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Inns are generally establishments or buildings where travelers can seek lodging and, usually, food and drink. They are typically located in the country or along a highway. There are inns in Europe, Asia and North America.
Inns in Europe were possibly first established when the Romans built their system of Roman roads two millennia ago. Some inns in Europe are several centuries old. In addition to providing for the needs of travelers, inns traditionally acted as community gathering places.
In Europe, it is the provision of accommodation, if anything, that now separates inns from taverns, alehouses and pubs. The latter tend to supply alcohol (and, in the UK, usually soft drinks and sometimes food), but less commonly accommodation. Inns tend to be grander and more long-lived establishments; historically they provided not only food and lodging, but also stabling and fodder for the traveler's horse(s) and fresh horses for the mail coach. Famous London examples of inns include the George and the Tabard. There is however no longer a formal distinction between an inn and other kinds of establishment. Many pubs use the name "inn", either because they are long established and may have been formerly coaching inns, or to summon up a particular kind of image.
The original functions of an inn are now usually split among separate establishments, such as hotels, lodges, and motels, all of which might provide the traditional functions of an inn but which focus more on lodging customers than on other services; public houses, which are primarily alcohol-serving establishments; and restaurants and taverns, which serve food and drink. (Hotels often contain restaurants and also often serve complimentary breakfast and meals, thus providing all of the functions of traditional inns.)
In Asia Minor during the periods of rule by the Seljuq and Ottoman Turks impressive structures functioning as inns (Turkish: han) were built because it was thought that inns were socially significant. These inns provided accommodation for people and their vehicles or animals and served as a resting place for people, whether travelling on foot or by other means.
These inns were built between towns if the distance between them was too far for one day's travel. These structures were called caravansarais which were inns with large courtyards with ample supplies of water for both drinking and other uses. They would also routinely contain a café in addition to supplies of food and fodder. After the caravans travelled a while they would take a break at these caravansarais, and spend the night there to rest both themselves and their animals.
The Inns of Court in London were originally ordinary inns where barristers met to do business, but have become institutions of the legal profession in England and Wales, and no longer function as inns.
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