I’m a small-town guy at heart, having grown up among cattle and cornfields. So anytime I get the chance to get out of the big city, I get a little giddy. There’s something about the slower, relaxed pace of a lonely little village that proves therapeutic for me, a place where I can read, write, and sip tea under a shade tree while watching locals unhurriedly carry on the daily activities of a simpler way of life. There are a handful of really neat little villages around Bursa, but far and away my favorite is the little mountainside burg of Cumalıkızık.
Situated at the base of the northern slope of Uludağ, this well-preserved 700 year-old Ottoman village recently earned a place on the esteemed UNESCO World Heritage List. For good reason, too. Here, original Ottoman-style houses line narrow, winding streets where overflowing streams trickle over the cobblestones. Local craftsmen and fruit farmers peddle their wares from wooden booths and nooks in the stone walls along the streets. Tractors are parked in the alleyways and chickens run around in the gardens. Tea is served everywhere and locally produced honey and fresh-baked village bread are available in corner shops. Great photo opps can be found around every corner and in every nook and cranny. And, perhaps most interestingly, Cumalıkızık boasts a thriving—and outstanding—local industry built around the old-fashioned Turkish village breakfast.
In order to understand why Cumalıkızık’s breakfasts are famous, it is important to get a picture of a typical Ottoman-era village house. An Ottoman house in Cumalıkızık is generally 2 or 3 stories high and made of stone, wood, and mud plaster. From the street, a wooden door leads into a dirt or stone-floored courtyard that is partly open to the sky or leads into a garden behind the house. Fireplaces and cooking stoves are central features in the courtyard, while brightly upholstered benches and chairs surround old wooden dining tables. Potted geraniums sit in sunny areas, gourds hang from wooden beams, and the earthy scent of wood fire smoke and fresh herbs fills the air. Stairs in the courtyard lead to the second and third floor living quarters. On the upper floor, a bay window might extend out over the street below. Usually painted in bright colors and often strung with grapevines, a row of Cumalıkızık Ottoman houses is a lovely sight to see.
Now, back to breakfast. The neat thing about Cumalıkızık is that dozens of the village’s homeowners have opened up their rustic, ground-floor courtyards and gardens to serve traditional village-style breakfasts to the hungry public. These hospitable proprietors invite you to sit down at a table in their homes while they serve you outstanding, locally produced breakfasts and all the black tea you can drink. The breakfasts are usually extensive; eggs, cheese, meat, bread, vegetables, pastries, and all kinds of honey and jams are served family style right at your table. As a result, breakfast in Cumalıkızık has become a well-known and enjoyable pastime for city dwellers wanting a traditional experience over a good meal in a rustic setting while glimpsing a simpler way of life.
Of course, after breakfast you’ll want to work off a few of those calories by wandering around the winding cobblestone streets and alleys. You can shop for crafts in the booths in the village square, walk through the restored Ottoman house museum, visit the culture center, squeeze through what I’ve been told is the world’s narrowest street, strike up a conversation with shopkeepers, or fill your camera roll with stunning images of this quaint old village.
Or, if you’re like me, you can just find another courtyard or garden to sit down, do a bit of writing, drink a little more tea, and let the time pass in the quiet village ambiance.
Notes on Cumalıkızık
- Go hungry—the breakfasts are big and filling. Be sure to ask the price of the breakfast before you sit down and order.
- The streets in Cumalıkızık are cobblestone, uneven, uphill, and slippery when wet. Good walking shoes are recommended and I would not characterize the village as handicap accessible.
- On the weekends, Cumalıkızık can get quite crowded. If you prefer a quieter experience, try to get there on a weekday.
- Bus #22 from the center goes directly to Cumalıkızık. Alternately, dolmuş minibuses run from Kent Meydanı. Or, take the metro east to the Arabayatağı station and from there catch a taxi or dolmuş up to the village.
- There is a pension (budget hotel) in Cumalıkızık if you’d like to make your stay in the village a two-day experience.