Saturday, October 4, 2008


Housing, and understanding housing, was such a challenge in Turkey. What we didn't see in Turkey was what in the middle east appeared to be "half-finished" housing (building with rebar sticking out of the top, awaiting another story), which of course is simply a house in waiting for the younger generation to need housing so another story can be added for mom and dad to move upwards and the younger generation to move to the main floor. But especially in the villages, we found intact houses but that mostly appeared to be in a serious state of disrepair. And as a note of clarification, Turkey is considered to be in the Near East, not the Middle East.

Turkey's housing held a real charm to me, and it was hard to make any kind of judgment as to whether any one house was good or bad. We tried our best while living in Turkey to see things simply as "different than" in the US, rather than better or worse. And we just were in no position whatsoever to determine by sight whether people, whether peasants or not, were rich or poor.

So I just kept photographing various houses and enjoying the style, the color, the inventiveness, and the "differentness." The photo below was taken in an area of Turkey just a bit inland from the Aegean Sea. I loved the application of color and thought probably a happy bunch of people lived in this little enclave. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could splash a little bit of color around in our lives and not be thought of as weird?

The central plain of Turkey around Eskisehir (meaning Old City) is dry and full of archeological treasures. It is the area of King Midas. If you like clean lines and very defined colors, you'll like this area a lot. We were lucky to have an American couple as a guide in this area. Mack and Jean worked for the US Government and lived on a military base. They took us to a town called Kumbetkoy where I was able to take some exquisite photographs of old and new things, which I'll share later. But for housing, we came upon this most interesting arrangement -- houses on a small hill with the "mangers" build underneath the houses. There of course was no smog in the area, and my poor camera hardly knew what to do with the intensity of the sky.

One of the most amazing things we saw in Turkey was the use of ancient pieces of decoration incorporated into present day buildings. There is no such thing as a "tract" home in Turkey so whatever is at hand gets utilized some way in the building of homes. At first our inclination was to be horrified that such things as we would consider of "archeological value" would be used in this way, but the practice is so ubiquitous that it doesn't take long to start visually taking for granted that the lovely-designed old Greek or Roman decoration will be recycled one way or another.

The strangest thing I found being used in this manner was discovering a tombstone of an old American missionary who had died in Bitlis (in eastern Turkey) in 1875 being incorporated into the wall of a stall in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. As it happened, I was researching for a book on Americans buried in Istanbul and in spite of this fellows tombstone indicated he died elsewhere, I put him into my book so he wouldn't be lost forever. (A good genealogist doesn't miss a trick!)

The final photo for this entry is probably my favorite. It was taken in a town called Sile outside of Konya in the central part of Turkey. I would have given my eye-teeth to have peeked inside this house, which was built against the other side of that wall. Although hard to see, there is a #3 sign at the top of the door. The occupants obviously wanted to make sure both visitors and mail found the way to the right place. Who would have thought of having a wall for the front of your house!

Near Konya is Catal Hoyuk, which is thought to be the oldest known human community, dating from 7500 BC. The Hittites called Konya "Kuwanna"; the Phrygians, "Kowania"; the Romans, "Iconium" and the Turks simplified it to "Konya."

Sile, not Konya, turned out to be one of our favorite places. Konya is a city; Sile is a village in a stark area. At least it was stark when we were there in the winter (you can see a little snow on the ground) but that area in the center of Turkey is actually the breadbasket of the nation. Workers are mostly connected with agriculture, not industry, and visually it is much, much different from any other area.

As you can tell, we were enriched by our time in Turkey and will have more to share with you periodically in this blog.

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