Tokat and Its Country Houses
The town of Tokat stands astride the Behzat river, a tributary of the
Tozanli, amidst a fertile countryside. The mountains which rise beyond
the river valley are mantled in snow during winter. With the spring
thaw the springs and streams gush noisily, providing an abundance of
water which is reflected in the many street and neighbourhood names
containing the word "su" (water). Each of the many delicious spring
waters around Tokat is a familiar name to the inhabitants; Corduk,
Aksu, Cirik, Marul, Ogulbeyi, Igneci and Buzluk.
Tokat has a special place in Turkey's culture and history. The tumuli
of Masat and Horoztepe have revealed much information about the
earliest civilisations here.
The Kings Road passed through Tokat, which was one of the principal
markets in the Black Sea region. From the 12th century onwards,
Turcoman tribes from Asia migrated through here, the Avsars, Varsaks,
Karamanlis, Turgutlus, Bozoklus and Tekelis leaving their own legacy
of memoirs and monuments in addition to those of the Kings' Road,
Caesar and St. Paul.
Turkish baths like the Pervane Pasa, Tahtakale, Ali Pasa and Cay were
more than a mere convenience, but an institution with their own wealth
of customs and the commercial hans where merchants could live, work
and store their goods. They included the Tashan, Sulu Han, Develik
Han, Pasa Han and Yazmacilar Han, not to mention the strongly guarded
bedestens where valuable goods were sold and stored.
Under the Seljuks, Tokat was a noted centre of scholarship, a
tradition which continued under the Ottomans. Sultan Mehmet II's
Seyhulislam and close friend Molla Husrev, the historian Ibn Kemal who
served as Seyhulislam under Suleyman the Magnificent, Molla Lutfi
whose careless tongue lost him his life in 1494, the famous 18th
century physician Hekim Mustafa, Seyhulislam Tahir Efendi who issued a
fetva permitting the abolition of the janissary corps, and Gazi Osman
Pasa, hero of the Battle of Plevna are just some of the famous
citizens of Tokat. Tokat also became well known in Turkish times for
its copper, weaving, leatherwork and blockprinted cotton. Seljuk
medreses and turbes, Ottoman mosques, and the handful of old konaks
(large houses) and houses in the districts of Behzat Camii and Beyler
Sokak give an idea of the town's former splendour.
Overlooking the orchards and vineyards of Tokat is an imposing rocky
crag on which a magnificent castle is perched known as Budun, the
source of the well known simile used in Turkish folk poetry, "a
fortress like Budun". A local folk song sings the praises of the lush
green countryside around the town: 
	    "Tokat is surrounded by gardens
             My rose is in the cup
	     My loved-one is from Tokat
	     His heart is generous."

Another describes 

            "My vineyards near Tokat 
             My cloud wreathed mountains."
Early in summer the people of Tokat traditionally move to their
country houses, not returning until the autumn. Groups of three or
four vineyards and orchards known as baglar form a homestead, each
with its own name, such as the Cemal, Kemer, Topcu, Biskeni,
Malkayasi, Delikkapi or Kasikci. At a distance is the Doganci Baglari.
Each is renowned for one or sometimes more fruits. Cemal is famous for
its cherries, Akbayir and Malkayasi for their fenerit, coban cavusu
and narince grapes and kisbeyi pears, Kasikci for its gelinparmagi and
cincife grapes, sour cherries and plums, and Biskeni for its misket
and black grapes.
Each farm is a family-sized Arcadia where children and adults alike
enjoy their summer holidays. In addition to fruit from the orchards
and vegetables from the garden, there is honey from each home's own
hive. Each farm has its own hower in the garden, pool, courtyard and
well. But best of all is the house itself, known as alacuh. Not one of
these picturesque two-storey houses is the same as another. Some have
belvederes on the roof, and all have a recessed balcony known as a
hayat overlooking the garden.
Fruit and vegetables are dried for the winter in the attic. Every
evening the family and guests gather on the balcony or in the
The kitchen takes up most of the ground floor, with its ovens,
fireplace and larder. One wall is entirely covered with cupboards, and
the row of ovens and open fireplace stand along another wall. First
comes the bread oven, then the large fireplace with its arched chimney
hood used for cooking the flat bread and paper thin sheets of pastry
known as yufka on a griddle, for heating water for laundry, and
cooking food for guests on special occasions. Next to this is the
kebab oven where the famous local specialty, Tokat kebab, is cooked,
and finally the ordinary stove for cooking in small quantities for the
In addition, there is a sink for washing the dishes, a pump for water
and work surfaces for preparing food.
The traditional summer parties which the old folk remember have become
a thing of the past.
The guests would eat their delicious kebabs and other specialties,
converse under the moonlight, and stroll until daybreak to the sounds
of music from the ud and clarinet which echoed in the air. SKYLIFE


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