Every now and then it's time to take some time off Istanbul's hustle and bustle to explore what lies beyond the ever-expanding city limits. An extended weekend in the mountain region around Bolu to explore the province's lakes and towns seemed like a great idea, and not even a weather forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms could keep us at home. Our determination was rewarded with lush mountain vegetation in full spring bloom, double rainbows, exceptional pumpkin desserts, and two of the warmest hosts one could possibly wish for.
Staying at the historical Hacı Şakirler Mansion in Mudurnu our hosts Fatoş and Mehmet fed us with delicious home-made food and stories of the town and its surroundings. The Ottoman mansion is more than 150 years old and has been restored to its former glory in 2006 with a lot of love, attention to detail and traditional techniques. Since more than 7 years the mansion's gentle eco-tourism concept attracts travellers from within Turkey and abroad, many of them regulars by now. The 6 guest rooms furnished with antiques from the region, handcrafted carpets, and intricate wood paneling ooze a decluttered, authentic air of history to match the raw beauty of the region. Falling asleep to the sound of pouring rain and waking up with the sunrise made us feel like we traveled 3 hours long, 250 kilometers far, and at least one century back in time to get here.
Fatoş and Mehmet live on site, which enables them to sit down for breakfast with their guests and share a glass of tea or two over the iron stove downstairs. Much more than just a nostalgic decoration, this stove is being used to boil water for cooking, roast bread, bake traditional gözleme (flatbread with various fillings), and heat up the mansion's lounge. Visitors who prefer more privacy can take their meals and relax in the adjoining dining room equipped with rustic benches, wooden tables, and a small library of travel books and boardgames.
Our recommendation: Go by car to explore the region's towns, valleys, and lakes at your own pace, but don't miss out on the many hiking trails! Bolu's mountain climate is a welcome change from Istanbul's summer heat, but if you plan to travel during the holidays make sure to book accommodation in advance. Hacı Şakirler Konağı, Musalla Mahalle Semerciler Sokak 1, Mudurnu / Bolu; P: (0374) 421 38 56; www.hacisakirlerkonagi.com