Monday, June 29, 2015

Seeking the Genoese in Turkey

Seeking the Genoese in Turkey

Seeking the Genoese in Turkey
Güvercin Adası, Kuşadası
August 02, 2014, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ PAT YALE / ISTANBUL

If you stand on the galata Bridge and look north towards the Beyoğlu skyline, far and away the most dominant feature is a solid cylindrical tower surmounted by a witch's hat roof. This is the Galata Tower, best known to visitors for a balcony from which they can take in a panoramic view of the old city.
The Galata Tower is also known for the curious story of Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi who, according to the 17th-century Ottoman travel writer Evliya Çelebi (no relation), strapped on a pair of home-made wings and flew from its balcony right across the Bosporus to land in Üsküdar. This event may or may not have happened (Evliya Çelebi was fond of rather tall stories), but attached to the tower is a plaque that records something else that certainly did. On May 29, 1453, it says, the genoese handed the keys of their colony to Sultan Mehmed II, and behind that bald statement lies an interesting story that goes largely untold.

For the Galata Tower had started life in 1349 as the Tower of Christ, built by the Genoese on the site of an older Byzantine tower at the apex of a set of walls surrounding what was effectively a separate city. This had been granted independence by the Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos in 1261 when he had recovered Constantinople from the occupying Crusaders with the help of the Genoese. Before that, Genoese traders had, like their counterparts from Venice, Amalfi and Pisa, hunkered down on the shores of the Golden Horn.

The walls dated back to the fourth century but had been extensively rebuilt in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian. Michael Paleologos ordered their demolition and only agreed that the Genoese should be able to surround their colony with trenches, but by dint of building tall houses alongside the trenches and then filling in the gaps in between them they had soon managed to recreate parts of the walls. New stretches were stealthily built over time; new towers were still being added in the early 15th century.

At their greatest extent the walls of the Genoese city ran down from the Galata Tower to the Golden Horn at what is now Azapkapı beside the Atatürk Bridge, and to the Bosporus at Tophane. Tucked up inside them the Genoese were governed by a podesta (governor) whose battered palace just about survives near the top of the Kamondo Steps where there is also another building said to have been built by the Genoese in 1314.

Mehmet the Conqueror insisted that the walls of Galata be lowered, but they were not torn down and survived in large part, with their gates and towers, right through until 1863 when orders were given to demolish them as part of efforts to modernize this part of the city.

Today the Galata Tower is the most significant surviving relic of the lost walls. One other round tower also lives on, albeit in a shockingly battered condition, in a parking lot off Şair Ziya Paşa Caddesi, which in turn runs south from Büyük Hendek Caddesi (Great Trench Street), whose name also commemorates the lost fortifications. At Azapkapı near a Sinan-built mosque, a small stretch of the wall survives while on the inland side of the main road more of it just about hangs along with the Yanıkkapı (Burnt Gate), which still bears several Genoese coats of arms (last time I visited it was blocked due to Metro building work).

Reminders of a time when the Genoese ruled the roost in Galata also came to light when excavations around the Arap Cami in Karaköy were carried out. The mosque started life as a vast church built for the Dominicans, but the many gravestones uncovered there suggested that its congregation was largely Genoese.

The Genoese presence in İstanbul certainly didn't come to an end in 1453 even if they were never to be so important again. That some of them remained extremely wealthy is evidenced by the Church of St. Mary Draperis on İstiklal Caddesi, named after Clara Bratola Draperis, the Genoese woman who donated the land for it. The Old American Consulate building on Meşrutiyet Caddesi, which is now being restored to house a Soho House hotel, also started life as the Palazzo Corpi, built for the wealthy Genoese shipbuilder, Ignazio Corpi. Its architects were Italian and all the materials used to decorate it were imported from Italy.

But the reach of the Genoese extended far beyond Galata. In 2013 a rather unexpected addition was made to Turkey's list of tentative world heritage sites. “The Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade routes from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea” is rather an odd listing given that the properties identified are all along the Aegean and Black Seas. Still, Genoese traders certainly were active around all the Turkish coasts as evinced, for example, by Ceneviz Limanı, the name given to a bay near Adrasan.

Aside from Galata Tower, the tentative UNESCO listing specifically covers the castles at Anadolu Kavağı on the Bosporus, Eski Foça and Çandarlı on the Aegean, and Akçakoca, Amasra and Sinop on the Black Sea. Oddly, it omits the contemporary castle at Kuşadası.

Anadolu Kavağı

Anadolu Kavağı is the last stop made by the ferries offering long Bosporus cruises out of Eminönü. Many passengers just disembark to grab a quick fish lunch at one of the harbor side cafes before reboarding the boat. Hardier types strike uphill in search of the view that opens out onto the Black Sea at this point. There they discover that the summit is covered with the remains of what was once the most extensive castle along the Bosporus. Built either over or near the site of a temple to Zeus Ourios, the god of winds fit for sailing, Yoros Kalesi is actually a Byzantine fortress largely erected for Emperor Justinian. However, from 1352 it fell into the hands of the Genoese, who maintained control of it for almost 50 years. Accordingly, it is sometimes referred to as the Ceneviz Kalesi (the Genoese Castle).

Ongoing excavations at the site should eventually mean that a great deal more is known about the castle's history and development.

 The Foças

In the 13th century what is now Eski Foça was the Genoese settlement of Foglia Vecchia, while what is Yeni Foça was Foglia Nuova. In 1275 Emperor Michael Paleologos gave this entire peninsula to brothers Benedetto and Manuele Zaccaria so that they could develop a port for exporting the local alum that was popular for dyeing. The Zaccarias built a fortified port at Foglia Nuovo, which, according to John Freely, became one of the richest towns in the Levent; sadly, nothing now survives to tell the story. They also strengthened the wall surrounding the headland between Foglia Vecchia's two harbors, while neighboring Beşkapılar Kalesi (the Castle of Five Gates) was probably rebuilt at the same time, even if its latest incarnation mainly shows off repairs carried out by the Ottomans. The Foça peninsula remained in Genoese hands until 1455, when it was ceded to the Ottomans.


The newly restored 13th-century castle at Çandarlı on the Aegean coast north of Foça was also extensively strengthened by the Genoese, who made use of the bay as another port. Despite reports that it was now open to the public, when I visited a few months ago you could still only admire its sturdy exterior.


In the 14th century Kuşadası was Scala Nuova, another harbor used by the Genoese. Once again the history may be obscure, but the small offshore Güvercin Adası (Pigeon Castle) appears to have been built or rebuilt at that time.


Akçakoca is a popular Turkish beach resort east of İstanbul near Düzce. West of the town on a cliff top stand the remains of a castle that is widely believed to have been built or rebuilt on Byzantine foundations by the Genoese in the 14th century.


The Genoese controlled Amasra from 1398 to 1461 and some of the clearest evidence of their presence in Turkey can be seen in the Genoese coats of arms inserted over the gates in what are largely Byzantine walls. One such coat of arms reflects the way in which events in the home city played out in the trading colonies since it belongs to Duke Visconti of Milan, who governed Genoa from 1421 to 1436.


Although Sinop had been fortified since Roman times, the Genoese are believed to have rebuilt parts of the walls so that they could use Sinop as a base for trade, particularly with Kaffa (modern Feodosia) in the Crimea where they had another colony. Unlike in Amasra they don't ever seem to have controlled the city, which was seized from the Byzantines by the Selçuks in 1265.

Keywords: genoese , galata

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 10 Turkey travel picks for 2015

Top 10 Turkey travel picks for 2015

Top 10 Turkey travel picks for 2015
Bor, Niğde (Photo: Pat Yale)

Every spring the fields for kilometers around the small town of Bayındır, inland from Selçuk, burst out in a blaze of color, for this is the part of Turkey where market gardening is the number one local occupation. To celebrate the moment of greatest floral abundance, Bayındır stages an annual flower festival whose date tends to be something of a moving feast. Assume, however, that it'll be the last weekend of April or the first of May, and you should be lucky.
The flower festival aside, Bayındır is one of those places that tends to get passed over in holiday planning. Until recently that was at least in part due to the absence of a decent hotel, a failing rectified since the Eski Hükümet building was converted into the Suotel (tel: 0232-581 5966), a bijou place to stay just across the road from the town's finest mosque, the newly restored Ulu Cami, an early Ottoman work dating back to 1496.

Bayındır stands on the site of the old Roman Caystrus, bits of which crop up in the many smaller mosques. It flourished in the late Ottoman period when some fine houses were built, particularly for the priest of the lost Greek church. Local history is proudly detailed in the new Kent Müzesı (City Museum), housed in what was once a building belonging to Tekel, the government monopoly alcohol producer until as recently as 2008.

If you can't make it here for the flower festival, try to time your visit for a Friday when the streets fill up with a colorful market, notable particularly for the presence of a diminishing number of elderly women draped in the siyah çizgi, a black cotton shawl with a white pattern stamped around its border. In 10 years time the only place you'll see it will be the museum.

Bayındır was my favourite discovery of 2014, but in this, my last regular travel feature for the paper, I'd also like to put in a word for some other recent discoveries as well as for a couple of old favorites. For more details on all the places mentioned here, and, indeed, on almost anywhere I've written about in these pages, go to my website,

Misiköy (Photo: Pat Yale)


On the outskirts of Bursa the pretty small village of Cumalıkızık, with its stock of Safranbolu-style Ottoman houses, has long been the venue of choice for Sunday-brunch-seeking Bursalıs. Less well known but almost as charming is Misiköy on the Çekirge side of town that has the added bonus of a plane-tree-shaded river running through it for brunchers who like the sound of running water as a backdrop to their dining.

Trilye (Zeytinbağı)

Readily accessible by ferry to Mudanya and then by dolmuş, Trilye is the old name for what is officially Zeytinbağı, another small town with much of its Ottoman housing stock still intact that was once home to a thriving olive-oil business. Recently this has been revived, albeit on a boutique scale, and many of the lovely buildings along the high street now sell oil in beautifully designed bottles.

Until 1924, Trilye was a largely Greek settlement and the town keeps three Byzantine churches up its sleeve, one of them, the Büyük Kilise, now converted into the Fatih Cami. More prominent is the ruined Taş Mektep that was once the local primary school.

You can easily visit Trilye on a day trip from İstanbul, although to do so is to miss out on the lively meyhane action overlooking the seafront. Should you wish to stay, the Trilyalı Hotel (tel: 0224-563 2223) offers splendid sea views as well as an outdoor restaurant.


Another old favourite recently revisited with pleasure is Mudurnu, a small town south of Bolu, which, once again, retains many of its old Ottoman houses, several of them converted into hotels. My personal favourite is the Hacı Şakirler Konağı (tel: 0374-421 3856), which still has most of its original fittings. It's only open at weekends.

Mudurnu is a place for leisurely ambling, although it does boast a 14th-century hamam (Turkish bath) and a market where you can still watch ancient crafts being carried out. Visit on a Friday and you will also be able to observe an age-old tradition as the craftsmen down their tools and gather together in the street outside to perform the Esnaf Duası (the Tradesman's Prayer).

Şahinefendi, Cappadocia (Photo: Pat Yale)


First-time visitors to Cappadocia often don't realize what a large area it is. Those who return time and again soon find out that there are many out-of-the-way villages that attract far less attention than Göreme, Uçhisar and Ürgüp, although often you need a car to get to them easily.

One such village is Şahinefendi, visited mainly for the ruins of Roman Sobesos. Far less obvious is the rock-cut church so carefully hidden away inside one of a multitude of fairy chimneys that you won't find it without a guide. Inside it lurks a spectacular frescoed ceiling, newly restored so that its colors shine as brightly as on the day they were painted. It depicts an obscure story involving 40 Christian martyrs who were driven out to die on a frozen lake when they refused to renounce their faith.


Few visitors to Cappadocia ever venture as far south as Niğde and those who do tend only to visit the frescoed monastery at Eski Gümüş. But the area around Niğde harbors many other treasures including the small town of Bor, which spreads itself out over several hills. Hidden in its back streets are several fine Şelçuk and early Ottoman mosques. While you're unlikely to want to stay, the Hotel Tyana (tel: 0388-311 1971) offers a decent base for visiting the impressive ruins of a Roman aqueduct at nearby Kemerhisar.

Anazarbus (Photo: Pat Yale)

Anazarbus (Anavarsa)

Last year I spent a happy week exploring the Adana area. One of my favourite spots was the small village of Ayşehoca around which are scattered the extensive ruins of Roman Anazarbus, which went on to become an important population center during the years when this part of Anatolia was home to the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.
Most of the more recent ruins are difficult to see since they perch on a plateau above the Roman ruins. These, however, are easy to explore, although ideally you'll have a car to get here since there's no bus to the village. Many of the ruins lie scattered across a field completely surrounded by what was once the city wall, but an imposing triumphal arch and many rock-cut tombs also await discovery outside it.

Harbiye, near Antakya

This week came news that the brand-new Hatay Museum in Antakya has now opened to show off one of the country's finest collections of Roman mosaics. If you're heading down to take a look at it, it's worth knowing about Harbiye, a village immediately to the south of Antakya where according to Greek myth the nymph Daphne prayed to be turned into a laurel bush in order to escape the attentions of the god Apollo.

Today Harbiye lives for a cluster of fish restaurants, some of them with tables set up right in the water, that are dotted around a pretty wooded valley with a river running through it. Best of them is the Mosaik Restaurant, one of those places designed by someone with an eye for the quirkily original. The hotels overlooking the valley mean that you can actually stay in Harbiye and come here for dinner. Failing that, a fish lunch is just as enjoyable.


Visitors staying in Kahta with plans to visit the famous giant heads on Nemrut Dağı might like to know that for the time being they can also take a ferry across the nearby Atatürk Lake to visit Siverek, a colorful Kurdish town usually bypassed by those in a rush to reach journey's end at Diyarbakır.

On the surface there's not a lot to make you want to pause here. Duck into the market, though, and you'll find one of the most authentically Kurdish of small towns where recent years have seen an old hamam turned into a venue for sıra geceleri (Turkish nights with a Kurdish twist), a han converted to house a teahouse and even the old station refashioned into a restaurant.

A new bridge over the lake is nearing completion. It remains to be seen whether that will mean more or fewer visitors for Siverek.

Birecik (Photo: Pat Yale)


In 1956 it was a bridge that effectively saw off Birecik's trade in visitors travelling between Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. Once one of the most important ferry crossing points on the Fırat (Euphrates) river, Birecik boasted a magnificent castle and imposing city walls. Old photos show lovely old Ottoman houses jutting out over the river. Today the castle is undergoing impressive restoration, but little remains of the walls (one gate has been turned into a mosque) or the wooden houses.

Instead, people come here to visit the captive breeding program for the kelaynak (bald ibis), Turkey's most endangered bird and almost certainly extinct in the wild. The program seems to be doing well, although you'll only be able to observe the birds from a distance. Afterwards, it's worth taking a stroll along the nearly landscaped riverside promenade, which is now home to a string of inviting new restaurants.


Random Posts

There was an error in this gadget


learn turkish (38) turkey (26) turkish (25) istanbul (23) study (20) classes (13) study turkish (13) tutor (13) washington dc (13) learn (12) teacher (12) language (11) travel in Turkey (10) lessons (8) virginia (8) 2011 (7) Turkish culture (7) dc (7) go Turkey (7) maryland (7) bethesda (6) culture (6) fairfax (6) travel (6) turkce (6) washington (6) iconic monuments (5) turkiye (5) video (5) english (4) ottoman empire (4) rockville (4) rumi (4) ottoman (3) usa (3) Antakya (2) aegean (2) alexandria (2) ankara (2) archeology (2) arlington (2) baltimore (2) black sea (2) bosphorus (2) byzantium (2) cappadocia (2) catalhoyuk (2) central asian (2) help (2) inebolu (2) iraqi (2) media (2) olympiad (2) private (2) proverbs (2) read (2) regions (2) silver spring (2) speak (2) students (2) turkic (2) turkish mediterranean (2) vocabulary (2) western europe (2) youtube (2) ATFA (1) Abrahamic (1) Culture Minister (1) Ertuğrul Günay (1) IELTS (1) Katharine Branning (1) Keywords: turkey (1) Lady Mary Montagu (1) MAFTAA (1) Princeton (1) TOBB (1) USSR (1) acquisition (1) adana (1) affordable (1) albania (1) alphabet (1) america (1) amerika (1) anatolia (1) ancient (1) anthropology (1) arab channels (1) arab countries (1) arlington indepedent media (1) arts (1) aya sofya (1) bati (1) bağlarbaşı (1) behramkale (1) berlin (1) best (1) bird (1) black sea coast (1) bogazici (1) books (1) burdur (1) business (1) buyuk ada (1) cami (1) career (1) carl holtman (1) cave dwellings (1) cay (1) chap petersen (1) cheap (1) cinema (1) cities of Turkey (1) civilization (1) civilizations (1) communication (1) course (1) courses (1) cyprus (1) departments (1) dialect (1) district (1) dressing (1) east european (1) eastern europe (1) education (1) embassy (1) england (1) enrolment (1) ephesus (1) european capital of culture (1) faculties (1) festival (1) forum (1) foundation (1) fox (1) fun (1) games (1) germany (1) grammer (1) grand bazaar (1) hacı bektaş veli (1) hagia sophia (1) hangman (1) high school (1) hindi (1) hodja (1) holiday (1) idyll (1) instruction (1) italian (1) italy (1) izmir (1) jazz (1) kosovo (1) kultur (1) languages (1) lanugage (1) learning (1) lebanon (1) lesson (1) lexicon (1) listen (1) literature (1) local dishes (1) macedonia (1) madrid (1) mahmut yeter (1) marmara (1) master (1) mediterranean coast (1) mevlana (1) middle east (1) monolingual (1) moscow (1) mosque (1) namik tan (1) nasreddin hoca (1) neolithic (1) nobel award (1) northeast (1) ohio (1) osmanli (1) pamukkale (1) paris (1) past (1) patient (1) phd program (1) pilgrimage (1) practice (1) practise (1) rome (1) rumiforum (1) russian (1) sailor (1) samsun (1) sayings (1) senator (1) skills (1) soap operas (1) soft power (1) soviet politics (1) special (1) springfield (1) student (1) style (1) sultan ahmet (1) summer school (1) teachers (1) testimonials (1) texas (1) topkapi (1) tour (1) tourist (1) trabzon (1) translating (1) treasures (1) trnaslating (1) turkish classes (1) understand (1) united states (1) university (1) urfa (1) vowel (1) washington diplomat (1) wikipedia (1) yesilcam (1) yunus emre (1) Üsküdar Pilavcı (1)