9 Aralık 2013 Pazartesi

Hidden Beauty of Istanbul “Rumeli Kavağı - Rumeli Lantern Village”


A fishing village at the north end of the Bosporus

It seems the lighthouse the neighborhood of Rumeli Feneri was named after has grown old. Its white paint cracking and falling away, this old-timer on the European shore of the Bosporus was built almost 160 years ago.

If you want to listen to the waves, go for a walk and eat fish while enjoying beautiful scenery, head north from Sarıyer until you reach the place where the Bosporus meets the Black Sea, where a lovely fishing village to the north of İstanbul will welcome you

The Rumelian lighthouse stands nobly on the north edge of the Bosporus, the gate to the Black Sea, welcoming ships as they enter the strait and seeing off those that are departing. Just across from it is Anadolu Feneri (Anatolian lighthouse), which towers over the Asian side of the Bosporus. The two mark the boundary between the Bosporus and the Black Sea.

Rumeli Feneri was built in 1855 during the Crimean War to monitor the entrance to the Black Sea and allow English and French ships to easily enter the Bosporus. It and Anadolu Feneri came into use the year after they were built.

One common tale about Rumeli Feneri is that it collapsed a few times during its construction, and claims that a tomb underneath it had crumbled spread among the people. The story goes that the tomb under the tower was that of Sarı Saltuk Baba, who played an important role in conquests across Anatolia and Europe. Afterwards, the French rebuilt the tomb of Sarı Saltuk Baba in order to appease the public and then built the lighthouse on top of it. Turks took full control of the lighthouse in 1933.

The Rumelian lighthouse is 58 meters above sea level and 30 meters tall. In the early years, petroleum was used to light it, but today it uses electricity and its white light can be seen from as far away as 18 nautical miles.

If you need to rest

Just next to the old lighthouse is a fishing village, also named Rumeli Feneri. This is the northernmost point of İstanbul, beyond which lies the Black Sea.

There is only one road to the village, where the construction of tall buildings has been banned in order to preserve the feel of the area. This place, almost completely outside the city, is simple, quiet and peaceful. It welcomes anyone who longs for the scent of the sea, the waves and the taste of fresh fish. The villagers here are very accustomed to seeing visitors and showing them the hospitality of Black Sea fishermen. You will hear their friendly greetings as you walk down the short slope on the way to the harbor.

The village of Rumeli Feneri is colorful and vibrant. The harmony of the fishing boats floating together off the shore draws you to the harbor, where seagulls and great cormorants swimming before you will take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is ideal that you visit this village with your family and taste all kinds of fresh fish.

‘Fish have nowhere to run’

Leave the lighthouse and walk towards the shore. Since the economy of the village is based on fishing, you will encounter fishermen in every corner and every harbor, where you may see a group of neighbors and relatives gathered to repair a fishnet. Most of them were apprentices of fishermen when they were kids, which is how they started this job.

For instance, 64-year-old İhsan Kıran is one of them. He has been fishing here for 55 years. “Fishing season starts on Sep. 1 and ends on April 15. So we have four months until the season starts up again. We spend this time repairing the fishing nets,” says Kıran. Another fisherman, 71-year-old İbrahim Edik says fishing is not going well. Although being a fisherman may look very appealing to an outsider, Edik notes that the sea cannot keep up with the demand for fish, as advanced fishing equipment makes catching fish much easier and faster.

When Kıran starts talking, you cannot help but smile. "Technology has advanced. Someone here pops on a gadget and gets a view of the fish at Kumkapı [the site of wholesale fish markets in İstanbul]. These poor fish have nowhere to run," he says.

As for the women in the village, they also work hard. The captain tells them whenever a fishnet tears and they gather to repair it. Arzu Aksakal, who has two daughters, is one of them. By helping out with the fishing net, she has been providing for her family for 30 years. Another is Nimet Demir, who has been repairing nets for 25 years. She says because fishermen have no days off, she must come to the shore to work even on weekends.

Enjoy your fish and the scenery

Come to the Mendirek Fish Restaurant to satisfy the hunger you worked up while wandering through the village. Two brothers from Ardahan province -- Süleyman and Alican Arslan -- and their cousins and sons have been running this place for two years. It has been 40 years since they came settled in this village.

The Mendirek Fish Restaurant, where you can keep warm and cozy next to the heater and enjoy your food in front of the fireplace on cold winter days, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. All kinds of seasonal fish are available here, while there are four fixed menus you may choose from. Don't be surprised if one of the owners of the restaurant approaches and offers to remove the bones from your fish, as there is incredible customer service here. Although Mendirek is a fish restaurant, many customers enjoy breakfast with butter from Kars, honey from Erzincan and many other foods, all at affordable prices.

A tomb and a spring

Famed Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi mentioned a lighthouse on the Rumelian shore in his book “Seyahatname” (Book of Travels). We understand that a lighthouse has always been here and the tomb underneath it is said to belong to a man named Sarı Saltuk Baba. A modest tomb had already existed here at the end of the 1700s before Rumeli Feneri was built. We should note that you may also come across other tombs of Sarı Saltuk Baba in various places around Turkey. They, like the one at Rumeli Feneri, are open to visitors. The congregation that regularly goes to a nearby mosque in the morning visits the tomb and prays together after the dawn prayer. Until recently, fishermen also dropped by before they went fishing; however, this is no longer a ritual. Below the lighthouse just by the side of the road is a spring. Bring an empty bottle to fill with the spring water.     

By Zaman Time 

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