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x0x Turkish delights welcome travellers

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  • Turkish Culture List
    x0x Turkish delights welcome travellers Three Istanbul hotels lovingly preserve their Ottoman past BY LYNN LEVINE, OTTAWA CITIZEN As the latest destination
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 22, 2011
      x0x Turkish delights welcome travellers

      Three Istanbul hotels lovingly preserve their Ottoman past


      As the latest destination among trendsetters and globetrotters, Istanbul
      has, in the past few years, exponentially increased the number of boutique
      and designer hotels stocked with state-of-the art amenities, modern decor
      and spa facilities. It seems that everywhere you look, MP3 docking
      stations and flatscreen TVs abound.

      But what if you're looking for a taste of the authentic?

      Sadly, up until a few decades ago, taking the scorched-earth approach was
      a property owner's answer to the idea of historic preservation. But now
      the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and visitors to the city
      that hosted three great empires can eschew modern minimalism and opt
      instead for Old World elegance.

      One might say that the trend toward saving, rather than razing, Istanbul's
      extraordinary treasures began with one visionary man: elik Gulersoy, who
      in 1966 took the helm of the Turkish Touring and Automobile Club (TTOK),
      Turkey's answer to the CAA.

      The project that had the most impact on how Turks felt about their
      architectural heritage was arguably the Yesil Ev, or Green House hotel,
      which, when purchased by the TTOK in 1977, was one of hundreds of
      crumbling Ottoman mansions in the city's historical bull's-eye - and
      utterly derelict - neighbourhood of Sultanahmet. In its original
      incarnation, the Yesil Ev served as the home of the Ottoman minister of
      monopolies, a stately example of the marriage between European (mostly
      French) influences and traditional Ottoman features such as cumba (bay
      extensions or cantilevered overhangs) that were both decorative and

      In a traditional Turkish house, all of the embellishment was focused
      inside the home, while the exterior remained bland, protecting the family
      from prying eyes. In place of the traditional, multipurpose oda (Turkish
      for "room"), where pillows and cushions provided seating by day and
      mattresses welcomed the weary at night, these "modern" Ottoman mansions
      had bedrooms - and actual beds.

      Under Gulersoy's leadership, the mansion was reconstructed, clapboard by
      clapboard, into an exact replica. Inside you will find ornamental
      brocades, decorative wallpaper, handmade carpets and - in the Pasha Suite
      - gilded bedsteads and a marble hamam (Turkish steam bath). The building's
      crowning feature, however, is the expansive garden courtyard, lushly
      arranged around a glass-enclosed winter garden and a fountain carved of
      pink porphyry (a type of Egyptian rock).

      To be fair, later preservationists, as well as UNESCO, heavily criticized
      the rebuilding, rather than the restoration, of these timber buildings.
      But Gulersoy's vision set the ball in motion for a more sensitive
      treatment of structures in disrepair. Prior to the Yesil Ev, concrete
      blocks were the primary replacement mechanism for urban ruins.

      As part of the Yesil Ev revival, the adjacent Cedid Mehmet Efendi Medrese
      was also restored, now housing the Istanbul Handicrafts Centre, where
      artists and craftsmen are supported in their quest to practise and
      showcase previously dying Ottoman crafts such as miniature painting, ebru
      (paper marbling), glass-blowing, book-binding and lacework.

      TTOK's investment in the Yesil Ev paid off, so much so that the company
      staged an encore the following year along the cobbled and picturesque
      Sogukesme Sokak street. Sandwiched between the outer courtyard wall of
      Topkapi Palace and the backside of the Hagia Sophia, Sogukesme Sokak
      remained free of buildings for at least a century or two after the
      conquest of the city.

      Read the rest at:

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