When one thinks of ‘Turkey’ the most obvious things come to mind – Istanbul, food, rich cultural etc. But, there is more to Turkey than just this. One of Turkey’s best-kept secret is the North-eastern Anatolia region. In the month of May 2018, my partner and I went on an impromptu 4 day trip to Erzurum.
Erzurum is the capital of Anatolia region and has some of the most breath-taking landscape scenery. There are direct flights available to Erzurum airport. But, if there aren’t from where you will be travelling, you can always come to Istanbul and then get a flight directly to Erzurum. We arrived in the city on a hot, sultry Tuesday afternoon and the city’s beautiful architectural buildings immediately caught our attention. Erzurum has some of the most hidden architectural monuments that have not always caught the attention of tourists who visit Turkey. The city has excellent cab and public transport service that will allow you to travel around with ease.
The rich background and historical monuments bring the city under prominence for “history lovers” (myself included). Erzurum has it all – from museums to fortresses to vivid architectural landscapes and breathtaking tombs. If you are a sucker for discovering architectural landscapes – I can guarantee you that Erzurum is the place you want to be.
We visited these 5 breathtaking architectural landscapes to visit in Erzurum – that gave us a good look into the city’s rich historical past.
1. Yakutiye Medrese
Yakutiye Medrese was a Mongol theological seminary and dates its origin back to 1310. The Mongols used this monument to train their priests and rabbis during that period. The architectural structure of this monument is said to have been borrowed by Seljuk architecture and Mongols developed their own variations (as seen in the entrance) with its geometric plant and animal motifs.
Due to the city’s turbulent past, most part of the building has been destroyed and out of the two original minarets, only the bases of one and the lower part of others have survived. If you have an appreciation for sighting superb mosaic tile work in Central Asia, this is the place to be.
When to visit
There are no restricted time limits during the day to visit this monument. Although visiting the monument during the weekdays is better because weekends attract huge touristic crowds making it difficult to appreciate the building properly.
2. Turk-Islam Eserleri ve Etnografya Muzesi
Turk-Islam Eserleri ve Etnografya Muzesi is located in the premise of Yakutiye Medrese. This was used as a private palace in the west of Sultanahmet Square and treasures handwriting’s, glassware, stone and terracotta artifacts, metal and ceramic objects, which are rare artifacts from different corners of the Islamic world.
Once you get there, the striking central dome that is lined with faceted stalactite work that catches light from the central opening to make a delightful pattern will not go unnoticed.
When to visit
The museum is open to tourists from 8 am to 5 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Be sure to enjoy this awe-inspiring view and surround yourself with leafy gardens that make it perfect for a tea break.
3. Cifte Minareli Medrese
Cifte Minareli Medrese building dates back to 1200’s and has an interesting twin Minaret seminary. This monument was built when Erzurum was a wealthy Seljuk city, before suffering attack and devastation by the Mongols in 1242.
This building is located towards the east of the city center and can easily be spotted because the twin brick minarets are decorated with eye-catching small blue tiles. When you get there, it is a spectacular sight to walk through the back of the building to see the grand, 12 sided domed hall at the far end of the main courtyard from the entrance. This served as the Hatuniye Turbesi tomb of Huand Hatun, the medrese’s founder.
It is truly astonishing to view the facade that exemplifies how the Seljuks liked to experiment with different kinds of variations while aiming for symmetry. The tomb has panels on either side of the entrance and is identical in size and position but different in the motif.
When to visit
There are no restricted tourist timings, but try to visit this monument twice, once during the day, when you can observe all the intricate details of carvings on the buildings and the second time, during the night, when you can witness the spectacular sparkling blue light emitting from the minarets.
4. Uc Kumbetler tombs
Uc Kumbetler tombs consist of three mausoleums that date back to 14 century. The legend has it that the largest octagonal shaped tomb belongs to Emir Saltuk, who established Saltuk Turk rule in Erzurum in the late 11th century.
The tombs are easily accessible through walking only. Starting from the south of Cifte Minareli and Ulu Cami we had to walk for about 25 minutes when we finally arrived at a T-Junction. Upon reaching the T-junction, we had to turn left and then immediately right and continued to walk on a short block uphill for about 10 minutes more when we finally arrived at these three 13 century mausoleums in a fenced enclosure. The walk is exhausting especially on a bright sunny day, so make sure to pack extra water bottles to prevent dehydration.
When we finally arrived at these tombs, the most unique breathtaking aspect of these tombs is its uniqueness of their near conical roofs and the elaborately decorated side panels. These tombs are unlike other tombs and had a unique structure formation to it that proved the fact that Seljuks had continued to experience with different kinds of variations for the roof and the side panels.
When to visit
Tourists are allowed on weekdays Monday through Friday from 8 Am to 5 Pm.
5. Kale fortress
This fort was erected by the emperor Theodosius around the 5th century. But, unfortunately, due to the city’s turbulent history, a large chunk of the fort was damaged and destroyed. Up until 2015, this fort was closed to tourists because the Turkish government had taken it up for repairing the damaged parts.
What ‘not’ to miss
This fortress offers the best view of the Erzurum city. When we got to the top of the citadel, we got the most glaring view of the entire city – truly cannot be missed for the world. Inside, the fort, there are a spiral flight of stairs and a step ladder that allows tourists to climb to the top of the 12-century clock tower.
When to visit
Tourists are allowed to visit the fort on weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm.