KAYSERI: A GEM ON YOUR WAY TO KAPADOKYA!
January 1, 1970
by Rania Itani
KAYSERI: A Gem on your way To Kapadokya
Kapadokya is one of Turkey’s most visited touristic destinations, it is a magnificent land with breathtaking scenery and unlimited adventures and it is most definitely worth the visit. But our article today is about a city most of those who have had the pleasure of visiting Kapadokya happened to pass by on their way. Touristic guides tend to either ignore it or just give you a brief explanation about it. It is the city of Kayseri.
If you are going to visit Kapadokya you are most likely to land at Kayseri Erkilet International Airport / Kayseri Erkilet Uluslararasi Havalimani which is located about one hour east of Kapadokya. This offers you a great opportunity to spend a day or two in Kayseri and explore its corners. Kayseri has two main touristic attractions, the first one is historical and the second one is, surprisingly enough, athletic! So in order to gain the best out of this city you need to decide first on what kind of tourism you are planning on doing. If you want a taste of both, and I do recommend that you do, you will need to extend your stay a while longer!
We will get into the athletic attractions in a different piece, as for this one we will focus on the historical sides of Kayseri as they are rich and quite diverse in nature. Kayseri witnessed the succession of quite a few civilizations since 3000 BC, from the Hattians who called it “Mazaka“, to the Romans, Arabs the Seljuk and many more. The name “Kayseri” itself is derived from the word “Caesarea” or the city of Caesar after the Roman Caesar Augustus. Those civilizations left behind some interesting historical sites. A few of which we will address briefly in this article.
The City Walls:
One of the biggest and most distinct landmarks in Kayseri. Located at the center of the city, those walls serve as a reminder of the ancient nature of this city in midst the daily hustle of modern time life. The insides of the wall, which was built during the Byzantine era and had served as a fortress, are being transformed by the municipality into a public park at the moment. Right Behind the wall you can find the grand “Kapalı Çarşı”, a concept of a closed market that is quite popular in Turkey and can be found in almost all its cities. But this specific one is quite special because of its historical nature. Like Kayseri itself, this bazaar had started out since the Hittite Empire and kept developing all the way until the Ottoman times. It is a great place for finding goods with suitable prices whether it was clothing items, spices, carpets and much more! It is also considered one of Kayseri’s most fundamental Bazaars.
Hunat Hatun Mosque and Kuliye (faculty)
Right across from the city wall you can find this monument which was built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Kaykubad’s wife Mahperi Hunad Hatun. In addition to serving as a mosque, the building had a faculty of medicine that served as the first medicine school in the area. Today the faculty part of the edifice has been transformed by the municipality into a cultural center where citizens of Kayseri can take various classes in arts, crafts and languages, it also has a nice mystical cafe –it happens to be cheap! YAY!- where you can have a short break and enjoy the tradition scented area!
It is worthy of mentioning that not so far away from Hunat Hatun mosque, and only a few hundred meters behind the city’s wall lays another important Seljuk School that has the same architectural design as Hunat Hatun Kuliyesi, only this one has been transformed into a center for book stores. I highly recommend that you visit this center as well and experience the heartwarming feeling of literature at the heart of history. (although I highly suspect the possibility of finding non-Turkish books, yet the experience itself and the smell of books amid that ancient place is pure magic).
Ancient Talas (Eski Talas)
This area is located a little bit east of the city center. The moment you enter Eski Talas or Ancient Talas, it feels like you went back in time! The old streets, the ancient buildings, and the calm simple village life compliment each other and make you feel like you disconnected from the stressful boundaries of our modern time reality into a simpler more beautiful time. The best part about that area is that it is not packed with tourists, on the contrary you will enjoy a calm and peaceful walk down that ancient road and feel the real solitude of it all!
Yaman Dede Mansion and Camii
The neighborhood in Eski Talas used to be home to many Armenian families, Most of the houses were inhabited by the Armenian people before they fled the land and they still stand empty till today. One of these houses was the house of Yaman Dede, which serves today as a museum. The house sets a great example for the architectural styles and technologies of that time. The decoration of the house also reflects the life style of the people in that era.
Not so far away from Yaman Dede’s house, you can find the Yaman Dede camii, which used to be one of the Roman churches for the inhabitants of the area. The church was called the Rum Panaya church, it was built in 1886 and transformed into a mosque in 1925. You can find pictures of this church here.
(The Underground city)
The underground city is a 300 meter long cave city constructed inside Ali Mountain during the 3rd. century by the Romans for the purpose of worshiping God and hiding from the pagans oppression! The city is divided into different rooms that are connected by long distanced short heightened narrow alleys. The rooms include a water cistern, grape and wine storage room, a worshiping room, a living room and many others.
If you are claustrophobic or if you hate closed areas, or have any sort of breathing problems, DO NOT ENTER THE CAVE!
Those few places are just a small portion of the must see destinations in Kayseri. There are a lot more gems in this city, to count a few more, we have the famous Kayseri born architect Mimar Sinan‘s childhood house which was turned into a museum, Kayseri’s Archeological museum, Ahi Evren museum, and last but not least the grand Kayseri Seyyid Burhaneddin Türbesi ve Mezarlığı which is a real treat for those of you who like old graveyards and spooky places! You can read more about those places, about the exciting athletic touristic attractions of Kayseri, about the natural touristic attractions and some tips about accommodations and transportation and other gems from Kayseri in my next pieces.
Have a great day! and remember to find beauty wherever you are!