September 21, 2007

 Edirne goats

While considering a trip to the Ottoman’s second capital, Edirne, I think back to 1999 when I first visited the antique town. It is unforgetable, that first view of the magnificent Selimiye Mosque dominating the skyline. Those sixteenth century Ottoman travelers surely marveled at that grand sight Sinan created as they slowly made their way to town.

One can experience that same awe by traversing the berm to the west that protects the old Edirne from the annual flooding of the Tunca River. Beside the river are expanses of grass intermingled with small vegetable gardens and a variety of trees that begin the dream of Sinan’s day. Topping the berm, a gentle curving, dirt path establishes the atmosphere of those years long past with the dusty evidence of the various farm animals sometimes seen walking along the route. To the east below sit the rustic houses adjoining the many cobblestoned lanes meandering up to Sinan’s mosque crowning the far hill , the “hub” of the berm, for it always seems to be the same distance from the traveler walking the path.

How could this scene be any better I wonder as I amble along. It can’t! As long as modern buildings don’t compete with the scale and grandeur of this treasure by the Ottoman master architect, the Selimiye’s position is established as the jewel of Edirne, and will impress future generations.


An excerpt from ‘Sinan Diaryz’

September 9, 2007

“Praise be to God for this humble servant’s long life and praise to Him for continued good health through all the years that enabled such productivity.  And thanks to the Creator for the many talents bestowed on this wretched slave and for the ability to share them with the Empire.  Thinking back to 1512, that chance came on the wind those many years ago when I, Sinan, was only a young man of 23.  The day started like any other, only it was considerably mild for a summer day, in fact, there was a cooling breeze.  That is what brought it to our attention, my father’s and mine, the incredible dust cloud off in the plain below picked up by that little breeze.  From our vantage point on a second story roof, we could see it moving closer.

The roof topped an almost completed house in our small village of Agirnas located in the Karaman province of central Anatolia.  The structure was not of the usual mud brick but of more durable stone, and rather large for our town, constructed by my father with my assistance.  He was a good teacher, praise be to Allah.  All I knew about dressing stone and carpentry was learned from this good man.  Side by side we worked hard on many structures in our village but Allah willing, I would learn even more.  Little did I know that fateful day as the blowing dust advanced, that I would learn nothing more from my father, and would not even be there to help finish the lovely house.

The dusty cloud told us a great deal.  It was too large to be a local on his donkey returning from a journey to Kayseri, our closest city.  The size could only be from many men and horses, but why would they come to our small village?  Unbeknownst to us,  the devsirme was about to reach us.  Over the years the devsirme had developed into a periodic collecting of the fittest Christian youth throughout the Empire to serve in the Sultan’s army, the Yeni Ceri.  As we sat on the unfinished roof watching their arrival, we speculated about the meaning of such a group of what looked like children mixed with soldiers.

Now, as I look back on my life and compile my recollections in this year of our lord, 1588, I am amazed how that summer day changed me in ways unimaginable to a simple villager.  The Sultan’s men were looking for youths of fifteen or so, not yet set in their ways, young ones able to be molded into the best fighting force anywhere.

When the dust finally materialized into the Jannisary Corps, the Yeni Ceri, a call went out for all the boys to assemble in the town square.  Not knowing just who was wanted, I stayed on the roof with my father, watching the excitement below.  Only the strongest, fittest, and smartest were desired, ones with social skills and talents.  That day it was determined that all young men should report to the square due to the lack of boys to fill the quota.  To my surprise the call included me, so I reluctantly descended and joined the gathering.  Families crowded into the square with their sons, hoping for the best.  For the poor, the best was a future with the Yeni Ceri, where food, money, and a chance, if the boy were clever, for advancement were in the offing, insallah.  For me as an apprentice stonemason from a long line of men who worked in stone, the Tascioglu and Dugenci families, I already had a good livelihood and saw no future as a soldier.  The inspections began with those obviously sick and slow being immediately rejected.  Some time passed as teeth were checked, eyes inspected, bodies poked and prodded.  While questions were asked and answered, the best were slowly discovered and called forward.  I was one of them.”

Sinan awaits, let’s go to Istanbul!

Anatolian Adventures

July 15, 2007

At long last Americans have discovered Turkey.  They either have just returned from a fantastic sojourn in Anatolia or are about to embark.  Those coming home now know what many before have learned, the populace embrace the newcomer with a captivating friendliness that leaves one with the desire to return as soon as possible.

sokollu minaret

Not only do the people capture the visitor’s heart but the broad spectrum of antiquities inspires the imagination and a wish to learn more.  On this list are the remarkable works of Mimar Sinan who is finally receiving some recognition for his contributions to the architectural lexicon.  Sinan Diaryz: A Walking Tour of Mimar Sinan’s Monuments will give those returning to Istanbul an opportunity to delve with gusto into the world of the master architect and live through his eyes if only for a while.  Many sites on the Internet now list the book. 

mihrimah view

Anatolia sojourn

May 15, 2007


I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Istanbul and an adventure in Anatolia.  While in Istanbul, books were signed at Nakkas Bookstore the afternoon of 21 April.  My good friends Aydin and Faruk from Ernemet Carpets & Kilims were able to join in the festivities along with many others.

For all who have enjoyed the grandeur of Istanbul, a wonderful reminder of this is the beautifully illustrated book by Trici Venola, Drawing on IstanbulIstanbul Izleri, now available on Amazon.com.  Others, who have never had the fortune to visit this great city, can feel as though they are there while wandering through each engrossing page experiencing the night life, tea houses and people as well as the wonderful architecture brought to life by Trici’s brilliance.  We met two years ago at Kybele Hotel where there is always lively conversation and interesting people in Mike’s salon.

I took my first road trip through Anatolia as a chauffeur, an experience not to be missed.  My father, at eighty-eight, could not manage the ‘on-off’  and long waits that a bus journey requires.  After many trips to Turkey there were sites he had not visited and driving afforded him the opportunity of seeing some.  

The Phrygian ruins near Afyon provide days of adventure but for a quick visit the wonderful carved animals as well as a relief called “Midas’ Tomb” gives the visitor a hint to its past.  On to Konya near Cumra is the 9000 year old Catal Huyuk, one of the oldest established cities yet discovered and the small museum on site is a treasure. 

The southeast brings one to Gaziantep where the new addition to their museum houses the fantastic mosaic collection from the Roman city of Zeugma.  Unfortunately most of that great city was recently lost to the waters of the Birecik Dam.  Heading north to Nemrut Dagi, one discovers King Antiochus who decided royalty was not enough and that on his death he would become a god.  His likeness near the summit of Nemrut is accompanied by the gods Mithra, Ahura-Mazda, Ares and others once sitting on thrones greeting all who came to pay homage. 

God Teshub embracing King Tudhaliyas [cir. 1500 b.c.]

Traveling west to Hittite country is their capital Hattusa, home to the intriguing rock carvings of their gods Teshub [weather] and Hepatu [sun] opposite the hillside of rock outlines, and other remains of their city.  The final site at Gordion was another capital, that of the Phrygians which is located southwest of Ankara where King Midas is thought to have been buried in the large tumulus there.  Across the street from the tomb,  the museum adds greatly to the interest of the site and provides knowledge of Phrygian life.  The ruins are reached by a short dirt road just before arriving at Gordion.

Ending our adventure at the lovely city of Iznik to investigate what had been the Ottoman’s tile industry, we discovered the Kaynarca Pansiyon where we were warmly greeted by Ali Bulmus who insisted a picnic dinner on the roof terrace was the best way to relax after a long journey.  He was right.  

Amazon arrival

March 22, 2007

Amazon.com now lists Sinan Diaryz.

For those traveling to Istanbul in April and the residents of the city, there will be a book signing at Nakkas Bookstore, a short walk from Sultan Ahmet Mosque down Nakilbent Sokak, on Saturday the 21st [3 p.m. to early evening, time to be determined.]  See you there.

Aah, book cover

February 27, 2007

Well, even though the book has not arrived, we get a look at the cover.  This close up shot is of what some consider to be Sinan’s masterpiece, the Selimiye, in the Ottoman’s summer capital, Edirne.  Just a three hour bus ride west of Istanbul, Edirne can be a day trip or a few delightful days enjoying this antique city.  With many examples in the lexicon of Ottoman architecture, one has the chance for a quick course in the development that led to Sinan’s inspirations and innovations.

Click image for larger view of back cover

About to Be Shipped

February 9, 2007

The Sinan Diaryz is back from the printers and soon will be distributed to the book shops in Istanbul. I am told that it takes 3 to 4 months to reach the U.S. market.