The Anatolian city of Kayseri is a rich tapestry of old and new. Faruk Pekin takes us on a tour of its historical monuments and marketplaces. Turkish Air Transport flies to Kayseri three times a week.
A 4,000 year old trading center, the capital of Cappadocia, once a center of orthodox monastic life, an open air museum of the Seljuk and Beylik periods, a land of beautiful carpets and delicious pastırma... Kayseri is all this and more.
Kayseri sits in a valley to the north of Erciyes Mountain which, with Hasan Mountain and other extinct volcanoes, created the fantastic geological formations found in Avanos, Ürgüp, and Nevşehir. While Kayseri itself doesn't exhibit any unusual topography, we know from archaeological remains found in surrounding tumuli that the city dates from 3,500 B.C. Four thousand years ago, the Assyrian trading colony, Kanis karum, located 22 kilometers outside the present day city of Kayseri, was the center of a vital trade route.
During the Hittite Empire the city retained its importance as a link in commerce between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In 550 B.C. the Persians invaded Kayseri and designated it the center of the province of Cappadocia. When the Romans captured the city in the I st century B.C. they renamed it Caesarea, from which the Turkish name Kayseri is derived. In the first century A.D. it became an important center of Christianity due to St. Basil, an influential figure in the development of orthodox monasticism in the region.
Kayseri changed hands several times during the following centuries as it fell to the Byzantines. Arabs, Seljuks. Crusaders, Danishmends, Ilkhanids and finally the Ottomans. During the unification and islamification of Anatolia, Kayseri became the center of a new cultural synthesis. Most of the monuments standing in the city today date to the 13th and 14th centuries and are fine examples of pre¬Ottoman architecture. Today Kayseri is a modem city with a developing industrial sector that includes textiles, sugar production, and aircraft repair facilities.
Our journey through Kayseri begins at Cumhuriyet Square in the park named after the famous Ottoman architect Sinan. Our first stop is the fortress of Kayseri overlooking the Square. The original walls of the fort are thought to be Roman, and the north walls from the early Byzantine period. The interior and exterior of the fort were repaired during the Seljuk ruler Alaeddin Keykubad's time, but none of the exterior sections of the fort exist. The interior fortress is still a colorful marketplace full of shops and push-cart peddlers.
Markets have played an important role in Kayseri's history and today the city still has several bazaars. In the covered marketplace of Kayseri one can find a splendid array of items, from perfumes and dog leashes to carpets and copperware. The merchants call out to potential customers to look at their selection of copper ewers and jugs. Those shopping for unique comestibles should try the 20 different types of pastırma and the special Kayseri sweet, aside.
Leaving the heady atmosphere of thecovered market, we make our way to the Huand Hatun Complex across from the fort. This complex comprised of a mosque, religious school or medrese, tomb and bath is a masterpiece of Seljuk architecture. It was built for Mahperi Huand Hatun, the wife of Alaeddin Keykubad and was completed in 1238. The addition of an octagonal tomb detracts from the symmetry of the complex, but with its perfectly cut stone walls and the massive towers that surround it, it is an impressive structure. The medrese is now a Turkish-Islamic art museum in which there is also a variety of ethnographic material.
To the north of Cumhuriyet Square is the Sahibiye Medrese built in 1267 by Fahrettin Sahip Ata, the son of the Seljuk Vizier Hüseyin. North of the Sahibiye Medrese is the Kurşunlu Mosque. Built in the Iate 16th century its name, Kurşunlu, or "Iead-covered" indicates that its domes were covered with this material.
The narrow streets to the north of Kurşunlu Mosque takes us to the Çifte Medrese and Şifaiye, two Seljuk structures built by Gıyasettin Keyhüsrevand his sister Gevher Nesibe Hatun. Erciyes University has renovated this ancient Seljuk medical complex and it now serves as a medical museum.
We now continue to the Düvenönü Square to explore the Great Mosque of Kayseri that was built in the 12th century by the Danishmends. The interior prayer niche is from the Kölük Mosque of Kayseri and contains some of the best Seljuk tilework in existence.
An unusual tomb in Kayseri is the Döner or "revolving tomb" built in 1276 for Shah Cihan Hatun. Constructed of cut stone, it is a twelve-sided structure with a conically shaped cap on the exterior but a circular and domed interior plan. Beautiful stone reliefs of mythical animals and the tree of life decorate the tomb's facade. With its contrasting interior and exterior plans, the Döner Tomb does seem to be turning.
To the left of the Döner Tomb in the Gültepe district stands the Archaeological Museum. Here we can see antiquities from the Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods of the city’s rich history.
The history of Kayseri is a rich tapestry of diverse cultures. To really get a sense of the city, after visiting the historical monuments, wander about the intimate streets of the old quarters where stone and wooden houses preserve the ambiance of days gone by.
The 17th century Ottoman historian, Evliya Çelebi, enthusiastically praised Kayseri's veal and cummin pastırma in his famous travel account, Seyahatname.
The fame of Kayseri pastırma stretches across the Anatolian plains and through the legends of Turkish history. The nomadic ancestors of the Ottomans first brought this delicacy to Kayseri and today pastırma is still a favorite throughout the country. The 17th century Ottoman traveler, Evliya Çelebi, enthusiastically praised Kayseri's veal and cummin pastırma in his famous Seyahatname.
Pastırma is made generally from veal. The quality of the meat used determines the grade of the pastırma. Extra quality pastırma, the finest available, comes from the sides of the backbone and back. Pastırma made from the shoulder, rump, neck and tail are first quality. Second quality pastırma is made from the tongue, testides, head, leg or breast meat.
Preparing pastırma takes about a month. The meat is allowed to sit for approximately eight hours and then salted on one side, it is then stacked and left for a day. The following day the other side is salted and left from three to ten days. Any excess salt is removed.
Once the pastırma has dried, the meat is treated with çemen, a spicy mixture made from parsley, garlic, red peppers and water. Çemen is often eaten as an appetizer and can found in butcher shops and most spice markets.
The meat is left in çemen from 10 to 48 hours depending on the temperature, and then left to dry again. The darker the meat, the longer it has been left to age. The pastırma is now ready.
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