Saturday, November 22, 2014

Turkey of the regions 7: From İnebolu to Antakya

Turkey of the regions 7: From İnebolu to Antakya

Levantine quarter of Antakya
February 16, 2014, Sunday
So far in this series on the old and varied architectural styles of Anatolia we've looked at the stereotypical Turkish house that still exists in large numbers in the heart of many old towns.

 We've looked at the cave dwellings that are dotted about the country, and we've looked at the specific styles to be found in the southeastern and northeastern corners of the country as well as along the Aegean coast.

But there are a few other areas of the country with distinctive styles of architecture that defy being slotted into easy categories. There are, for example, the pretty red and white houses of İnebolu on the Black Sea. There are the “button houses” to be found around Akseki, near Alanya. There are the adobe houses that live on near Malatya. There are the Levantine-style houses of Tarsus and Antakya. There are the houses with lovely stained glass windows in Fethiye. And there are the houses with delicate wooden balconies that do so much to beautify Kalkan.

İnebolu houses and model of one



The small town of İnebolu, midway between Amasra and Sinop on the western side of the Black Sea coast, is best known for its role in the Turkish War of Independence. So visitors may be surprised to arrive and find that it's also home to a distinctive and lovely style of architecture somewhat reminiscent of the wooden yalıs (waterside mansions) of İstanbul.
The İnebolu houses are mainly standalone mansions built on two or three stories in their own gardens. But all of them were once painted in the distinctive rusty red once known as Ottoman rose that was such a feature of the Bosporus in İstanbul. Here, though, the window frames are prettily picked out in white, giving the houses a truly distinctive look.
Most survive on the hills inland from the sea although one or two can be seen as you drive through on the coast road. The houses form so much a part of the town's identity that souvenir stands here sell as many models of İnebolu houses as those of Safranbolu do of their better known homes.

Düğmeli Evleri, Ormana


Ormana and around

If you take the road heading inland from Manavgat on the eastern Mediterranean coast to Beyşehir in the Lake District you will pass Akseki, a small town that makes a possible base for exploring villages that sport one of Turkey's most unlikely styles of architecture. West of Akseki near İbradi is the lovely small village of Ormana which is full of what are called “düğmeli evleri” (button houses), houses that come in a variety of sizes but that share one common feature, which is that the wooden beams used to provide their frames jut out from the walls. Looked at side on they resemble spears sticking out defensively; looked at from a distance they resemble studs, hence, presumably, the nickname.
Most of the adjoining villages boast examples of düğmeli evleri, although you might want to make a special point of heading for Ürünlü Köy, which is also home to the wonderful Altın Beşik Mağarası, a cavern with a small lake inside it.


Balaban, Darende and Battalgazi

Most local architecture developed according to the materials close to hand, which means that in the dry center of the country mud-brick (kerpiç) was once a popular building material. That adobe houses were once widespread is evidenced by the fact that even on the outskirts of troglodytic Cappadocia, in the town of Hacıbektaş, you can still see the odd crumbling example in the backstreets.

But this was a style of architecture with little staying power. Once residents found more durable materials from which to build their homes they speedily abandoned adobe whereupon most of the houses crumbled straight back into the dust.

West of Malatya, however, on the road leading to Kayseri there are two settlements that still retain enough adobe houses to give you a good idea of what was possible. Today Darende is a fast modernizing town best known for its shrine to Somuncu Baba (Loaf Father). The old houses that the authorities have chosen to restore recently fit into the mold of the traditional Turkish house as exemplified in towns such as Tokat and Divriği. However, if you poke about in the back streets you will quickly realize that they were always the exception in a town whose high-walled adobe houses might once have evoked the kasbahs of southern Morocco.

Most people whisk straight past Balaban on their way from Malatya to Darende. If, instead, you pause here and take a walk around the village you will get the best idea of what an entire village of adobe houses would have looked like. Narrow streets are lined with two and three-story houses, some of them whitewashed, some of them still the color of sand. But it's not just the building material that is striking. This is a part of Turkey with particularly harsh winters. Locals needed plenty of space to store not just wood for their fires but also food made in autumn to see families through the winter. So the roofs of many of these adobe houses also feature towering, open-fronted lofts, perfect for storage.
Even more striking examples of these lofts can be seen atop the older houses of Battalgazi (Eski Malatya). You need only take a turn down the newly restored Sanat Sokağı to admire the seemingly never-ending potential of a loft.

Levantine quarter of Tarsus


Tarsus and Antakya

The road that skirts the coast of Mediterranean Turkey is a relative newcomer. Even in the 1950s the mountains that rose up beyond the sea served as a powerful barrier to reaching the coast. Settlements were few and far between, which explains why, with the rare exception of Antalya, so few of its modern holiday resorts boast much in the way of interesting architecture.

At the far eastern end of the Mediterranean a rare exception is Tarsus, the town best known as the birthplace of Saul who went on to become the great Christina missionary, St. Paul. These days Tarsus is lost amid the sprawl of Greater Adana but at its heart it retains a fascinating little quarter full of sturdy quarried-stone houses with a distinctly Levantine feel typified by their shuttered windows and wrought-iron decorations. The lovely Konak Efsus (Tel: 0324-614 0807) sits right in the heart of this peaceful pedestrianized part of town and lets you fantasize that you're actually sleeping as far afield perhaps as Beirut.

The Levantine feel of Tarsus is multiplied many times in Antakya, the provincial capital of the Hatay, the little tongue of Turkey that hangs down towards Syria. Once you're past the deceptively modern outskirts and into the historic heart of the city around the bazaar you will find once again that coming together of quarried-stone houses with shutters and wrought-iron balconies that feels both Parisian and Middle Eastern and acts as a reminder of the French influence on this part of the world right into the 20th century.

Unfortunately, Antakya has come under enormous pressure as a result of the Syrian conflict. If you do want to visit there are two splendid hotels -- the Antik Beyazıt (Tel: 0326-216 2900) and the Liwan (Tel: 0326-215 7777) -- right in the Levantine part of town where you will also notice a distinctive local style of mosque design. Here, many minarets come topped off with witch's-hat roofs, a style that also feels very Levantine and which rolls out as far as Kahramanmaraş and Elbistan too.


Western Mediterranean

Towards the western end of the Mediterranean modern Fethiye has rid itself of most of its old houses over the years. However, there are still a few attractive examples of a local style of townhouse in which two-story homes were adorned with jutting cumbas (bay windows) rather like those to be seen in houses along the Aegean. Here, though, the windows were filled with panels of tinted glass, the better presumably to shade inhabitants from the blazing sun.

Today the popular resort of Kalkan, between Fethiye and Kaş, is spreading its tentacles in all directions, but at its heart it still retains the very picturesque waterside quarter that was once a fishing village. Here whitewashed cottages come with rickety wooden balconies, these days uniformly draped in bougainvillea. Few were big enough to survive as hotels although many now serve as chi-chi restaurants and cafes catering to the yachting fraternity.

Inland from Fethiye the village of Üzümlü is best known as a place in which to buy a type of woven fabric called dastar, but it's also home to pretty whitewashed houses with wooden cumbas. Even finer examples can be seen in Kaş where Uzun Çarşı is a hillside street lined with upscale shops. Its lattice-fronted, bougainvillea-draped cumbas make for as postcard pretty a vista as can be found in all of Turkey.



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