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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x ON THE SHORE OF LAKE, SEA AND HISTORY By Sami Boyaci No pleasure can compare with that of entering a city for the first time, particularly when you have
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2003

      By Sami Boyaci

      No pleasure can compare with that of entering a city for the first
      time, particularly when you have heard much told about it; or leaving
      a city behind on a journey to new places. For travellers from the
      Balkans and the distant countries of Europe making their way to
      Istanbul for the first time, the last stop before entering the city
      was Buyukcekmece. This lake, separated from the Marmara Sea only by a
      narrow strip of land, was also the first stop of travellers and
      Ottoman armies heading westwards. Here the great 16th century Ottoman
      architect Mimar Sinan built the Buyukcekmece mosque complex, which
      reflects his genius in its full splendour.

      According to the 17th-century traveller Evliya Celebi, Buyukcekmece
      was part of the judicial district of Eyup on the Golden Horn. In
      Byzantine times the town was known as Atira or Atirus, and served as a
      halting place for travellers and armies, as it continued to do in
      Ottoman times. Evliya Celebi writes that the lake was famous for
      plaice and eels, which were caught in the famous net fishery here.

      Prior to the Zigetvar campaign of 1566 Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent
      commissioned Mimar Sinan to build a complex consisting of mosque,
      prayer terrace, kervansaray, water fountain, and the beautiful arched
      bridge spanning the neck of the lake, but did not live to see the work
      completed. The bridge consists of four separate sections with a total
      of 28 arches, and is 635 metres long in all. Hundreds of builders and
      stonemasons were employed on this ambitious project, whose position
      between sea and lake caused considerable difficulties according to
      contemporary chronicle writers. Huge pumps were used to remove the
      water in the process of inserting the gigantic piles for the bridg'si
      foundations. Molten lead was then poured into the spaces between the
      piles, each of which was over five metres in height. This technique,
      used for the first time by Mimar Sinan, has enabled the bridge to
      survive as strong as ever to the present day.

      One of the most interesting features of the bridge are the jutting
      bays supported by consoles, and marked with inscription panels. One is
      carved with four couplets composed by the poet Hudai and designed by
      the celebrated calligrapher Dervi$ Mehmet, and another bears Sinan's
      signature. Here travellers could halt to rest on the long bridge, or
      converse with friends and acquaintances whom they met.At the eastern
      end of the bridge stands the kervansaray, built of stone and brick,
      and originally having a leaded roof, for which reason it was known as
      Kur$unlu Han or Lead Khan. After it fell into disuse as accommodation
      for travellers the building was used for some years as a storage depot
      for sunflower seed oil. The kervansaray was restored in 1988, and is
      now used as a cultural centre. One of the most fascinating features of
      the building illustrates Mimar Sinan's brilliant as an inventive
      engineer as well as architect. The chimney flues from the 21
      fireplaces in the building lead to the piers of the bridge, and the
      hot air is thought to have prevented the surface of the bridge from
      icing over in cold weather.

      Istanbul has grown over the centuries, and today Buyukcekmece lies on
      its outskirts. With its cultural park encompassing the historic
      buildings of the town, and its beautiful views of sea and lake,
      Buyukcekmece is a perfect place for a day out or weekend break. After
      visiting the beautiful triple panelled stone Fountain of Sultan
      Suleyman and listening to the echoes of past travellers in the
      kervansaray, you can enjoy lunch in one of the lakeside restaurants.

      Then as the sun begins to set, you can walk along the bridge to one of
      the balconies and watch its reddening reflections on the lake and the

      * Sami Boyaci is a freelance writer
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