Tour Of Istanbul’s Ancient Yedikule Gardens, At Risk With Urban Restoration

istanbul — Istanbul’s Yedikule historic urban gardens are once again on the brink of destruction. After the damage caused by neighboring municipality Fatih in 2013, the gardens now face further disruption and potential damage as the Istanbul municipality plans more “restoration” work.

The 6-hectare garden is over 1,500 years old and dates back to the city’s Byzantine times. It was first cultivated by the Greeks and Albanians, then by the people of Kastamonu, a northern city near the Black Sea. A variety of seasonal produce now grows in the garden, including herbs, a variety of lettuce and other vegetables, red turnips, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, corn, mulberries, figs, and pomegranates.

Jemal Kafadar, a historian and professor of Turkology at Harvard University, says yedikuls are unique among urban gardens in the world.

“There are[urban gardens]that are older than Istanbul gardens, such as the Roman gardens, but no other gardens have maintained much continuity in their techniques and particular crafts,” says Kafadar. It still provides crops. You may have eaten (from these gardens) without knowing it. ”

Kafadar spoke at a garden class on January 14 organized by the Yedikule Gardens Initiative, a civic group working to protect gardens.

As I listened to Kafadar take my audience on a journey through history, these words stuck in my mind:

As we toured the gardens, we saw first-hand the soil archives and heard stories of people who learned to farm this land from their parents. One of the most experienced gardeners she has been working on this plot for 40 years.

Leadership of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Grand Mosque

Our first stop was the garden of Recep Kayan, famous for its artichokes. Kayan says he was nervous to see his friend’s garden being demolished. “We make a living here,” he says. Tomorrow they may kick us out. ”

We leave the Kayan Gardens and head to a small section of the Gardens maintained by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Kafadar explains that most of the gardens, including the grand Mosques of Suleymaniye and Fatih, were once the property of the institution.

We wander through the gardens to the gardens outside the historic ramparts. As you approach the Belgrade Gate, you’ll notice construction going on between the two walls. Someone closes the door to keep from photographing the damage the work has caused.

As the price of fertilizer increases, so does the cost.

The ground beyond the wall is covered with all shades of green. Leaving the garden, you notice the gardener picking sorrel for the sheep. Gardener Kadir Kaplan says he has worked here for 40 years. He sells his products to his Fatih, Zeytinburnı and Esenyurt neighboring bazaars, but recently the price of fertilizer has increased, so has his.

Continue walking through the gardens outside the ramparts. Our final stop is the garden of Dursun Kaplan, president of the Yedikule Gardeners’ Association. Kaplan says the garden was once able to produce enough green produce to meet Istanbul’s needs.

“Prices in the bazaar are balanced as vegetables grow here. Mint now costs 5 lira ($0.27). In summer it drops to 1-2. When vegetables run out, prices go up,” Kaplan said. says Mr.

September 2022. The interior, courtyard, and surroundings of the Yedikule Fortress Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

Tolga Ildun via ZUMA Press Wire

city ​​building creep

Kaplan used ancestral seeds in the garden, with a greenhouse and a fig tree inside the walls. We travel to a section of the yard where construction workers from another municipality are digging the soil with machines and loading it onto trucks. We hang around until the authorities notice us.

Gardeners are considered “occupiers”.

The bricks marked “Fratelli Allatini Salonicco” catch the eye. They must be from the Alatini brick and tile factory founded in Thessaloniki, which was part of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1880s. You can also see new damage to the walls.

Gardeners are considered “occupiers” and pay an occupancy tax to the municipality. On the one hand, the gardener picking sorrel in the garden he has tended for 40 years. On the other hand, the city’s construction machinery has damaged walls, torn gardens, and destroyed history. Who are the occupants?

Let me conclude this story with Professor Kafadar’s words at the beginning of the class. I have heard this from many friends: is it the right thing to do these days when (Istanbul Municipality) has its own problems? Not an unfair question. Abandoning criticism is not our culture. ”

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