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TEKİRDAĞ

Home town of rakı                                   Population: 140,000

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Old name: Rodosto

Tekirdağ, picturesquely sited on the northern shore of the Sea of Marmara in Thrace (Trakya), is one of those unlucky places fated always to be on the way to somewhere else rather than a destination in its own right.

People pour through it by the busload on their way to and from the İpsala border with Greece, or en route to and from Çanakkale, but usually the most they do in Tekirdağ is hop out of the bus and into one of the many köfte (meatballplaces conveniently clumped together across the road from the harbour.

This is a great shame because this is a town which is getting nicer by the year, and which boasts a couple of museums that more than justify an hour or so of anybody’s time.

Don't leave town without trying:
Tekirdağ köfte. The waiters say that the difference lies in the cooking oil.
A glass of rakı, the famous lion's milk alcoholic beverage that is Turkey's national tipple. 

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Around town

As you walk the short distance from the otogar (bus station) to the town centre you will pass the crumbling shells of once fine wooden mansions left over from the days when Tekirdağ was Rodosto.

Eventually you will arrive at a busy traffic intersection dominated by a statue of Tekirdağlı Hüseyin Pehlivan (1908-82), a champion who excelled at that most Thracian of sports, oil wrestling. From the age of 14 it was already  obvious that he was a champion in the making, and he went on to become a regular victor in the bouts that take place every summer at Kırkpınar in Edirne, in the north western corner of Thrace.

200 DSC02691If you head down to the shore at this point you will discover Tekirdağ’s unexpectedly pleasant waterfront.

This is a town that still boasts a lively fishing industry, and large and small boats moor side by side in the harbour. Here men sit mending their nets in the afternoon sun, while a myriad hungry cats prowl around their feet. Here, too, you may be lucky enough to bump into Garip, the Tekirdağ pelican, the last survivor of a group of three, who has been living here for many years.

As in İstanbul’s Kumkapı, fish stalls are lined up on the harbour alongside a small restaurant and cafes selling cheap and tasty fish sandwiches.

If you strike out west along the promenade you will eventually spot on the inland side of the road a restored wooden building that houses the local library whose wonderful reading room looks straight out over the Marmara. Take the road that runs steeply up in front of the library to find the lovely house that serves as the Rakoczy Museum (closed Mondays).

Prince Francis II Rakoczy (1676-1735) was a Hungarian hero who fought against the Hapsburgs during the Hungarian War of Independence (1703-11). For his pains he was forced into exile, eventually winning asylum from the Tulip Era sultan Ahmed III. For 18 years he lived in Tekirdağ before being buried in Galata in İstanbul.

In 1906, his remains were repatriated to Hungary along with what survived of his possessions. Then in the 1980s his home was painstakingly reconstructed and now serves as a sometimes-it’s-open-sometimes-it’s-not museum.

200 DSC02730If you manage to get inside you will certainly appreciate the lovely watercolors of the old town done by Aladar Edivi Illes (1870-1958), even if Hungarian history is not your thing. A bust of the prince sits beside the front door, and there’s a statue of him in the newly-created Bariş ve Özgürlük Parkı (Peace and Freedom Park) on the waterfront.

Lots more crumbling wooden houses dot the back streets behind the museum, where, too, you will come across a fine stone building that hosts art exhibitions; the art may be iffy, but it’s still worth popping your head inside to see the glorious carvings above the doors and on the hall ceiling.

Eventually your path should bring you round to the finest modern building in Tekirdağ, the old Vali Konağı (Governor’s Mansion) built in 1927 for the then governor Arif Hikmet Bey in the style known as First National Architecture and complete with wonderful panels of turquoise tiles above the windows.

Today the mansion houses one of Turkey’s finer local museums (closed Mondays), with everything labelled in English as well as Turkish.

The ground floor shows off the finds from Perinthos, a small town that stood on the site of what is now Marmara Ereğli to the east of Tekirdağ, but has effectively vanished. A notice rather sniffily points out that many of the finds made there now grace European museums, although it also concedes that the stonework from the ancient theatre was used to create the foundations for Çorlu State Hospital.

Most striking of all is the reconstructed interior of the tomb of Prince Teres which was found beneath the Naip tumulus and dates back to around 325 BC; the prince was buried with a stone bed, table and chairs as well as with the utensils he would need to eat a hearty meal in the after-life. Nearby stands a reconstruction of what his father, the king found buried inside the Harekattepe tumulus, might have looked like when decked out in full ceremonial purple and gold.tekir1

The upstairs features a small ethnographical museum with fine costumes, embroideries and rugs, as well as a flag of Tekirdağ covered in Osmanlı text that had to be decommissioned once Atatürk’s alphabet revolution rendered its message unintelligible.

If you’re inspired by the fabrics on display, you’ll be pleased to learn that there’s more of the same to be seen inside the Namık Kemal Evi which can be slotted in on the way back to the bus station and which commemorates the freedom-loving 19th-centuy poet, born nearby, who proved an inspiration for Atatürk. His statue stands in the Bariş ve Özgürlük Parkı (Peace and Freedom Park) near that of Prince Rakoczy.

Tekirdağ’s final attraction should be its trump card although somehow it isn't. The Rüstem Paşa Külliyesi is a mosque complex designed in 1553 by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan for Süleyman the Magnificent’s grand vizier Rüstem Paşa (the same man who paid for the lovely mosque that stands in Tahtakale near İstanbul’s Spice Bazaar). The mosque is certainly elegant although it fails to dominate its surroundings like Sinan’s masterpiece the Selimiye in Edirne, or even its counterpart in Lüleburgaz. Recently parts of the külliye have been rather crudely restored to house modern shops as well as a delightful nargile cafe.

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Most people will want to visit Tekirdağ either en route to somewhere else or on a day trip from İstanbul. However, there are also a couple of reasonable hotels here.

Grand Yat Hotel. Tel: 0282-261 1054

Rodosto Hotel. Tel: 0282-263 3701

Travel info

There are frequent buses from İstanbu's Esenler otogar to Tekirdağ. Competition means that you may be able to return for less than you paid to get here, especially if you go back to the otogar to buy a ticket instead of flagging an İstanbul-bound bus on the waterfront.

In summer ferries sail from Tekirdağ to the Marmara Islands. 

 

Day trip destinations

Çorlu

Lüleburgaz

Marmara Islands

Şarköy

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?load=detay&link=173514

tekir3Tekirdağ back streets slope down to the Sea of Marmara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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