Old Turkish Houses with a Touch of Nostalgia
The highly unique architectural styles of old Turkish houses have earned them a respected place in the country’s history books. Telling age-old stories of cultural trends, community lifestyles, and climate conditions, they are worth viewing whether you class yourself as an architecture expert or not.
Except for luxury houses, which are a rarity in Turkey’s history, the style and design of old Turkish houses focused on practicality on a budget. Two or more generations often lived in the same house, evoking a need for privacy and because mortgages didn’t exist, being frivolous, when constructing or expanding the buildings was a foolhardy task.
In some areas, especially eastern Turkey, homes portrayed the earlier nomadic lifestyle of Turks. While in big cities like Istanbul, limited space meant cramp conditions and in times of mass migration, Geckondu bolgesis often sprung up quickly.
Meaning shanty towns and homes built without permission, a few still exist in bigger cities, but history shows their future is generally short-lived, especially now Turkey is on a mission to rejuvenate its housing sector.
While Turkey’s youngest and brightest architects are redefining the structural design of new, and modern Turkish houses, taking a trip down memory lane to see the earlier architecture of past generations pays homage to bygone eras.
Where to See Old Turkish Houses
Bosphorus Yali Mansions
Lining both sides of the Bosphorus, the yali mansions of Istanbul are undoubtedly Turkey’s most expensive real estate market. Mainly built in the 19th century, the Ottoman dynasty and their entourage used them as summer houses and places to court foreign royalty.
Unique features include low windows offering unrivalled views of the Bosphorus, large rooms, lofty ceilings and landscaped gardens. Amcazade Huseyin Pasha, built in 1699 is the oldest Yali house, while Erbilginler that in 2015 sold for 100 million euros is the most expensive. Although some are open to the public as wedding venues or museums, the best way to see them all is a Bosphorus cruise.
Eastern Black Sea
In places like the Kackar northeast, an abundance of snowfall called for houses to be warm and one way this was achieved was to build animal quarters under the bedroom, so heat would rise. Heading further up the mountains, roaming wild animals were also a risk, so locals using wood from nearby forests would construct their houses on platforms for safety.
Heading slightly west, to the tea making areas of Trabzon and Rize, a distinct architectural style of brick on the bottom and criss-cross wood and stone styles on the upper half, portray the typical tea plantation architectural styles of Turkey.
Cave Houses in Cappadocia
Cappadocia’s cave houses are about as quirky as it gets, but they aren’t a gimmick. For centuries, locals carved their homes from soft tufa rock of the landscape, formed by volcanic eruptions in ancient times.
Such is the durability of this rock, early Christians carved out the cave churches of Goreme, now a UNESCO World Heritage site and hundreds of underground cities with strange but suitable living conditions are also open to the public.
If you want to buy a cave house in Cappadocia, be prepared to wait because they are hard to come by, so instead book into one of the many authentic cave hotels across the region.
Ottoman Homes in Beypazari and Safranbolu
The Ottoman houses of Safranbolu joined the UNESCO World Heritage Site list purely because of their unique architectural style. Two story mansions built from stone on the ground level and wood on the top, also featured protruding balconies to enlarge the interior living spaces.
Many restored hotels still display original features. Otherwise, the Kaymakamlar Evi museum also shows living standards in rural Ottoman times. Another place to see Ottoman architecture is Beypazari near the capital Ankara, and Amasya.
Old Greek Stone Cottages
Throughout Turkish history, large pockets of Greek communities built old stone houses along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Featuring interior courtyards, wooden window shutters and low ceilings with sturdy wood beams, in some places like Alacati, locals also painted them white and blue.
Unfortunately, many of these homes fell into disrepair, and some were bulldozed. A recent trend to modernise and renovate them has sprung up, but the cost to do so, as well as bringing the building in line with current building laws often runs into thousands of pounds.
The mass investment of money doesn’t add to the market price either and given the low demand for these cottages, they are harder to sell. Therefore, anyone looking at old Turkish houses to fix up should do so more for enjoyment rather than a lucrative investment.
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