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WHERE TIME STANDS STILL: THE HOUSES OF ODUNPAZARI
2002 / FEBRUARY

The city of Eskisehir has a history going back thousands of years, and has been home to many civilizations, including the Hittites, Phrygians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans. So this is not only a geographical crossroads but a cultural melting pot. The old quarter of the city known as Odunpazari, and to locals as Yukari Mahalle or Hatap Pazari, is one of the districts where the Turks first settled after they began their conquest of the region in 1074. Legend relates that the first settlers chose the healthiest and airiest area to build their homes by hanging up shee'sg lungs in three places: Sarhöyük (the ancient Dorylaeion), Köprübasi, the site of thermal springs on the edge of the Porsuk River (the ancient Tembris), and Odunpazari on the hillside south of the city where there is thought to have been an earlier settlement in Roman and Byzantine times.

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WHERE TIME STANDS STILL: THE HOUSES OF ODUNPAZARI
2002 / FEBRUARY

While the lungs in the first two areas quickly spoilt, that in Odunpazari remained fresh for days, and the choice was made.
Odunpazari consists of several neighbourhoods, of which Eskisehir had 17 in all when the 17th-century Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi visited the city. This was where the Turkish and other Moslem inhabitants lived in past centuries. The name Odunpazari means Timber Market, since wood cut in nearby forests was brought here for sale by local villagers. In late Ottoman times the Regie Administration set up by creditor nations took delivery of logs in this market for export abroad in repayment for Turkey's debts.
Today the district is still characterised by many traditional Turkish houses lining the narrow winding streets. The houses are timber-framed with the spaces between the timbers filled with adobe or brick, and some still have their original lattices and bay windows.

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WHERE TIME STANDS STILL: THE HOUSES OF ODUNPAZARI
2002 / FEBRUARY
The rooms of the mainly two-storey houses are arranged around central spaces known as sofa according to the traditional plan, and each house is designed in conformity to its particular position on the street.
Time seems to have stood still in Odunpazari, with its tiny picturesque squares, roads leading to the mosque of each neighbourhood, and street fountains which are still in use. In fine weather women sit outside their front doors chatting as they knit or embroider, while the men spend their free time playing backgammon in the coffee houses. In the squares are bakeries and street vendors selling simit (bread rings sprinkled with sesame seeds) and poppy seed buns, and in tiny shops on the side streets craftsmen carve objects from meerschaum, which is extensively mined in the province.
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WHERE TIME STANDS STILL: THE HOUSES OF ODUNPAZARI
2002 / FEBRUARY

Among the numerous mosques in the districts the most notable is Kursunlu Mosque with its sadirvan (fountain for ablutions) in the courtyard, and complex consisting of a posting house where travellers hired horses in the past, a public kitchen and kervansaray, rooms for medrese students and a Mevlevi dervish lodge. The mosque and its associated institutions were constructed by Mustafa Pasa, a vezir of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1525. The mosque has a single leaded dome over the main space, and the portico with its six marble columns and pointed archers is roofed by five small domes. The ashlar minaret is faceted.

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WHERE TIME STANDS STILL: THE HOUSES OF ODUNPAZARI
2002 / FEBRUARY
Strolling through this tranquil old district of Eskisehir you can easily imagine yourself transported a century back in time. Built on the hillside, some of the streets are steep, but although climbing them may be a little tiring, the interesting views which every street affords make it worth exploring on foot. When you need a rest do not hesitate to enter one of the local coffee houses, where the proprietors and customers always have a hospitable welcome for strangers, male or female.
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WHERE TIME STANDS STILL: THE HOUSES OF ODUNPAZARI
2002 / FEBRUARY

Try ordering a glass of tea and a delicious crisp simit, which seem to taste better here than anywhere else, and soon you will be refreshed for setting out again.

* Associate Professor Dr Ertugrul Algan is a lecturer at Anadolu University.


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