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Time in Safranbolu

Time in Safranbolu
Time in Safranbolu

12th International Golden Safran Documentary Film Festival, 16 – 17 – 18 September, 2011
The very first festival in Safranbolu was held in 1975, called “Safranbolu Cultural and Folk Music Festival.” Mr. Kiziltan Ulukavak was the Mayor who was instrumental not only organizing the Festival but also paving the way for Safranbolu to becoming one of 10 UNESCO Heritage Sites (1) in 1994. As visitors walk or drive from Kirankoy to Carci districts, they are greeted with a large sign and the logo declaring that Safranbolu is on the List of over 800 Heritage Sites around the world.
In 1999, “International Golden Safran Documentary Film Festival” replaced the original festival, adding “Photography Exhibition” and folk dances from various countries. The 12th Festival began with a parade in Koyici district following a TRT 1 interview with the Mayor of Safranbolu Necati Aksoy and the representatives of the participating groups from Greece, Bulgaria, Tataristan, and Artvin, Turkey.  The Parade ended at the Misaki Milli Square adorned with a beautiful monument created by the late Sculptor. The protocol included the former Presindet of the Turkish National Assembly and Karabuk Parlimentaria Mehmet Ali Sahin, Governor of Karabuk Izzettin Kucuk, Governor of Safranbolu Gokhan Ozcan and other dignitaries.
Many documentary films were shown, including “Highlands of Karadeniz” on the lives of people who live alone high on mountains. Awards were given to the winners of the documentary films. Four photography exhibitions  were held including one created by Prof. Husamettin Kocan of Okan University in Istanbul at the Safranbolu Historical Museum. There were also several presentations on the life of Tahir Karauguz, a famous lawyer from Safranbolu, told by his son Dogu Karaoguz.
However, the air of the historic town was polluted with the smoke and odor coming from the Municipal open waste dump just outside the city. When this was brought to the attention of the Mayor, we were told that the wild storage would be closed and moved to a sanitary landfill outside of Karabuk, the city with the large iron and steel mill built in 1937 during Ataturk time.
As stated in the article on the 6th Festival below, Safranbolu is a cultural treasure which is being protected for passing it to future generations where life continues and festivals such as the one that took place this weekend makes it a worthwhile place for visitors from all over Turkey and other countries to come and enjoy..
Yuksel Oktay, PE
22 september 2011
6th International Golden Safran Documentary Film Festival
                                    9 – 11 September, 2005
On a beautiful Friday night, September 9, Tayfun Talipoglu took to the center stage at the Arslanlar Cultural Center (AKM) in Safranbolu and made one of his now famous remarks about the many festivals that take place all over Turkey (close to 2500 according to the last count.) ‘’This is different from all the others,’’ Talipoglu said, ‘’the 3 day festival and tonight’s celebration are about and from the people of Safranbolu.’’ Than he told the audience that, although he was not born here, he considered himself  a true Safranbolulu, referring to his many visits earier (He was born in Kars.) He said that the children would leave the place tonight with many memories, which he said was very important in a country where many grow without any. The simple auditorium with a large photograph of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk between two Turkish flags was packed to capacity, with many standing outside, waiting for the large group of dancers from Greece, a first for a town where Greeks used to live before the population exchange in 1924, to join their friends from Turkey, The Republic of North Cyprus and Kazakistan, for a great performance.
The program started with a group of instrument players and dancers in historical attire singing and performing local dances, including both young and old men. This was followed with a performance by beautiful ladies dressed in kaftans, staging a typical ‘’kina gecesi’’, singing and dancing and teaching a few lessons to the bride. In between, the group members were presented with awards which were handed by the governors and the mayor of Safranbolu.
After a short break, Talipoglu invited the Governor of Karabuk Dr. Said Vakkas Gozluoglu, the Governor of Safranbolu (Kaymakam) Izzettin Kucuk, the Mayor of Safranbolu Nuhat Cebesi, three members of the Pariament from Karabuk, Mehmet Ceylan, Ali Ogre and Hasan Bilir, to make speeches. They all thanked the organizers of the festival and Ali Ogre reminded the audience that the first festival that took place in Safranbolu in 1975 was organized by Kiiziltan Ulukavak who was the Mayor of Safranbolu from 1975 to 1980. The speakers also told the audience that Safranbolu had been designated as one of the ‘’Cultural World Heritage Center’’ by UNESCO in 1994 after it was taken under legal protection by the Ministry of Culture in 1976. During the  meeting of the ‘’Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) in Rhodes in 2003, Safranbolu was included among the 20 best preserved towns in the world. The message given by each speaker was that Safranbolu was an Open Air Museum for those who would like to make a journey into the past.
After lighting the ‘’Festival Torch’’, the fire works and a short break (around 22:30), folk dancers from Greece, Kazakistan and Turkish Republic of North Cyprus delighted the audience with their beautiful dances and songs. It was close to midnigh when the show ended and many visitors went to the historical homes in Baglar and Carsi, converted into hotels and pansiyons. The Zalifre Hotel in the center of town, Kirankoy, was filled to capacity, including the famous ‘’Havuzlu Kosk’’ that was turned into a hotel by the legendary head of Turkish Touring Association, Celik Gulersoy, the architect of many restored buildings in Istanbul.
Safranbolu is famous for its Ottoman style houses and manisons with large windows, gardens full of all kinds of fruit trees and beautiful flowers, watered from the pools and fountains that grace the gardens. Most are renovated houses that date back to 18th and 19th century. There are over 2,000 historical houses, of which 1,200 are under legal protection, most if not all built in such a way that they don’t block the view of each other. There are also houses built by the greeks which are of stone and timber.
There are many historical places to visit, including the Castle, Cinci Hoca Hani, Izzettin Pasa and Koprulu Mehmet Pasa Mosques, Arasta Bazaar and the famous sun-dial in the courtyard of Koprulu Mehmet Pasa mosque accross the library. The shadow of the metal plate of the sun-dial shows the time from 6:40 am to 17:20 PM.
Safranbolu, known as Dadybra in ancient times, has been known with different names since its founding almost 5,000 years ago. The region was called ‘’Paplogonya’’ in the epics of Homer in the ancient times which was dominated by Hittites, Phyrigians, Persians, Romans, Selchuk Turks, Candarogullari and the Ottomans. The Turks came to Safranbolu in the 12th century under Sultan Kilicarslan’s son Muhittin Mesut Shah and named the town ‘’Zalifre’’.  Its present name reflects the ‘’Safran’’ plant grown in several villages nearby which is famous for its colour, smell and financial value.
The Opening Ceremonies
The dignitaries, the fesitival participants and the organizers gathered at the ‘’Koyici’’ square in fron the of the old high school building and the cortege walked to the ‘’Ataturk Square’’ in Kirankoy, a distance of 2.2 kilometers, with a large Turkish flag and the same size portrait of Ataturk at the front. The festival was given an official start by the Mayor which was followed by a concert of the ‘’Mehter Takimi’’, the famous Ottoman Military band, sent from the Konya Municipality. People of all ages, including young girls, some with headsrarves, listened to the music and talked to each other.
The Documentary Films
Documentary films, starting with a film on ‘’Koy Enstutuleri’’ was shown all day and a panel presentation was made on ‘’Safranbolu.’’ Before the panel, we met some of the organizers, including two sisters who were working as volunteers. They told us that they were members of a youth organization, ‘’Sevgi Gonulluleri Dernegi –   Affection Volunteers Association’’ which provides services to the poor and sick people in and around Safranbolu. It was an interesting encounter as one of the sisters, Hulya, was wearing a headscarf, the other, Nuray, was not, which prompted me to ask questions on this sensitive issue. A young man working as a volunteer with them answered the question, stating that everyone was free to dress the way they wanted.
There were 15 entries, Mehmet Akif Erbas placed first with his documentary movie, ‘’I, Stari Most, the Old Bridge of Mostar’’ in the professional category. In the amateur category, Ayla Tezgore won the first place with ‘’Agora of Balat’’, and writer Ayse Karakaya placed first with her project ‘’Yatagan: The sword of Sharp Hearts’’. In addidion, representatives of national and local news agencies and documentary movie producers who made contributions to the promotion of Safranbolu were rewarded with honorary certificates.
Photography Exhibitions
There were several painting and photography exhibitions located in different centers, including the famous ‘’Cinci Hoca Hani’’ which is now an excellent hotel. The impressive building was established by the Cinci Hodja who was the Kazasker (Chief Military Judge) at the time of Sultan Ýbrahim between 1649 and 1648. The best photography exhibition was by Gulcan Acar, a free lance photographer who used to work at the Safranbolu Toruism Bureau and also The Ministry of Culture and Torusim. She has an excellent book published on Nemrud with beuatiful photographs of the place where the sun rises and sets like in nowhere else in the world.
There were also food exhibitions from the Safranbolu villages and a ‘’Food contest’’ where the judges picked the best of everything. Following the poetry competition, a nature walk to the famous ‘’Bulak caves’’ and country celebrations and childrens programs took place. It was truly a wonderful festival for the people of Safranbolu of all ages and their guests.
We also had a chance to visit the former Mayor of Safranbolu Kiziltan Ulukavak who presented us with copies of his book ‘’Safranbolu’da Bir Zaman, Bir Baskan, 1975 – 1980’’ and a book on the developments in Safranbolu durin the same years, put together by Aytekin Kus.
Following the panel and the opening reception at the ‘’Konuk Evi’’, the guests went to the AKM for the concerts that took place on Friday night, also on Saturday and Sunday nights.
I went to the festival with a Turkish civil engineer friend of  many years and his American-Turkish wife. They truly enjoyed themselves and bought many objects from Safranbolu, including house models, and plenty of ‘’Turkish delight’’ and helva. I had also invited the Washington Times photojournalist, but it did not mateialize. I hope he and others will have a chance to visit Safranbolu.
Safranbolu is a cultural treasure which is being protected for passing it to future generations where life continues and festivals such as the one that took place this weekend makes it a worthwhile place for visitors from all over Turkey and other countries to come and enjoy..
Yuksel Oktay
11 September 2005

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