The Turkish city is typically
situated along historical trade routes, notably the silk and the spice routes.
Built on lands unfavourable for cultivation, traditional Turkish cities display
unique vernacular architectural styles reflecting regional conditions and an
urbane and sophisticated building tradition. Although each has a distinctive
character of its own, all have a citadel; one or more grand mosque complexes
containing religious colleges and welfare establishments; a traditional square
corresponding to the western plaza; a number of old bath houses; traditional
guild alleys jutting away from the bazaar area; and distinct neighbourhoods where
you are likely to find fine examples of traditional Turkish houses, often
arranged around a courtyard.
Turks are wild about soccer;
budding players will be kicking the ball around in the streets. In shady
squares, the tables of coffeehouses are occupied by townsmen, sipping coffee or
tea, playing backgammon and discussing the issues of the day with their friends
and neighbours. It is said that coffee and the coffeehouse are among the
contributions of Turks to the good life. The sacks of coffee abandoned at the
gates of Vienna by the retreating Ottoman army in the 16th century introduced
the addictive brew to the west and made the cafes of Vienna world famous.
It is in these cities that both the
high style and the vernacular culture evolved side by side, giving us the best
examples of Turkish architecture, as well as the best of folklore, traditional
arts and crafts, unique customs and food. These cities were home to folk heroes
such as Koroglu poet Sufi Yunus Emre whose simple verses offer profound meaning
to humanity, and Nasreddin Hodja, the personification of folk wisdom in his
humorous anecdotes which are still widely quoted and appreciated.
The popular theatre tradition, with
its comedians, storytellers and marionette and shadow puppeteers evolved in the
provincial cities. Performances were given in public squares, at national and
religious festivals, at weddings and fairs, at the inns, coffeehouses and
private residences. All shows including wrestling matches were accompanied by
music, with conjurors performing to the sound of the tambourine. Performances
were often interspersed with songs and dances or both. The dramatic instinct of
the Turkish people and the role it played in daily affairs can be found in the
Turkish commedia del arte "orta oyunu" and the shadow puppet theatre,
"Karagoz", which dates to the 15th century. Players performed humorous impromptu
productions wherever there was an audience, impersonating watchmen, tax
collectors, treasure hunters, the intellectual elite encountering the common
folk, and the idiosyncrasies of ethnic groups, contributing to the continuation
of an amicable coexistence.
Provincial Turkish cities still
celebrates the religious holidays, or bayrams, in the traditional manner. Town
elders, following the holiday greetings, participate in folk dances to the music
of traditional folk instruments. "Greased wrestling" matches are accompanied by
drum and pop music. Karagoz puppet shows are often performed during the holidays
and for family celebrations such as circumcision ceremonies for young boys.
Among interesting provincial cities
are Balikesir, Canakkale Amasya, Safranbolu, Tokat, Nevsehir, Diyarbakir, Sanli
Urfa, and Mardin.