Turkey is full of ‘must see’ sites and sights and the tiny town of Birgi, near Ödemiş in İzmir province is high on our list. J and I have been back a number of times and I don’t think we’ll ever tire of the place.
Birgi nestles a few kilometres north of Ödemiş in the foothills of Boz Dağ (Boz Mountains). It is a quiet, unspoilt, dignified time-warp of a place that is now being slowly gentrified. Wandering its shady, tree-lined streets and soaking up the spirit of bygone times is rather like a refreshing shower on a steamy day. Enchanting as this town is the reason J and I keep going back is to reacquaint ourselves with two rare and very precious gems – a house and a mosque.
The mosque dates from Selçuk times and once had a flat, earth covered roof. This was ‘vandalised’ by those who should have known better and a pitched roof installed. Whereas once the mosque was cool in summer and warm in winter, now the reverse is true; locals I have spoken to say they are determined to restore the building to its former glory (İnşallah!).
The doors are a stunning example of late Selçuk, early Ottoman (1322) craftsmanship that has to be seen to be appreciated. They were stolen in 1993 and ended up with Christies in London where they were recognised by an employee and the matter reported to Interpol; after being missing for over 2 years they were repatriate back to Birgi’s Ulu Camii where you can appreciate them.
The mimbar is a remarkable construction of thousands of individual pieces of wood that mesh together without a single nail, screw or dab of glue to form a beautiful whole. In the age of computers and CAD I truly wonder if such a thing could ever be duplicated – a work of art that begs to be touched and stroked.
An additional ‘gem’ (if he is still there) is the young imam; a lovely guy and an enthusiast for his mosque who leaves his phone number by the entrance so you can have him come to unlock and show you around.
The house, which lays just a few hundred metres from the mosque, is stunning (my word for today) at first sight – it is a carefully restored Konak that is over three hundred years old. What makes this elegant house stand out from any Ottoman period building is the beautifully crafted murals that once covered almost every part of every wall together with the incredible wooden mosaic ceilings.
I cannot begin to adequately describe what you will find, so best to let some photographs weave their magic spell. Better still, go and see for yourself!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü