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Old Mansions are Reawakened Kastamonu
2003 / May

Cities are the children of geography and history, each with its own spirit. Some murmur quietly from morning till night, others are in constant commotion. Some awake early, others yawn until noon. Some are presumptuous, others self-effacing. Some glow in the light of history, their stories continually retold over the centuries, others lie in its shadow, even their names forgotten, listening silently. The character of every city is shaken through the sieve of history over the centuries and millennia. Whenever I cross the mountains and set foot in Kastamonu, a mood of dignity enwraps me. I feel the breath of a city which has seen much, experienced much, and retained its self-respect through all. I see it as a patient dervish wandering with a clocktower on his back, perhaps because I encounter the tomb of a great man or saint at every step. Kastamonu remains Ottoman in aspect, graceful and elegant.

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Old Mansions are Reawakened Kastamonu
2003 / May

The women who weave local fabrics also sell strained yogurt, golden clavaria fungi and mallow in the market. During the War of Independence it was the women of Kastamonu who held the first womn'sn rally on 16 May 1919, declaiming that their country should be sold to no one. That is why there is the statue of a local heroine, Serife Baci, in front of the City Hall, a building which is one of the masterpieces by the architect Vedat Tek. In my view this is the loveliest public statue anywhere in Turkey. Legend has it that Kastamonu was named after Moni, the daughter of a Byzantine general, and ever since women have figured large in its history, such as the courageous Halime Çavus. During the War of Independence arms and munitions were shipped to the port of Inebolu and carried inland to the nationalist forces via Çankiri and Ankara along what became known as the Independence Road. So although the city's architectural garb is Ottoman in character, it views the world with eyes that belong to the Republic.

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Old Mansions are Reawakened Kastamonu
2003 / May
The clocktower which was erected here on 26 August 1885 had originally stood on Sarayburnu headland in Istanbul. According to hearsay a favourite of the sultan miscarried her child when she was startled by the sudden chiming of the clock, upon which the clocktower was dismantled and sent into exile. As soon as the warm spring days begin, the tea garden beneath the tower fills with people who come here in the late afternoon to watch the sunset. As the lights of the city come on one by one in the falling dusk, the castle which surmounts the hill like a crown, the River Gökirmak that flows at the foot of the hill, and the ancient Hittite rock tomb known as Evkaya (House Rock) fade from sight. Children finish their homework, fathers come home tired from work, and mothers prepare ekşili pilaf for tomorr'ssn meal before retiring to bed. While the city sleeps the old houses begin to murmur. Sepetçioglu Konak greets Kirk Odali Konak.
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Old Mansions are Reawakened Kastamonu
2003 / May
Konyali Konak, now a local cultural centre, tells proudly of the schoolchildren who filled its rooms with their cheerful voices that day. Osmanli Konak, otherwise known as Tahir Efendi Konak, is now a hotel, and responds by listing the famous guests that are staying in its rooms that night. Sirkeli Konak asks the time to Mazlumcular Konak, which stands close to the clocktower, and Eflanili Konak joins in their conversation. These magnificent old mansions which had sunk into silent neglect are now being reawakened by an ambitious restoration project initiated by the city's governor, Enis Yeter. As each one is restored to its former dignity, their melancholy mood is replaced by joy. Ellez Konak, which is now in the process of being restored, will soon reopen as Kastamonu Textile Museum.
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Old Mansions are Reawakened Kastamonu
2003 / May
Nasrullah Mosque is delighted to see its old friends regain their former pride and self-respect, and its fountains splash and gurgle in congratulation. They say that anyone who drinks this water will remain in Kastamonu for seven years, but when all the beautiful old mansions are restored visitors will yearn to stay here whether they drink the water or not! Another interesting project is the transformation of the former coal warehouses into the Vedat Tek Memorial Art and Restoration Centre. What better tribute could there be to this great architect and his dedicated work than such an institution? The people of Kastamonu value their heritage and are delighted when others share their appreciation. Traditional hospitality to strangers lives on here, and if you knock on any door, the occupants are certain to invite in their 'guest of God' as unexpected visitors are called.
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Old Mansions are Reawakened Kastamonu
2003 / May

Food will be placed on the table, and after the meal, while you sit comfortably against the cushion provided for you on the divan, you will be offered a glass of tea. Only the plump family cat will object to your presence! And if you put out your hand to stroke it, it will be reconciled, just as you only have to say hello to make friends with the people of Kastamonu.

* Akgün Akova is a freelance writer

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