Safranbolu: Highlights of the City of Saffron with Lunch
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Silk from China was so prized that it spun more than 4,000 miles of caravan routes from eastern China west to the Mediterranean: the renowned Silk Road. And while the story of Safranbolu stretches back as far as 300 B.C., its most illustrious chapter was written when the city was a stop along on this famous road.
For Safranbolu, the caravan trade reached its peak in the 17th century, when its central market was expanded to meet the needs of traveling merchants and their camels. You'll see many carefully preserved buildings from this period, including inns, baths, stables, and the Koprulu Mehmet Pasa Mosque, built in 1661.
Silk was just one of the coveted items brought from afar. Tea and ceramics were also sent west from China, while ivory, glass, spices, and metalwork traveled east. As goods traversed the routes, so did the techniques for making them. But the greatest value of the Silk Road may have been the exchange of culture between East and West, as music, art, languages, science, philosophy, and religion were carried from country to country.
Eventually these routes waned, as merchants took to the sea. (Columbus set out not in search of America, but in search of an easier and faster route to the spices and other prized goods of the Orient.) But since 1993, the U.N.'s World Tourism Organization has been working to develop tourism and revive cultural exchanges along the historic caravan routes, in hopes of fostering peace and understanding. That road remains difficult.
The world's most expensive spice
Safranbolu has cultivated and traded saffron for centuries, and you'll get a taste while sipping saffron tea at a scenic overlook. In the markets, look for lokum (saffron Turkish delight), soap, marmalade, even eau de cologne. Made from dried, hand-picked stigmas of the saffron crocus, it takes between 70,000 and 250,000 flowers to make just one pound of saffron, which can cost between $1,600 and $5,000.
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