Kütahya

We start our tour of Kütahya at the Government Offices or Vali Konağı. This fairly central location is near Germiyan Street with its 250 year old historical buildings and with easy access and walking distance to most of the city museums. Kütahya is a fairly conservative city with a fascinating mix of old and new. Unfortunately after two days of sun and good weather in Balikesir and Eskisehir we caught cloudy skies and colder weather in
Kütahya but at least it didn’t rain.

The area around Germiyan Street is full of older houses some of which are waiting to be renovated and others that have been bean beautifully restored to their former glory. Walking around the backstreets of this old part of the city uncovers a treasure trove of an era that time has passed by.

Kütahya is a city situated along the Porsuk river. The capital city of Kütahya Province is 250 km from Balıkesir, just 70km from Eskişehir and 300 km from the Turkish capital city of Ankara. The city lies in hilly country amidst the rolling plains of Anatolia and is famous for its impressive hilltop fortress.

Kütahya, also known as Cotyaeum in antiquity, has seen its fortunes flourish and decline over the centuries. It was along the trade route linking other major cities and became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1429. The ceramic industry for which the city is famous became established during the 16th century. Many of the famous Turkish mosques and Ottoman buildings have beautiful ceramic tiles and fiaence from Kütahya.

Next to Ulu Mosque there is a building called the Umur bin Savci Madrasi. It houses the Archaeology Museum and this small complex with just nine rooms features artifacts dating back from before the bronze age and covering Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Although a very small museum it makes up for this with the quality and diversity of its exhibits.

The importance of Kütahya dwindled at the turn of the 20th century due to growth of the city of Eskişehir nearby. However this important cultural and historical city flourishes today and the famous Turkish coloured tiles called çini are still made and sold locally. Whilst you are here visiting take a look at Ulu Cami ( Great Mosque ) which dates back to 1410 and which features a 16th century market building from 1440.

Next up we take a look at the Tile Museum or Cini Muzesi. The museum is located right next the Ulu Mosque and is the only dedicated tile musuem in Turkey. It was built in 1411 by Akup Çelebi II as a social complex featuring an alms house, a small mosque, bath and library. It was restored by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and opened to the public in 1999. Absolutely stunning examples of tiles and ceramic craftsmanship from the local area can be found here.

Although Kütahya is famous for its ceramic tiles and pottery products, there are other more modern industries in the city such as sugar refineries, tanneries, nitrate production and the extraction of meerschaum. Kütahya is home to the world famous Yagcibedir Carpets. You will find plenty of opportunities to shop for souvenirs and the old wooden and stucco houses of Kütahya are unique and very picturesque.

High on a hill nearby you will find Kütahya castle. It is a long walk even if you are feeling ambitious, so it is best visited by car or by taking a taxi from the taxi rank near the Ulu Mosque. The castle was built in the Byzantine period and then re-inforced in Seljuk and Ottoman times. The castle is in ruins today but the view of the city of Kütahya below is impressive. There is also a revolving restaurant and a cafeteria on site. If you have plenty of time on your hands then this is a good place to sit and relax and get a bite to eat or chill out in the cafe and admire the views. Be sure to get the taxi rank number from your taxi driver so that you can call a taxi for your return journey back to the town.

We also visited Kossuth’s House. This is an 18th century Turkish house located on Macar Street. Known locally as the Hungarian House it was home to Lajos Kossuth between 1850 and 1851. Lajos Kossuth was one of the leaders of the Hungarian war of freedom and he prepared the Hungarian Constitution in this house. This wooden house has furniture from this period and personal items owned by Lajos Kossuth. There are seven rooms which take us back in time to see how the house would have looked during his stay here.

Walking around the area near Germiyan Street you will come across a hive of activity and many small museums and places of interest. We didn’t get chance to visit The Tiled Mosque or visit the Thermal springs near the city but we did visit the historic Roman ruins of Aizanoi and the Ancient Market nearby. Details of this can be found on separate video.

Walking around the streets of Kütahya with souvenir shops and handicrafts, the visitor will soon see that daily life here has not changed much in the last few decades. Residents of the city sell their wares on the streets and there are many small repair workshops that will recycle almost anything that is salvagable.

Skilled craftsman are in short supply now. One such master craftsman named Mehmet Gursoy has a museum dedicated to his beautifully crafted ceramics. He was a master of his trade and the Turkish Government and many dignitaries used to place orders for his work. Born in 1950 he has sadly passed away but examples of his work and photographs of his life and travels can be seen at the museum. Mehmet Gursoy specialised in creating pieces that were decorated with blue, turqoise, green and red and which are known as Iznik Cini and which date back to the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. They are only found in Iznik and Kütahya. The museum can be found in Germiyan Street but photography or video taking is strictly forbidden.

Before you leave Kütahya be sure to visit the huge Kütahya Kervansarayı or Çiniciler Çarşısı with its ceramic and tile workshops and souvenir stores. Many items are made using templates and then painted by hand. Others are mass produced. Just be aware of what is hand made and what isn’t. Not all ceramics are the same. This is out of town a bit so you will need a taxi. On your return journey get a taxi from the large mall on the other side of the main highway.

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