Daily life is chaotic if you are living in a big city: there is a high chance that you will get stuck in traffic at least once a day and that 15 minutes spent waiting for a coffee is enough to turn a hassle-filled day into a nightmare. All this running around just to keep up with the pace of big city life, but being halted at every turn, is an exhausting process, and sometimes you just want to get away from it all. When those times of need arise, the first place you should consider for refuge, even for a day or two, are those small towns registered to the Cittaslow network.
The Cittaslow network is an organization founded in Italy, which was inspired by the success of the slow food movement. Founded in 1999 with a focus on celebrating quality of life in select local communities and towns, the network promotes places around the world where the living is easy, helping protect their unspoiled landscapes, traditions, and cuisine to maintain a healthy and high-quality lifestyle.
And nowhere could be better suited to join this international grouping of peaceful communities than the town of Göynük, in Turkey's western Black Sea region.
Göynük is a place where tranquility triumphs; historical architecture, traditions and cultures are preserved; and tourists seeking a slower pace of life are welcomed. Thanks to the efforts of locals as well as the local municipality in protecting Göynük's natural environment as well as its unique lifestyle, the town has managed to stay true to its roots -- its jewels hidden in plain sight, given its proximity to more prominent tourist hot spots such as the town of Bolu, Lake Abant and Akyazı. The town's close proximity to Ankara and Istanbul has given it a higher surge of visitors in recent years -- especially those looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Surrounded by mountains and filled with Ottoman homes of a typical turn-of-the-century style, the town has a wealth of historic mosques, hammams, tombs, and fountains to remark upon.
Located on the foothills of the region, covered in lush greenery in summer and snow in winter, Göynük has over 100 early fin-du-siecle homes in the typical Ottoman style of the time, as well as even older mosques, tombs, fountains and Turkish baths. Needless to say, the town is of great historical interest, with its attractive location of narrow streets and a pretty stream running through the center. The most amazing thing about Göynük is that the locals pay great attention to the historic scenery of the region. Even when new houses are built, the residents of Göynük work hard to ensure the new designs fall in keeping with the town's rustic aesthetic.
Apart from its historic structures and natural beauty, Göynük is one of the most visited destinations for religious tourism with its historic tombs and mosques. The Gazi Süleyman Pasha Mosque and Turkish baths as are one of the oldest examples of classical Ottoman architecture on display in the town. Built by Sultan Süleyman, the son of Sultan Orhan Gazi II in 1335, the mosque - still very much in use - was initially built as a "külliye," an Islamic complex which accommodated places of worship, medical treatment rooms, libraries and a host of other services.
When you arrive at this lovely town, the first thing that will catch your eye is its tower. In fact, it is strange for a small town such as Göynük to have this kind of structure, but the Victory Tower was built by Hurşit Bey, the first district governor of Göynük, in 1923 to commemorate the victory of the Turkish nation in the Independence War. Located on the hill at the top of the town, the three-story wooden tower overlooks the town, drawing the admiration of residents and visitors alike.
Fresh air feels so good
For those with less of an affinity with history, however, Göynük still has much to offer. Located on the foothills of Bolu Mountain, the town offers the best scenery and the quality of air in miles. It is possible to hike to the highlands alone with nature or, if you prefer, by tagging along one of the trekking groups always present.
You can also getaway from the center of the town and head to Lake Çubuk to enjoy nature. Surrounded by pine trees, the lake is preferred by trekking enthusiasts and those who love picnicking. The Gölbaşı neighborhood of Göynük is located on the shores of the lake, enabling visitors to explore and enjoy both the city life and natural life of Göynük. Another natural gem of the area is Sünnet Lake. This lake is hidden among the narrow valleys between Erenler and Kurudal and is 820 meters above sea level. You can enjoy hiking and fishing and even stay the night at one of the area's boutique hotels.