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x0x Discovering the wonders of Birgi

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  • Turkish Radio San Francisco
    [See http://www.turkishodyssey.com/gallery/images/s0157.jpg for a photograph of a Birgi house on the net.] x0x Discovering the wonders of Birgi * By Faruk
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2001
      [See http://www.turkishodyssey.com/gallery/images/s0157.jpg for a photograph of a Birgi house on the net.]

      x0x Discovering the wonders of Birgi

      * By Faruk Üründül

      Once you have made the acquaintance of provincial Turkey, you
      will be hooked. You will fall asleep dreaming of Asia Minors hidden
      valleys, and awaken to their call. Birgi is one such little known
      delight - a quiet and dignified small town at the foot of Bozdað in
      western Turkey. Heir to a long series of ancient civilisations which
      passed through this region - Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Macedonians
      and Romans - Birgi was capital to the Turkish Aydýnoðullarý
      principality between 1307 and 1348, and continued to be a cultural
      centre under the Ottomans in the 15th and 16th centuries. Birgis most
      celebrated historical buildings are Ulucami mosque and Çakýraða Konak,
      an 18th century mansion.

      Ulucami made the headlines when its wooden
      minber - pulpit - doors were stolen in 1993 and later successfully
      retrieved after being smuggled to Britain. The mosque was built in
      1312 by the Aydýnoðlu ruler Mehmet Bey. The east and south walls are
      made of marble, and at the southeast corner is a Byzantine lion. The
      mosque is square with five bays, and has a glazed brick minaret. The
      portico with eight columns and a wooden ceiling is a later addition.

      Aydýnoðlu Mehmet Bey and his sons Bahadýr and Gazi Umur are buried in
      the tomb adjoining the mosque.

      The grave simplicity of Seljuk and
      classical Ottoman architecture is striking when you enter the mosque.
      This is offset by the vigorous and colourful Seljuk style tiling of
      the mihrab or altar niche, whose star-shaped and interlocking tiles
      have a pattern of scrolling tendrils in turquoise and purple. From
      here your eye shifts to the exquisitely worked shutters on either side
      of the windows.

      Seljuk style decoration combined with the natural
      beauty of the walnut wood creates aesthetic exchantment, above all in
      the minber. The minber door is decorated in the kündekâri technique,
      in which intersecting geometrical patterns are formed by pieces of
      wood joined by tongue and groove pointing. Altogether three thousand
      pieces of wood have been used in this kündekâri door, on which there
      are two inscriptions reading, He who attempts to win the world by
      using the next as an instrument shall gain no blessing, and There is
      no place in the next world for those who bring segregation and
      discord. A craftsman named Muzafferüddin son of Abdülvahit of Maghreb
      took eight years to make the door, and these eight years of labour
      combined with a cultural legacy of many centuries resulted in a
      timeless work of art.

      West of the mosque is another surprise: Çakýraða
      Konak. The konak - mansion - was built between 1761 and 1764 by a
      wealthy local merchant named Tahir Aða of the Çakýr family (although
      some sources give the builder as Mehmet Aða or Þerif Ali Aða). On the
      ground floor is a waiting room for guests, a kitchen, stable, and
      flagged hall. The winter living rooms on the second floor contain
      fireplaces and fitted bathing closets. The walls and ceilings of the
      rooms on the first and second floors are decorated with superb
      woodwork and painted decoration on plaster known as kalem iþi. Çakýr
      Tahir Aða had two wives, one from Istanbul and one from Ýzmir, and
      because they missed their home cities he had scenes of these cities
      painted on the walls of two of the rooms. To protect the pictures
      taking photographs using flashlight is prohibited, so you must engrave
      the images on your mind as you look around the mansion.

      Birgi was
      declared a conservation area in 1989. Other interesting buildings in
      the town include the medrese - Islamic college - of Ýmam Birgivi, the
      Sultanþah Tomb, and Þefik Bey Yaðhanesi, a plant for the extraction of
      olive oil.

      If you visit Birgi on a Monday do not miss the weekly
      market, where you will encounter the same exuberant flowers as adorn
      the walls of Çakýraða Konak and other old houses in the town, in the
      colourful embroideries made by local women. Birgi lies off the beaten
      track, east of the main route down the Aegean coast from Ýzmir to
      Bodrum and Marmaris. But it is well worth making the detour to
      discover this small towns delightfully unspoilt atmosphere steeped in

      * Faruk Üründül is a researcher and writer.
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