IT’S APRIL; THE SWEET JOY OF SPRING HAS STARTED TO BLOOM IN EVERYONE’S HEARTS. WE’D LIKE TO TAKE YOU ON A JOURNEY WORTHY OF SPRING, CARRIED ON THE BACK OF THE WARM AEGEAN BREEZE. OUR DESTINATION IS DENIZLI.
Denizli, meaning “by the sea” -an interesting name for a city without any borders to the sea - is famous for its rooster, rich cuisine, ever-stretching cotton-white and elegant travertines, sulphur-smelling caves frozen in deposits, and the remains of the past ages…
What awaits to be explored in Denizli?
Dating before the common era, this valley is home to many ancient cities; Laodicea, Hierapolis and Aphrodisias being the most popular. The ancient cities that write the stories of mythological figures fighting one another, artefacts left by them, and the magnificent, snow-white travertines formed by the springs brewed in earth’s bosom make Denizli a hotspot for tourists.
Today, the ancient city of Laodiceia whose remains can be seen in the village of Eskihisar (about 6 kilometers north of Denizli) stands out as one of the most important historical heritage of the city. The church here is a sacred place for Christians and is a very attractive spot for religious tourism. Derived from Laodiceia, the city was first named “Ladik” and then became “Tonguzlu”. This name transformed into Denizli over time. Considering its non-existent relationship with the sea, this explanation makes a lot of sense. Unlike how much Denizli doesn’t live up to its name, Pamukkale (a word consisting of “cotton” and “castle”) just meets your expectations. Resembling a glorious castle, the cotton-like elegant travertines poetically rise up. These 400,000-year-old structures are reactive to climate changes, air pressure and even footprints; so they’re ever-changing, living and remedial wonders of nature.
Standing out with its natural charms and known as the underground wonder of the travertines, Kaklık Cave is another reason to feel amazement in this place.
Handcrafts bear a huge importance in local economy here. Though there are less and less of copper workshops which have been making many kitchen utensils such as bowl, strainer, tray and pitcher, coppersmiths in Kaleiçi region still keep this craft alive.
Another traditional element in Denizli is Buldan Cloth, a world-famous weaving style. Manufactured also at home at hand looms and making a great contribution to the textile industry, the little town of Buldan’s weaving past dates back to Tripolis in Roman times. Buldan is also known for its vegetable dishes, balcan onion, green almond wrap and göce (split cereal).
It would be wrong to not mention Denizli’s famous rooster. The most distinctive feature of this animal
-besides its ostentatious walk and august stature- is its unique cockcrow. Event included on a painting from
2 A.D. this rooster was so loved by the locals that it can be seen anywhere in the city -as a downtown sculpture or as an emblem of the city’s local football team. Able to crow for up to 25 seconds even at the age of 1, Denizli roosters make sure each local wakes up on time in the morning!
You’re here at Denizli; you’ve seen the rooster, fallen in love with Pamukkale and relaxed at the hot springs. Now it’s time to try some of the local dishes with a square meal.
Situated on fertile lands where they can grow high economic values such as tobacco, olive, grapes, cotton, vegetable, fruit and many others thanks to the Mediterranean climate, Denizli’s traditional dishes and eating habits haven’t changed much in time. The famous Aegean ingredient, herbs are a must in Denizli cuisine so vegetable dishes are frequent visitors of feasts. Regional dishes are cooked with traditional methods in districts and villages, and are eaten as a whole family.
Having shown important improvements in animal husbandry, Denizli is filled with meat restaurants, serving tandoori, kebab and döner. Kocabay, whose fame goes beyond the boundaries of the city, is known as the tandoori stop of the city. The softness of the lamb cubes served on hot pita bread proves why this meal has become a legend in the first place.
Another unforgettable delicacy is the legendary burnt (or smoked) yogurt. I tried this yogurt neither in a delicatessen nor at a restaurant; it was among the machines and cold-rest rooms right in the heart of manufacture.
I followed every step of the production and witnessed how laborious it was to produce it and butter (one of the main ingredients in cooking) that added to the taste of our dishes. The semolina dessert with ice cream, fried red pepper, keşkek (a dish of mutton/chicken with ground wheat), bazlama (flatbread), cerpleme (a chicken dish), cızlama (a sort of pastry made with potato and milk cream), and fava beans with nut and garlic sauce are only some of the famous local dishes, but it’s hard to find them at the restaurants. I suggest you make friends with the friendly locals and sit around a dinner table with them around a dinner table with them.
Alptuğ Önal, a business manager at Önallar Gıda, one of the most famous dairy and delicatessens in Denizli, shared the secrets of the famous butter and smoked yogurt.
What makes your yogurt and butter different from others?
We see our job as a family heritage and tradition. We use natural tastes without harming it. This is our difference.
How do you provide the main ingredients for your butter?
We obtain cream from five different regions in Turkey to achieve the butter’s ideal color, smell and taste because the variety of greens grown in different locations may affect the milk, hence, the cream of animals. We’re very picky about our provisions. Then, as a painter mixes colors to make a certain color, we mix the ingredients and make the butter.
What’s the secret of your smoked yogurt?
The smoked yogurt is made from the milk we provide from villagers and farmers around our facilities in the district of Çal. The region’s nearly-1,000 altitude plays an important role in deciding the taste of the milk.
What are your goals in branding? We’ll complete the final touches on the promotion of nearly 60 years of experience and now-third generation family culture, and offer it to a more general group of people’s liking. As you know, if you’re producing local and special products, the promotion may come a bit later. Our brand’s primary goal is to meet the necessities and possible future demands of the next generation as meticulously and carefully as they’re now.
What’s the must-eat dish for a visitor in Denizli?
Tandoori kebab and semolina halva with butter. These two dishes are really great; you’d regret leaving the city without trying them.