Monday, August 31, 2015

Museum city: Bursa

Museum city: Bursa

Museum city: Bursa
Bursa Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. (Photo: Pat Yale)

The first time I ever visited a Kent Müzesi (City Museum) in Turkey -- as opposed to an archaeological museum with an ethnographic add-on -- it was in Bursa. Since then, City museums have become a boom business with new ones opening all over the country but especially along the Aegean coast.
In the meantime, Bursa has capitalized on having been ahead of the game by opening several more impressive museums. If you're the sort of person who likes nothing more than to while away a few hours admiring the contents of glass cases, then this will be the perfect city for you. And of course when the weather's not of the best there are few better places to take refuge from the cold outdoors than a museum.

Bursa City Museum


Kent Müzesi (City Museum)


First stop on a trip to Bursa -- and ideally on a trip to Turkey -- should be the City Museum, a state-of-the-art affair that gives a quick rundown on the life of the early sultans on the ground floor. If that sounds a little too wordy for you then the basement will offer the instant antidote. Down there you will find installed replicas of the sort of shops that used to grace all of Turkey's towns before the age of the shopping mall. Come here to see what the saddle maker's shop used to look like as well as to watch a short clip of felt makers in action, pounding the wool with their knees in a way that one assumes would be guaranteed to induce arthritis.


Kılıç Kalkan Evi (Sword and Shield House)


Tucked up in Setbaşı within easy walking distance of the town center is this replica Ottoman house, which exists to tell the story of an unexpected local dance form, the kılıç kalkan oyunu (sword and shield dance). Step inside and you will be able to see famous locals who have learnt the dance, including the current vali (governor). The caretaker will be keen to explain everything to you and will invite you to come and watch the dance being performed with much clashing of swords and shields in the town-center square in front of the Koza Hanı every Saturday afternoon. Won't be there on Saturday? Never mind, as you will be able to watch the dancers on video in the museum instead.


TOFAŞ Bursa Anadolu Arabaları Müzesi (TOFAŞ Bursa Museum of Anatolian Carriages)


Even if you've never thought the history of transport would rock your boat it's well worth following the signs from Setbaşı in search of this excellent small museum, housed in a redundant silk-processing factory, which shows off a variety of the sort of old carts that used to be used not just to move people from place to place but also to carry logs and other industrial produce. Like the City Museum, it's a state-of-the-art museum, beautifully presented and with all sorts of information and old photographs to put the exhibits in context. Right at the end it comes right up to date by showing off a few old cars and one brand-new one that has been completely covered in graffiti -- an art exhibit on wheels.

Afterwards it is well worth taking a turn around the lovely grounds, then rounding off your visit with a meal in the stylish Fayton Cafe in the grounds.

 Cuckoo clocks - Bursa Clock Museum


Saat Müzesi (Clock Museum)


Newly opened in the grounds right beside the carriage museum (and accessible on the same admission ticket) is a stunning Clock Museum, housed in what was originally the Umurbey Hamamı (Turkish bath). Once again, the subject matter might seem of very niche interest. However, once you've stepped over the threshold you'll probably be knocked sideways by the quality of the display and by the information provided on the huge variety of forms that time-keeping devices have taken over the years. Best of all must be the room full of cuckoo clocks, an astonishing thing to find in a hamam. If only they could have arranged for them all to work again just imagine what a wonderful sight -- and sound --- it would have made.

Afterwards you should take a quick look at the early 15th-century Umurbey Cami (mosque) to which the hamam once belonged. Its portico incorporates many pieces of old Roman masonry, testifying to how long this part of town has been settled.


Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi (Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts)


For what seemed like forever the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts housed in the medrese (school) of the Yeşil Cami had been closed for restoration, and I doubt that I was the only person who assumed it would never open again. So hoorah that it has actually done so even though the layout of the exhibits inside (mainly the sort of ethnographic bits and bobs that would have been housed upstairs in the Archeology Museum elsewhere) show no sign of having been upgraded to meet modern expectations in terms of display or information. No matter -- the early 15th-century building itself is very fine, with turquoise tiles around most of the windows, which was not something that it had been possible to appreciate for some years either.


Osmanlı Evi (Ottoman House Museum)


The main reason to visit the Muradiye suburb of Bursa is the Muradiye complex from which it takes its name, which has a fine mosque surrounded by the tombs of early Ottoman princes. Ringing the small park in front of the mosque there are, however, a number of other minor attractions, amongst them a restored Ottoman house that is open without much fanfare to the public. It's worth a quick look to admire its open-sided verandahs and lovely painted rooms, although absolutely no information is provided to help you get more out of a visit.


Bursa Arkeoloji Müzesi (Bursa Archeological Museum)


In sharp contrast to the City Museum is the much older and more traditional Archeological Museum, which occupies a lovely location in the Kültür Park off the road to Çekirge but suffers from the same failings as its equals all around Turkey, namely a paucity of hard facts about the exhibits on show, many of them from the days when Bursa was the Roman Prusa ad Olympum. As is so often the case, some of the finest artifacts are the ones on display not inside the building but in the grounds outside.


Karagöz Museum


If you're heading out to the hotels and hamams of the Çekirge suburb your eyes will be drawn to a colorful building on the left-hand side of the road that houses the Karagöz Museum. Karagöz is the Turkish take on shadow puppetry and Bursa lays claim to it as its own, hence this museum, which started life as a private collection before becoming a municipality-run celebration of the leather puppets and the men who made them. It's of rather specialist interest although those with children might find it a godsend. Admission is free, which is always a plus.


Orman Müzesi (Forestry Museum)


If you're stopping to take a look at the Karagöz Museum you might also want to pause at another much-overlooked collection on the same side of the road. The Forestry Museum is once again of rather specialist interest although it does tell the sad story of a bear called Yumak who was orphaned as a cub by hunters, then reared as a pet on Uludağ until the sad day that he injured a child and had to be put to sleep. But the main reason to come here really is to appreciate the fine 19th-century wooden mansion, the Saatçı Köskü, that houses it. Better even than the interior, which boasts some fine painted ceilings and wooden details, is the little summerhouse in the grounds. Although you can't go inside it, you can peer in through the windows to appreciate its own magnificent painted ceiling.


Merinos Tekstil Sanayi Müzesi (Merinos Textile Industry Museum)


Until recently Bursa was home to the huge state-owned Merinos textile factory, which had opened in 1938. In 2004, the factory closed, leaving the buildings redundant. In a sign that Turkey is belatedly catching on to the appeal of industrial-heritage tourism this has now been reopened as a museum that traces the production of textiles right through from the rearing of the sheep that provided the wool to the production of the final items. There is a certain poignancy about a visit, as it's impossible not to notice the way in which sheds that once provided work for up to 17,500 people can now be supervised as visitor attractions by perhaps half a dozen individuals. A new museum celebrating the role of immigration to the story of Bursa was about to open upstairs when I visited.

Afterwards you can stroll in the lovely park that surrounds the museum and appreciate the beauty of the new Merinos Atatürk Conference Center, which opened here in 2009.
Keywords: Bursa , museums
 
Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/travel_museum-city-bursa_365632.html
 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The 10 best castles in Turkey

The 10 best castles in Turkey

The 10 best castles in Turkey
Mamure Castle (Photo: Pat Yale)

Flick through brochures offering holidays to Turkey and the impression you'll get is of a country perfect for sunbathing, a country where you can float over the azure sea in a graceful wooden yacht, a country dotted with the ruins of countless ancient civilizations.
What you don't very often get, however, is any idea that this is also a country that is littered with the remains of battered castles, castles that bear silent witness to Anatolia's often turbulent past.

Yet, there are parts of Turkey where almost every hilltop is crowned with shattered masonry, often placed there in defiance of any obvious means of reaching it. Castles are always the mainstays of frontier regions and it's no different in Turkey; you'll find the majority of the castles fringing the perimeters of the country, along the Aegean coast, for example, and in its fiercely contested southeastern and northeastern corners.

There are so many ruined castles in Turkey that homing in on just 10 of them is tricky. Everyone will have their own favorite. A word of warning for castle lovers, though: Over the last decade castles have proved particularly susceptible to the sort of slapdash “restoration” that robs them of their precious sense of the past. Two particular victims are the huge castle that crowns the hill above Bayburt and the once-fairytale castle hidden in the forests of Zil, near Çamlıhemşin.

Castle of St. Peter (Museum of Underwater Archaeology)


Pressed to name the very finest castle in Turkey I'd have to plump for the enormous one that looms over the harbor in Bodrum. Not only is this an impressive piece of multi-towered engineering but it has a fascinating story to tell as well, since much of the masonry from which it was built was pilfered from the ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the great tomb of the Carian king Mausolus that had been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The castle was built in the early 15th century by the Christian Knights Hospitaller, who wanted it to protect their holdings on the nearby island of Rhodes. They continued to reinforce it right up until 1522, when Sultan Süleyman I "the Magnificent" seized both Rhodes and Bodrum and promptly built a mosque inside the castle.

The castle was restored in the 1960s. Since 1986, it has housed a museum of underwater archeology that is one of the finest museums in all of Turkey. Highlights include the remains of the Uluburun, the earliest shipwreck ever excavated -- which is believed to have sunk as long ago as the 14th century B.C. -- and the bones of a Carian princess whose features have been painstakingly reconstructed by experts from Manchester University. The views from the ramparts are simply spectacular.

Rumeli Hisarı


Even if your travels never take you further than İstanbul you can still visit one truly remarkable castle with a particularly venerable history: the “Fortress of Europe” that stands on the shores of the Bosporus in the suburb named after it. Constructed in 1452, Sultan Mehmed II “the Conqueror” used this castle as his base for his successful assault on Constantinople in 1453. It was built at the narrowest point on the strait immediately across from the older “Fortress of Asia” at Anadolu Hisarı, which was constructed in 1394 by his great-grandfather, Sultan Bayezid I, as a base for his own unsuccessful assault on the city. Together the two castles enabled Mehmed to control traffic along the strait and thus prevent food and reinforcements from reaching the besieged Byzantines.

Rumeli Hisarı was restored in 1953 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Mehmed's achievement. You can take a look around the interior, although there's little in the way of interpretation -- a missed opportunity in terms of telling the story of the siege.

Bozcaada Castle


Just as the Castle of St. Peter dominates Bodrum's harbor, so the magnificent castle at Bozcaada dominates the island's much smaller harbor, greeting visitors as they step ashore after crossing with the ferry. There the comparison ends, however, because you can normally only admire this castle from the outside -- except perhaps on school holidays when the gates may reluctantly swing open.

The story of Bozcaada Castle could be that of virtually any castle in Turkey, with its origins trailing back to early Byzantine times. Later, Venetian and then Genoese traders were permitted to reinforce it, before finally in the 16th century when the Ottomans moved in to make it their own.

Çeşme Castle


Originally built by the Genoese then rebuilt by Sultan Bayezid II in 1508, the castle at Çeşme, beyond İzmir, also faces the harbor, although its erstwhile dominance of its surroundings is not as obvious as in Bodrum or Bozcaada because it is more hemmed in by modern development. This is another castle that has been turned into a museum and as you wander round the ramparts admiring the views you will also be able to take a look at the finds from the archeological site of Erythrae on the Karaburun Peninsula, as well as in an exhibition devoted to the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, during the course of which almost the entire Ottoman fleet was destroyed off the coast of Çeşme.

Mamure Castle


Currently closed for restoration, the massive castle at Mamure is a splendid edifice with 39 towers and a vast moat sitting right on the seashore east of Anamur on the Mediterranean coast. It owes its 13th-century origins to the rulers of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, but the site had probably been fortified since Roman times. In 1308, it was seized by Mehmet I of Karaman, who stamped his mark on the building by adding a mosque to it.

Kızkalesi


Visitors to the seaside resort of Kızkalesi, near Silifke on the Mediterranean coast, can have the pleasure of sunbathing in the shadow of one enormous castle while gazing out over the sea to another smaller one, Maiden's Castle. Maiden's Castle gave its name to the town and stands in splendid isolation on an offshore island. Originally, the two castles were linked by a causeway, parts of which still survive underwater.

The Kızkalesi castles were originally the handiwork of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who had them built in the late 11th century as protection against the Crusaders. Needless to say, there's a fanciful story about a princess marooned on the castle on the island for her own protection, who is nonetheless killed by a bite from a snake delivered in a basket of fruit. Sound familiar? It's the same story told about Kızkulesi (Maiden's Tower) in İstanbul.

Yılankale


Heading north and east from Adana, you move into what might well be branded "Castle Country," with every hilltop bristling with fortifications. Right beside the main highway from Adana to Osmaniye, you'll see the impressive remains of Toprakkale (Earth Castle), which dates back to the 13th century. Unfortunately, the main road makes it hard to access this castle. Luckily the almost identical Yılankale (Snake Castle), just off the road to Kadırlı, is much easier to get to with a road running right up to the castle. Surprise, surprise -- it's currently closed for restoration.

Kozan


Northeast of Adana, the forgotten town of Kozan was once Sis, the capital of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Here the rulers built a castle so high up on a craggy rock that it's almost impossible to imagine how one is to get up to it -- let alone how it could ever have been built there. Fortunately, a new road runs right up to the foot of the castle. To be honest, there's not a great deal to see inside and climbing around in the ruins is potentially dangerous so you might want to save yourself the effort and just admire it in awe-struck wonder from a distance.

Gaziantep


These days Gaziantep may be best known for the wonderful mosaics in the Zeugma Museum -- and for its baklava, of course -- but it also boasts another treasure in the shape of its magnificent castle, a cut-down version of the one in Aleppo that stands on an artificial mound immediately behind the old bazaar. The site is believed to have been fortified since Roman times, with the Byzantine Emperor Justinian rebuilding a castle on the site. The Seljuks are thought to have constructed the current version with its monumental walls. Theoretically, you can go inside to visit the Panorama Museum, which celebrates the city's fight against French occupation in 1920. Unfortunately, the drawbridge into the castle collapsed last year, so it's currently closed for restoration.

Şebinkarahisar


These days many people visit Antep and admire its imposing castle. The same can hardly be said of Şebinkarahisar, a forgotten small town inland from Giresun on the Black Sea where an enormous castle with walls almost 1,000 meters long straggles along a plateau high above the houses. By now, you won't be surprised to learn that it owes its genesis to Emperor Justinian; its ruinous condition is largely due to an earthquake of 1939. The castle was probably given its name -- which means Alum Black Castle -- to distinguish it from Opium Black Castle (Afyonkarahisar) way over to the west.

Also worth visiting: Hoşap Kalesi, Afyonkarahisar, Silifke Kalesi, Softa Kalesi, Ardanuç Kalesi.
Keywords: castles , Turkey
 
source:http://www.todayszaman.com/travel_the-10-best-castles-in-turkey_352740.html 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Seeking Egypt in İstanbul -- a forgotten heritage

Seeking Egypt in İstanbul -- a forgotten heritage

Seeking Egypt in İstanbul -- a forgotten heritage
Emirgan Korusu (Photo: Sunday's Zaman, Mustafa Kirazlı)

Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Egypt may be at a low point right now but there was a time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the effective rulers of Egypt felt so at home in the heart of the Ottoman Empire that they decorated what was then Constantinople (now Istanbul) with many fine buildings, some of which still survive today.
Egypt first became part of the expanding Ottoman Empire in 1517 when it was captured by Sultan Selim I. Sheer distance from the capital meant, however, that it always held on to a degree of autonomy. Then, in 1787, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt. Amongst the troops sent to drive him out again was one Mehmed Ali Paşa (1770-1849), the son of a merchant from Kavala in what is now Thracian Greece, hence the epithet “Kavalalı" by which his dynasty came to be known. By 1841, Mehmed Ali Paşa had made such a mark on Egypt that Sultan Abdülaziz agreed that his descendants should continue to rule it as governors.

It was not always an easy relationship since Mehmed Ali sometimes attempted to expand his sphere of influence, at one point marching an army right into the heart of Anatolia. On the other hand, he was a keen believer in all things Ottoman and did a lot to Turkify Egyptian culture, which had until then remained strongly Mamluk in feel. At the same time, some of his descendants took a particular shine to Constantinople, regularly abandoning the heat of the Nile Valley in summer for the relative cool of their homes on the shores of the Bosporus.

Kavalalı Mehmed Ali Paşa was succeeded by his grandson, Abbas Hilmi Paşa, who governed until 1854, and then by his son, Said Paşa, who ruled until 1863. Said Paşa's son, İsmail Paşa, increased the power of the dynasty until it became semi-independent; in 1867 he was given the title of khedive, which was most readily translated into English as viceroy. The high point of İsmail's period in power came in 1869 with the opening of the Suez Canal, but by then Egypt was virtually bankrupt, and in 1879, he was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Tevfik Paşa. Things in Egypt went from bad to worse and from 1882 onwards the British became its effective rulers despite its continued theoretical subordination to the sultan via the khedive.

In 1892, Tevfik Paşa was succeeded as khedive by his son, Abbas Hilmi Paşa, who traveled to Constantinople to be invested as khedive by Sultan Abdülhamid II. In 1914, he was replaced in office by his uncle, Hüseyin Kamil Paşa, but from then onwards Egypt was completely under the control of the British, the 500-year-old link with Constantinople finally severed.

Dotted about İstanbul there are many reminders of the interlinked history of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire. The full story is told in “From the Shores of the Nile to the Bosphorus,” published by the İstanbul Research Institute.


Sakıp Sabancı Museum (Atlı Köşkü, Prenses İffet Hasan Köşkü)


Visitors to the Sakıp Sabancı Museum at Emirgan will find themselves unwittingly walking around a building that was commissioned by a member of the Kavalalı dynasty in the shape of Prince Mehmed Ali Hasan, who commissioned Italian architect Eduardo de Nari to build a new house on the site of his childhood home in 1925. The prince never got to live in it himself but instead allowed his party-loving aunt, Princess İffet Hasan, to move in. In 1951, the mansion was sold to Ömer Sabancı and was eventually converted into a museum.


Khedive's Villa (Hidiv Kasrı)


If you stand on the terrace of Sakıp Sabancı Museum and gaze across the Bosphorus you will see, rising out of the last remaining stretches of woodland, a tall, square tower. This is attached to the gorgeous Khedive's Villa, built for Abbas Hilmi Paşa in 1907 to replace an earlier palace (now lost) on the shores of the Bosporus at Çubuklu. A magnificent example of Neo-Renaissance-style architecture on the outside and Art Nouveau on the inside, it was designed by an architect whose name is uncertain. The most probable scenario is that Italian architect Delfo Seminati designed the annexes while Italian architect Antonio Lasciac was responsible for the main building.

Now converted into a restaurant in lovely grounds that are at their best during the Tulip Festival in late April, the villa still boasts Art Nouveau tiles in the bathrooms, wonderful marquetry and splendid metalwork.

Egyptian Consulate (Valide Paşa Yalı, Hıdiva Sarayı)


Right beside the Bosporus at Bebek and visible from the Khedive's Villa is a huge mansion that had been built five years earlier for Abbas Hilmi's mother, Emine Hanım. Recently completely restored, it is İstanbul's finest example of Art Nouveau architecture, so it's a shame that its use as a consulate means that few people get to see the interior. You can, however, admire the typically curvaceous windows set into turrets from the road outside. Once again, its buildership is disputed with Raimondo d'Aronco and Antonio Lasciac in the frontline as probable but not certain architects.

Egyptian Apartment Block (Mısır Apartmanı)


Passed daily by thousands of visitors is a 19th-century mansion block on İstiklal Street, Mısır Apartmanı, that houses a super-trendy restaurant called 360, as well as many small art galleries. When Abbas Hilmi Paşa visited Constantinople in the winter, it was to this mansion -- designed in 1910 by Armenian architect Hovsep Aznavuryan -- which he would retreat. After his death it was divided into separate apartments but remained a very popular piece of real estate, home at different times to Mehmet Akif Ersoy, the man behind the Turkish national anthem; Hollywood actress Virginia Bruce, who was married to a Turk; and Atatürk's dentist.

Said Halim Paşa Yalısı (Aslan Yalı)


Beside the Bosporus at Yeniköy stands a fine reconstructed yalı (waterside mansion) designed by Petraki Adamanti in 1878 for Abdülhalim Paşa, a son of Mehmed Ali Paşa. It eventually became home to his own son, Said Halim Paşa (1864-1921), who served as grand vizier from 1913 to 1917 and was therefore partly responsible for the decision to take the Ottoman Empire into World War I on the German side. The yalı now serves as an upscale wedding and entertainments venue.

Emirgan Korusu (Emirgan Woods)


Sultan Abdülaziz had a love-hate relationship with İsmail Paşa, but eventually allowed him to end his exile from Egypt in Emirgan, where he constructed several waterside mansions, all since lost. Instead, we have the khedive to thank for the three pavilions -- Pembe (Pink), Beyaz (White) and Sarı (Yellow) Köşkleri -- that survive as café-restaurants in the woods just inland. All have been extensively restored or rebuilt.


Heybeliada


The most prominent of the Egyptian rulers may have hankered after homes on the shores of the Bosporus (and may also have been responsible for many of the moonlight parties held on the water) but some of them also took a liking to Heybeliada, the second largest of the Princes' Islands. It was here between 1897 and 1899 that Aznavuryan designed the most overtly Egyptian of all the buildings paid for by the Kavalalı dynasty in the shape of Abbas Halim Paşa Köşkleri, a group of three separate structures in Egyptian Revival style that featured pylons modeled on those of Ancient Egypt and lotus-headed capitals. Sadly, the selamlık (area designated for men) was demolished in 1945, leaving only the gateposts adorned with lotuses that face onto Abbas Paşa Street. The wooden haremlik (area designated for women) and servants' quarters still survive in private hands, although they were designed in style that is more prosaic.

In 1911, Abbas Hilmi Paşa also paid for the renovation of the gate leading into the island's Muslim Cemetery. It still stands today, although there is nothing specifically Egyptian about the design.

Zeynep Kamıl Hastanesi (Zeynep Kamıl Hospital)


In Üsküdar, the hospital that still bears the name of the couple who founded it as the city's first private charitable institution is yet another reminder of the Kavalalı dynasty. Zeynep Hanım (1826-84) was a daughter of Mehmed Ali Paşa and married Yusuf Kamıl Paşa, who was briefly grand vizier to Sultan Abdülaziz in 1863. Together they founded the hospital in 1862, although it wasn't completed until 1882; their mausoleum can still be seen in the grounds today.

Also linked to the Kavalalı dynasty: Üsküdar Fenai Ali Efendi Tekke; Yenikapı Mevlevihanesi; Aksaray Oğlanlar Tekke; Beykoz Kasrı; Prenses Rukiye Halim Yalısı, Kanlıça; and the ruins of Büyük Halim Paşa Yalı (Süngerli Köşk), Baltalimanı.

Losses include Abbas Halim Paşa Köşkü at Yakacık, burnt down in 1993; Mustafa Fazıl Paşa Köşkü, demolished in 1942; Zeynep Kamıl Konağı, Beyazıt, burnt down in 1942; Prenses İffet Hasan Konaği, Gümüşsuyu, demolished after 1944; Büyük Halim Paşa Yalı (Zeynep Kamil Hanım Yalı), demolished in 1928; Hıdiv İsmail Paşa Yalı, Emirgan, demolished in 1927; and İbrahim Paşa Yalı, Emirgan, demolished.
Keywords: Egypt , Istanbul
 
Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/travel_seeking-egypt-in-istanbul-a-forgotten-heritage_366144.html 

Monday, August 3, 2015

How the Germans left their mark on İstanbul

How the Germans left their mark on İstanbul

How the Germans left their mark on İstanbul
(Photo: Today's Zaman, Mühenna Kahveci)

Strolling through the Hippodrome (Atmeydanı) in Sultanahmet visitors usually pass a large circular fountain near the tomb of Sultan Ahmed I. It's not an especially beautiful structure -- nothing in comparison with the gorgeous Ahmed III Fountain that stands in front of the entrance to Topkapı Palace, for example. Still, its design is something of a novelty for the city and behind it lies a story of Ottoman-Turkish friendship that laid the foundations for the path that eventually led Turkey to enter World War I on the side of the Germans.

If you gaze up at the fountain's ceiling you will see a pair of monograms set into a mosaic of golden tesserae designed to evoke the grandeur of the lost Byzantine past. One is that of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the paranoid monarch who reigned over the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909, the other that of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the ruler of Germany from 1888 to 1918 who made two state visits to Istanbul, then still Constantinople, in 1889 and 1898. Designed by Prussian architect Max Spitta, the Alman Çeşmesi (German Fountain) was paid for by the Germans to commemorate the second of these visits. The emperor himself is believed to have designed it.

Alman Çesmesi, Hippodrome (Photo: Pat Yale)

Details of on Alman Çesmesi (Photo: Pat Yale)

At the time of his first visit Wilhelm had only been the German ruler for a year. However, his visit was part of what had become a gentle push by Germany to replace itself as the Ottoman Empire's number one ally in place of Britain. Already that effort had shown itself in the arrival in Constantinople of General von der Goltz, who was tasked with modernizing the Ottoman army. It had also shown itself in the German enthusiasm for building a new railway that was intended to stretch all the way from Berlin to Baghdad. But it was the visits of Kaiser Wilhelm that left the strongest mark on the city's architecture, not least because the sultan had part of the Yıldız Palace completely remodeled to house his important guest.

Aside from the fountain, these are some of the buildings still to be seen in İstanbul that serve a reminder of the ties between Turkey and Germany. A painting by court artist Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929) showing the kaiser and his wife, Augusta Victoria, arriving by caique at Dolmabahçe Palace can also be seen inside it.

Yıldız Palace


The least known of İstanbul's many Ottoman stately homes, Yıldız Palace lurks at the back of a large park overlooking the Bosporus and owes its entire existence to Sultan Abdülhamid II who lived in fear of assassination. This fear led him to create a new palace made up of many different buildings that today are almost impossible to visit on a single trip because of the way in which they were separated from each other to make it harder for an assailant to get around.

Most people settle for a visit to the so-called Şale (Chalet) that can be accessed directly from the park. A long, graceful, two-storied structure with frilly wooden decoration running round the gables, the chalet was designed in the 1870s to serve as a guesthouse separated from the sultan's own living area by a high wall. When it became apparent that the kaiser would make a state visit it was given a speedy upgrade by Sarkis Balyan, a task repeated by Raimondo d'Aronco when he returned for his second visit in 1898.

Visitors to the chalet get to see the huge reception room as well as the dining room in which the kaiser dined from golden plates and quaffed wine from gem-encrusted goblets. It's all decorated in the rather overblown baroque style then in vogue as the sultans tried to westernize the empire but it's hard not to be impressed by the largest Hereke carpet ever woven which adorns the reception room.

Haydarpaşa Station


Probably the best known of all İstanbul's German monuments is Haydarpaşa Station, which can be admired by anyone who takes the ferry across the Bosphorus from Eminönü or Karaköy to Kadıköy. Built in 1906 to a design drawn up by the German architects Otto Ritter and Helmut Cuno, it's a little piece of Germany dropped from northern Europe on the doorstep of Asia where it served until recently as the first point in every railway journey east into the heart of Anatolia and beyond.

The station stands as an everyday memorial to the monumental effort involved in building a railway line all the way from Berlin to Baghdad, a task officially commenced in 1903 but not completed until 1940. The story of that railway line is one of complex diplomatic and financial sparring in which the oil reserves of Mesopotamia feature prominently. It's also a story in which a German engineering genius named Wilhelm von Pressel (1821-1902) played a leading role. In that sense it's a particular shame that the upgrading of Turkey's railway infrastructure via the Marmaray and the new high-speed train network looks likely to render Haydarpaşa Station redundant.

Originally built on reclaimed land so that it is surrounded by water on three sides, it will probably reemerge as a luxury hotel (if not a shopping mall) although one must hope that a small museum detailing the story of the railway might be shoehorned into the plans. Failing that, Sean McMeekin's book, “The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid For World Power, 1898-1918,” tells the full story.

Deutsche Bank


In the back streets of Sirkeci the austere building that once housed the Deutsche Bank (formally the Basmadcıyan Han) was designed in 1890 by Prussian architect August Jasmund, the man behind Sirkeci Station. It was the Deutsche Bank that provided much of the initial funding for the Berlin to Baghdad railway. For the time being the building stands empty but a new use for it cannot be far away.

The building in Sirkeci was originally a sub-branch of the bank, the main branch being in what is now the Sümerbank building on Karaköy's Voyvoda Caddesi, colloquially known as Bankalar Caddesi (Bank Street) because it was home to so many banks. This building, erected in the 1880s, was also home to the company that operated the Anatolia Railway, another project part-funded by the bank

German Consulate


Visitors ambling down Gümüssuyu Caddesi from Taksim Square will see on the right-hand side of the road the impressively large building, erected between 1874 and 1877, that houses the German Consulate. During his visits the kaiser is known to have visited what was then the German Embassy. Today it's usually conspicuous mainly for the queues of eager visa-seekers standing in line beside the side entrance.

German Embassy summer residence


In the days before Mustafa Kemal Atatürk moved the Turkish capital to Ankara and the İstanbul embassies were all downgraded to consulates many of the wealthier nations also maintained summer embassies on the upper reaches of the Bosporus to which their staff could retreat in the sweltering summer months. The German summer residence occupied a house in Tarabya with a large garden that had been given to the kaiser by Sultan Abdülhamid II as a thank-you for his help in reforming the Ottoman navy. In the grounds a memorial commemorates earlier help given by Marshall Helmuth von Moltke to Sultan Mahmud II when he was trying to remodel the army. An imposing whitewashed yalı with a small turret, the building still survives today although it's not open to the public.

Teutonia German Club


Another monument with a colorful German history behind it is No. 65 Galipdede Caddesi, just downhill from Tünel. Originally built in 1847 to serve as a clubhouse for Germans and rebuilt in 1897, it went on to become a center for the dissemination of Nazi propaganda before World War II.

Kaiser Wilhelm's guesthouse, Hereke


As if it wasn't enough to have lavished money on upgrading the Yıldız Palace guesthouse for the kaiser, in 1898 Sultan Abdülhamid also had a pretty little pavilion purpose-built for him on the Sea of Marmara near the factory that produced the famous Hereke silk carpets. The kaiser had taken a particular interest in these carpets, bringing with him from Germany new color-fast dyes that could be used to improve them as well as a microscope that made it possible for the weavers to keep an eye out for parasites.

Newly restored, the guesthouse, now called Çivisiz Köskü to commemorate the fact that it was originally built without the use of nails, is once again open to visitors as is the nearby factory.
Keywords: Germans , Istanbul

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