Seben, a district in the northwestern province of Bolu, is awaiting to be discovered by lovers of nature and history as well as investors as it is home to both to natural and historic beauties, which have so far gone unnoticed by many.
The district, which is only three hours away from İstanbul, has a population of 6,000 people. It is located near Köroğlu and Aladağ mountains. There is a man-made lake in the city, called Seben Lake, completed in 2010, filled with melting runoff snow from the mountains. In addition to its lake, Seben has plateaus, historic caves and hot springs that make it an undiscovered heaven for alternative tourism.
The district has a mild climate due to its location close to sea level. The district's climate makes the production of various fruits and vegetables such as apples, nuts, peaches, tomatoes, corn and grapes possible. In some villages such as Korucuk and Kızıl, villagers are involved in animal husbandry.
Seben district governor Alper Balcı said the city's 14 plateaus and lake await tourists and investors.
“We opened an almost 24-kilometer-long road around the lake. We expect guests to come to our city from İstanbul and Ankara for scout camps, mountain biking, trekking and weekend excursions,” he told Sunday's Zaman.
There is ongoing work around the lake to prepare the area for tours and excursions in the fall.
Balcı said some businessmen want to make investment in the city by constructing camp sites for football teams and tourist facilities.
“We are trying to introduce the beauties of our city to Turkey and the world. We are calling on investors who have experience in mountain, plateau and winter tourism to discover the beauties of Seben,” said Balcı.
Metin Arıkoğlu, an investor who builds wooden houses in the city and runs a restaurant, said there are efforts to make Seben an alternative tourism resort for those who are tired of city life and want clean air, organic food and a beautiful scenery.
Arıkoğlu said he lhas started to construct six wooden houses in Seben because he thinks no sufficient investment has been made in the city to meet accommodation neeeds.
“The construction of these houses is about to be completed. There are many secret valleys and canyons in the region where these houses are located for those who want to go trekking and mountaineering,” he said.
There are also dozens of natural water resources in Seben; most of the city is covered with forests.
Just next to Seben Lake is Aladağlar Scouting Camp. Officials from the Scouting Federation said they offer training in canoeing and rowing on the lake.
Cave houses also wait discovery
One of the undiscovered assets of Seben is its cave houses whose history date back 1,000 years ago. The cave houses are three kilometers away from the city center, next to the village of Solaklar. They are four-storey structures that were constructed in soft caves. These caves, some of which are over 3,000 years old, dominate the valley.
Other cave houses near the villages of Muslar, Çeltikder and Yuva were constructed by Phrygians against enemy attacks. The scriptures on the walls which are in Greek and signs of the cross show that the caves were used during Roma and Byzantine periods.
District governor Balcı said some European tourists have paid visits to see historical sites, but most Turkish tourists are unaware of the existence of the historical assets of Seben.
He said pathway and steel staircase projects to facilitate access to the cave houses have been completed.
Balcı also explained that the cave houses in Muslar and Solaklar had a strategic importance for the Ottoman Empire as he noted: “When Bayezid I (Yıldırım -- the Thunderbolt) was defeated by Timirud in the Ankara War, he hid his son, Çelebi Mehmet, in these caves. Timur sent his soldiers to capture Çelebi Mehmet. Çelebi Mehmet repelled the soldiers of Timirud thanks to the defense capability of the cave houses. These are places which worked in our favor in history.”
Balcı also added that famous historian Halil İnalcık conducted research in light of this information and confirmed that Seben has hosted several Anatolian civilizations.
“We call on everyone to reunite with the history, green lands, water and plateaus of Seben,” he said.
History of “non-Muslims’ homes” dates back to Phrygians
The city was a residential area during the era of the Hittites due to its agricultural fertility and abundance of rivers. Historical records also suggest that the Phrygians, who settled in Anatolia after they passed the Dardanelles and the Bosporus are among the first inhabitants of this region. The cave houses, which are known as “non-Muslims’ homes” among the public, were built during the era of the Phrygians. The region was inhabited by Romans and then Byzantines after the Phrygians.