CAPITAL TO ADOPT TURKISH AS ITS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE EXACTLY 737 YEARS AGO, KARAMAN COMBINES A RICH POTENTIAL FOR FAITH, NATURE AND CULTURE TOURISM WITH MODERN URBAN LIVING.
Karaman gleams like a pearl at the point where the Central Anatolian steppe meets the rugged slopes of the Taurus Mountains. A sign greets visitors, saying, “Welcome to the land of pure Turkish,” calling to mind the words of Karamanoğlu Mehmet Bey, who fought to establish Turkish unity in 13th century Anatolia. Issuing a linguistic declaration in 1277, Mehmet Bey said, “From now on, let no one speak any language other than Turkish in the palace, in the assembly and on the street.” Language day is enthusiastically celebrated at Karaman every year on May 13, the anniversary of the declaration.
HOME OF YUNUS EMRE
You’ll find traces of the past all over Karaman, which is closely bound to its cultural values and traditions. A massive structure rising atop a hill overlooking the city, Karaman Castle is an ideal place to start exploring the city. Phaeton tours are available on the slopes below the castle, where the foundations of a palace complex dating back to the period of the Karamanid principality were discovered during excavation of the inner fortress. If you climb the castle walls, you’ll get a panoramic view of the cityscape. And the road from here to Aktekke Square is a virtual outdoor museum.
Hatuniye Madrasa, which hosts exhibitions throughout the year, stands out for its magnificent crown portal. Next to it, Karaman Museum bears witness to the city’s eight-thousand-year history. One of the museum’s most striking pieces is a medieval Anatolian mummy. It’s a pleasant stroll from here to Aktekke Square at the heart of the city. The tomb of Mevlânâ Jalâladdin Rumî’s mother, Mümine Hatun, lies inside Aktekke Mosque on this square where an elegant clock tower also rises. Three lovely historic mosques surround the square. One of these temples, which date to the 14th and 15th centuries, is the Yunus Emre Mosque on Ahi Emir Avenue. Immediately adjacent to the mosque, which is noteworthy for the five-domed portico on its front facade, is the modest tomb of the world-renowned Turkish Sufi mystic, Yunus Emre. The words of this folk poet, who exhorted mankind to love and tolerance with his universal messages, are the vital pillars of Anatolian thought.
ON THE TRAIL OF WILD HORSES
We set out now to explore the environs of Karaman, which has been likened to Turkey’s fruit barn and granary with its vast fields and orchards. Some 30 kilometers outside the city, Karadağ is gearing up to become Anatolia’s new star of nature and faith tourism. Seeing the wild houses around the mouth of the crater on Karadağ, an extinct volcanic peak, is an inimitable experience. A Traditional Turkish Archery Park has been created in the foothills of this mountain, which also plays host to international paragliding competitions. The mountain, one of the main stops on St. Paul’s journey, is home to countless ancient ruins. Numerous architectural elements from the early Christian era are also evident in the area known as Binbir Kilise (A Thousand and One Churches). And an ancient necropolis has been unearthed at Değle Ören Yeri, one of the region’s most exciting sites.
CRADLE OF THE TAURUS
The Taşkale-Ermenek itinerary is recommended for delving into the soul of the region. As you leave Karaman, the grey steppe gives way to canyons that put those of Arizona in the shade. We drive to Taşkale through idyllic, flower-carpeted landscapes. The settlement, nestled in a deep valley, is known for the Manazan Caves and historic granaries carved into the rocks. On the road to Ermenek we meet two stunning lakes, first Gezende, then Turkuaz. Our first stop at Ermenek, huddled against a steep slope once used as a natural fortress, is the ancient settlement called Orta Mahalle (Middle District). The houses perched on the rocks with the help of wooden stilts are worth seeing in this quarter that calls to mind the Anatolia of times past with its centuries-old structures. Back in the town, you can visit the Great Mosque, Tol Madrasa, Mennan Castle and Zeyve Market. And how about following it all up with a stroll through Ermenek’s famous vineyards? Who knows, perhaps you’ll be invited into one of the century-old houses where you can see the sausage-shaped walnut taffy known as “cevizli bandırma” being boiled up in giant cauldrons!
BULGHUR HALVAH WITH ICE CREAM
If you happen to go to Karaman during Ramadan, which falls in July this year, you’re in luck because the tables here are laden with a thousand and one different dishes at Sahur and İftar. Along with the vegetable casserole called Calla, bulghur dishes are very popular in the area. A thick, cold salad-like soup called Batırık, a bulghur kofta known as Tarhanabaşı, and thin bulghur halvah with ice cream are not only tasty but also light and healthy.
One of the best gifts you can buy at Karaman is a Taşkale carpet. Divle tulum cheese, aka “Anatolian roquefort”, antique pocket watches, sheep’s yoghurt and Ermenek halvah with pekmez (grape molasses) are some other items that could make your loved ones happy.
THE TARTANLAR MANSION
Three recommendations for tracing vestiges of the past in Karaman: Tartanlar Mansion and the Hürrem Dayı House both stand out for their magnificent stencil work and decorative woodwork.