Far to the west in Istanbul’s nether regions lies the municipality of Büyükçekmece. It sits on a large (and unfortunately polluted) lake, spanned by a historic Ottoman bridge built by Mimar Sinan. In ancient times, when it was the ancient Greek city of Athyra (Άθυρα), the lake was an inlet of the Marmara Sea. The section near the sea has since been filled in to create the lake.
Being a lover of Mimar Sinan’s work, I decided to make the trek out to Büyükçekmece to see the bridge in person. I dragged Isaac along with me. We met in Taksim and headed to the God-awful Metrobüs, where we would waste just over an hour of our lives riding all the way to the second-to-last stop, Hadımköy. Once off the Metrobüs, it was a short walk to another bus stop. We jumped on the first bus headed to Büyükçekmece and arrived about 25 minutes later. Then it was another 10 minute walk to the bridge. Yes, it was quite a journey (nearly two hours), but once we arrived, we were satisfied with our decision.
The Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Köprüsü (bridge) was finished in 1567. Mimar Sinan called it the masterpiece among his buildings. It’s 636m long and 7.17m wide, with four sections and 28 arches. During construction, the water of the lake was pumped out and 40,000 cubic meters of stone was used.
We crossed the bridge to the other side. It led to a really crappy industrial park. Going from a nice little park to filth and pollution is a really ugly and terrible way to treat such a marvel of architecture. I was very disappointed and hope this is rectified some way in the future.
On the other side, there’s a dedication plaque in Ottoman Turkish script. I have no idea what it says.
The best view of the bridge is from the lakeside walkway on the east end. It runs for quite a while, until a highway, and is lined with boats and a couple restaurants.
On the east end (the nicer end) of the bridge is Büyükçekmece Kültürpark, a small park with an open-air theatre on one end and several huts on the other end. Each hut contains a small restaurant specializing in homemade cuisine from a different region of Turkey. Represented was Trabzon, Safranbolu, Mersin, Hatay, Edirne, Izmir, and Gaziantep, among others. All were very reasonably priced.
Since it had just started to rain, we jumped into the Mersin hut and decided to eat while the rain passed. We both had some delicious tantuni (think Turkish tacos) and then went to enjoy the rest of the park.
Scattered around the park are statues of several famous figures in Turkish history, including Mimar Sinan, Süleyman the Magnificent, Mevlâna (Rumi), and Yunus Emre. We took a few minutes to walk around and check out who was permanently honored in this little corner of Istanbul.
Next to the park sit a few historic Ottoman buildings. The most prominent is the Kurşunlu Han. It was the nearest caravanserai at the European exit of Istanbul. It was built by Mimar Sinan in 1566. When it was first built, the roof was completely covered with lead. On the outside lie a few pieces of columns from ancient Athyra.
The Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Çeşmesi (fountain) was built by Mimar Sinan in 1566 with the bridge and Kurşunlu Han.
Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii, built by (you guessed it) Mimar Sinan, isn’t of much interest, but the minaret is. It’s one of two in the world that were sculptured from a single piece of stone, and dates back to 1567. The other is in Egypt.
After this, we walked a couple blocks to where the municipality building is located and saw the Enver Paşa Köşkü. It was the home of Young Turks leader Enver Paşa, a controversial figure many blame for the Ottoman Empire’s entrance into World War I, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the deportation and massacre of Armenians leading to the Armenian Genocide.
From there, it was back to the bus to make the long, long trip back to Taksim. Büyükçekmece is a surprisingly pleasant place to spend a day. It’s not even close to being a must-see, but it can definitely be an interesting and relaxing day (minus the travel part).