10 Aralık 2013 Salı

The Bosphorus and mansions

“Istanbul is more interesting than anywhere else I have been to. Istanbul still preserves its nature. I have been to many cities. Their nature, bays, and liveliness are wonderful.  However, they do not have anything more than that. You would get bored if you stayed there 15 days. They  do not have the historical variety and cosmopolitan structure Istanbul has."

The pearl of Istanbul, full of historical and cultural heritages, greets us in a coy and gracious manner with its sea beauty waterside mansions that have witnessed a great deal of the city’s historical background.
Encircling the Anatolian and the European sides from the shore, hiding inside all the motions of the sea, the Bosphorus waterside mansions convey the secrets of the Bosphorus and Istanbul to the future by resisting both to the rush of history and the change of nature. Throughout the history, the waterside mansions felt the power of the sea in every bit of their structure, and experienced all the debauchery of the Ottomans and had been the popular shelters of entertainments with mandolins under the moonlight.
In Lebi-i Derya, we listened to the Bosphorus and the waterside mansions, the calm structures of the shores, from Murat Belge, a historicist, a journalist and an author in an Istanbul afternoon. Murat Belge is the Head of the Department of Comparative Literature in Istanbul Bilgi University. He has experienced the most beautiful times of this city and collected his memories by uniting his knowledge with his profound interest in life of Istanbul since his youth…

His professional relationship with Istanbul began 20 years ago with the the Golden Horn tours. In last 10 years, he has been organizing these tours for visitors to tell the Bosphorus and the waterside mansions. He is also the writer of Istanbul Gezi Rehberi (İstanbul Tour Guide), which is an important source. Belge says “Istanbul, is very strong and rich. It can protect the sensitivity and sentimentality of the ties established on its own” and he continues to narrate…

What can you say when you compare the old and new silhouette of the Bosphorus?
In my youth, there were few buildings, many trees in the Anatolian side. It was greener. On the other hand, the European side has gone into a great change since 1950s. Besides, once there had been the older times of Istanbul; older than my lifespan… We can only see them from pictures in the books. There was less trees in Istanbul, then.  My generation is so lucky, as we saw the most beautiful times of Bosphorus in every aspect. I know that there is nowhere like the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is still green and has a distinct aesthetic. It has a splendid unique beauty that does not wear out, inherited from the past.

“In terms of fishery, the Bosphorus is rather significant. Since earlier times, fishery has gained a distinct meaning here. The shores of the Bosphorus do not resemble to the other shores and so do its fish…”

What is the contribution of the Bosphorus to the culture of Istanbul?
In fact, the history of the Bosphorus is very short in Istanbul. The Bosphorus has been integrated to the culture of Istanbul beginning from the 18th century and arriving to present day since the second half of the 19th century. Surely, there had been villages in the Bosphorus. In these villages, people did farming and grew fruits and vegetables. The main profession performed in the Bosphorus was fishery. Particularly, in terms of fishing, the Bosphorus had a distinct place. Since earlier times, fishery has gained a distinct meaning here. The shores of Istanbul do not resemble to the other shores and so do its fish...

In those times there had been settlements in the districts like Beylerbeyi where the water flow was less. This situation changed in accordance with some great social events in the 18th century during the “Tulip Era”. With Ahmet III’s period, the first printing house was established in the “Tulip Era” and reforms began. The lands in the Bosphorus were distributed among the noble people in the society. It had also become the favorite of the sultan. In Çırağan Palace, the famous entertainments with torches and tortoises had been organized. These entertainments increased gradually and the Ottoman high society began to reside there.
In 1850s, steamship began to work and in a very short period of time, the concepts regarding the Bosphorus began to emerge. Whereas there had not been any concept as a summer house or summer place, these places became fashionable from then on. After the second half of the 19th century, the rapid construction of waterside mansions in the shores began. First, the palace was moved to the Bosphorus. Later, the barracks came. Accordingly, the history of the Bosphorus and Beyoğlu began to develop in parallel. From then on, people having houses in Beyoğlu also had waterside mansions in the Bosphorus.

Do the waterside mansions reflect the architectural characteristics of their periods or does each of them have its original style?
Both are possible. There were special structures named the Ottoman houses specific to their times. The Ottoman houses were called “karnıyarık ev” (belly-cloven house). In such houses, there are sofas in the middle of the house. There are opening doors from the four corners of that sofa. When you go upstairs, the floor of the building extends over the basement and its floor expands more. This floor was supported from downstairs. They are called “her hand on her heart.” These rooms are not for the usual functional division of labor in a house. In other words, there are not any concepts like parents room or guests chambers. When you wake up in the morning, you gather your mattress and it becomes a living room; you eat your breakfast, it becomes a dining room. In traditional Ottoman architecture, there are no balconies because there was no need for them as they already have enormous yards. Another characteristic of the waterside mansions is that additional buildings can be attached to them. In later periods, waterside mansions with balconies appeared. Particularly in the summer season, all of the family members came to the waterside mansions because it was a matter of pleasure. Unforgettable entertainments were organized throughout the summers.

What is your favorite waterside mansion  in terms of its history and architecture?
In general I like classical waterside mansions most. In my opinion, there is nothing like Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha waterside mansion.

For a beautiful Bosphorus tour, what would you recommend?
It depends on what kind of a tour you have in mind. If you prefer to walk about in the Bosphorus in one day, you may choose a route from Ortakoy to Hisar. Or, if you prefer to focus on a specific region, you may choose to walk about in Ortaköy and Kuruceşme.

“Istanbul has always been the number one city in Turkey because its geography matters. This geography has a determinant characteristic which is not in vain.”

What would you say about Istanbul’s multicultural life?  
In the old Istanbul, there was a multicultural life which created a common life style. When the Greeks invented something, both the Turks and the Armenians were also using it. We are still living together although it is not so distinct today.

“Istanbul is a city of many channels where the communication is the clearest with the rest of the world. Here, you can find the most refined values. For instance, you find the best Kayseri pastrami. You can expand to the world from here. All these beauties create a sense of being a resident of Istanbul.”

“Istanbul has its own style”
In 1974, we rented a waterside mansion in Çengelköy. Yılmaz Güney, a Turkish director, came to visit us. We had dinner against the sea and had a great time together.  Yılmaz Guney said, “Living here, watching, and admiring the scenery require a distinct consciousness even if you are not educated.” In other words, Istanbul has its own style.

What about the daily life in the waterside mansions today?

Nowadays, the waterside mansions are being used as summer houses and for rent. First, it is hard to stay at the waterside mansions in winter due to the harsh climate in the shores. Few people live in the waterside mansions in winters. In summers, they are rented. Renting ends on the Republican Day. The owners of the waterside mansions are not rich people in general. 

Where do you like most in the Bosphorus?
In fact there is not any specific spot to be my favorite but I like the Anatolian side more. There, I prefer Beylerbeyi, Kuzguncuk and Çengelköy.

How do you see Istanbul when you are abroad? Do you miss it?

Actually, I have not spent too much time abroad to miss Istanbul. I suppose when I feel like “I would not be able to return”, I tend to miss. Istanbul is more interesting than anywhere else I have been to. It is hard to find it’s akin. It still protects its nature.
I have been to many cities. Their nature, bays, and liveliness are wonderful. However, they do not have anything more than that. You would get bored if you stayed there 15 days. They do not have the historical variety and cosmopolitan structure Istanbul has.

Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha Waterside Mansion  
The most striking waterside mansion still standing today in the Bosphorus is the Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha waterside mansion located between Anadoluhisarı and Kanlıca.  As Hüseyin Pasha was a member of the Köprülü family, the mansion was also called as “Köprülü Mansion.”

 The oldness of the building is one of the important factors which determine its worth. In this respect, Amcazade waterside mansion is recognized as the oldest private building not only in the Bosphorus but also in the rest of Istanbul. Rather, it is the oldest waterside mansion.

Presumably, it was built in 1699 during Pasha’s grand vizier period. Without suspicion, it is an old date, particularly for a waterside mansion. But, being “old” alone is not a sufficient criterion. Without any other remarkable characteristic, such an old building would only draw the attention of the specialists. Amcazade Waterside mansion is not only old, but also a magnificent building.

The waterside mansions are hanging down into the sea for a dream
The houses are looking at us, looking at the sea.
What days they were, what days they were
Under the stars, the moonlight and the pine trees
What days they were, what days they were
All gone away!”

Özdemir Asaf
In Istanbul

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