Geographically, the city of Babadag doesn’t really belong to the Danube Delta. It is located somewhere between the hills, a few kilometers west of the Lake Babadag.
[adsense]However, the story of the Tulcea County and the Danube Delta cannot be complete without it because it’s been one of the most important cities in the North of Dobruja for many centuries under Ottoman rule.
According to the legend, it was founded by Sari-Saltuk-Baba-Dede in the year 1262. He was allowed by the Byzantine Emperor at the time to settle here an army of 12.000 Turkish mercenaries that were going to defend the borders of the Byzantine Empire.
An Arab geographer, Ibn Battuta, made the first official account of the city in the year 1330 when it had its founder name, Baba-Saltuk. Its current name means “The Father’s Mountain” in the old Turkish.
Immediately after the Ottoman Empire conquered the whole region in the early fifteenth century, it became the capital of Dobruja and a major headquarter for the armies that were fighting in the North.
By the eighteenth century, it was already the biggest city at the mouths of the Danube, with a population of over 100.000. At the time, Babadag had four mosques, many more houses of prayer and numerous public baths, among other public service buildings.
The decline of the Ottoman Empire, however, led to the downfall of the city. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were only about 3300 people left. There were three Christian churches, two mosques and one synagogue.
What can you see in Babadag?
The “Cetățuia” Fortress
[adsense]2.5 kilometers out of the city, on the lake with the same name, you’ll find “Cetățuia” a settlement that dates back from the XI-VII centuries B.C. Later, during the Roman occupation, a fortification was added.
At the time, it lied on the shore of the Black Sea, but the expansion of the Danube Delta closed its access to the sea, the same way it happened to Heracleea. You can actually see Heracleea in the distance, up on hill, overlooking the surrounding land.
I’ve got to say that in the morning, just as the Sun rises, the view from Cetatuia is spectacular. The beautiful fiery-red reflection of the Sun on the clear blue lake… With the Heracleea fortress in background somewhere to the right. It’s almost surreal.
The Panaghia house
If you want to see the way Muslims used to live here, this is the place to visit.
The exposition hosts traditional costumes both from this area and other far away lands. There are also weapons, jewelry, prayer mats and much much more.
The Tomb of Sari-Saltuk-Baba-Dede
This is the final resting place of the founder of Babadag. It became a pilgrimage place and Bayazid II built a public bath and a mosque nearby. Unfortunately, these last two were lost.
The Mosque of Ali Gazi Pașa
This monument was built by the the general with the same name back in the seventeenth century. Near the mosque, until 1971 there was also an important caravanseray nearby.
The Tomb of Coiun Baba
One of the hills to the south of the city is called Coiun Baba. It is named after a sheep herder that lived here about eight centuries ago. He belonged to the first generations of turks that inhbited Dobruja.
The legend says that he saved the city from disaster. There were massive flood waters coming down towards Babadag and he somehow managed to divert them using the wool from his sheeps.
If you go up that hill, you’ll find his tomb, surrounded by shredded cloths hung on the trees. People believe that this is some kind of homage that they pay to the saviour of the city.
The Yemelik and Kalaigi Fountains
The first was built in the eighteenth century by vizier Yusuf Pașa in the northern part of the city, while the second one is located in the center of the city, near the Ali Gazi-Pașa mosque. Both of them function today and they have the tastiest spring water. The Kalaigi fountain was built in the seventeenth century by Muslim pilgrims.
At the foothills of the Coiun Baba and the neighboring hills, you’ll find numerous sculptures scattered around the field. I can’t say for sure, but I think they were built sometime in the year 1984, as I could distinguish that one of the rocks there.
I’m sorry I don’t have a good picture of them, but they are definitely worth visiting.
Why aren’t there more monuments standing up in Babadag?
After all, the place has a rich history. Many more should be found here.
That has a lot to do with a peace treaty signed in 1771, following a war between Russia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire. The treated stated that any fortress that was destroyed during the war should not be rebuit.
Because of that, many of the Babadag’s monuments fell into ruin and are now vanished. I would definitely would have loved going to that caravanseray built by Ali Gazi Pașa…