This was our first visit to Yedikule district in the scope of the summer course entitled City and Agriculture: Studying and Preserving the Historic Gardens of Istanbul. I have been living in Istanbul since I was born and almost once a week I pass through the Yedikule gate with unawareness the spectacular historical gardens of Istanbul which are located behind the walls. I was occasionally encountering the sold fresh vegetables on the table in front of garden. This was my first time to come into the door and meet the gardeners. Despite the hot weather of Istanbul, we began the discussion our texts under the shadow of grapevine.
Our readings were too deductive for me. The topic was new and there were a lot to discover. For instance, Kaldjian noted that Istanbul’s early masters of vegetable production were Greeks and Armenians in the seventeenth century Bulgarians by inheriting the skills, gardens and opportunities superseded Greeks then Albanian migrants came to Istanbul learned trade and dominate the field that is understood from the 1883 map of Istanbul which the many garden names derive from Greek or Albanian. In the 1990s Albanians and Bulgarians sold and left their bostans thus Cidelis who came after WWII and worked on the land inherited these gardens and became the chief gardeners in the region.
On the other hand before the course I supposed that Istanbul was one of the big city and also capital of the Ottoman Empire had been always consumed and imported the vegetables and fruits from the near provinces. However, the data asserts contrary. Historical map of Istanbul from 1883 indicates there are 102 recorded bostans within the old city and they were enough productive to satisfy the city’s fruit and vegetable needs such as spinach, lettuce, black cabbage.
Furthermore, there is a critical question needs to be posed that where we get such detailed information about orchards. The kefil defters gave us data about the sizes, nationality of owners and employers of the garden. In early eighteenth century Istanbul had come cross with the migration flow and state let these people trading under the condition of a guarantor which confirmed the man’s honesty. These records have been kept in the name of guarantee notebooks and left set of information to us.
Interestingly, even Yedikule covers small part of the region the techniques for irrigations change field to field. For instance, Yedikule-Silivrikapı agricultural lands are deprived of canal irrigation therefore lands were watered by underground waters collected the wells and probably in the high regions the deepness of the wells were increasing.
Finally, when we looked at the photographs taken by Artamonoff in 1937 and 1938 and by Sebah in 1890s Yedikule is less forested and densely built now. The gardeners worried about the losing their land which has been cultivating by their elders. This uncertainty also affects the production. If gardeners know that they will stay there for a long years, they would build greenhouse and seed in a large amount.
In conclusion, today there is a clash between gardeners and municipality about the future of Yedikule orchards. Already decreased number of historical gardens of Yedikule is wanted to become parking area for vehicles. Marmaray subway line is too close the area and it is obvious that parking area is required but why municipality so insist on the transformation of the gardens. Approximately 500 meters away Yedikule gate there has been an animal shelter and it is also so close the Marmaray and I believe that alternative to the historical orchards this shelter which smells badly could be transformed multi-level parking garage and thus both gardens and gardeners could be preserved. The duty of state bodies should be preservation the cultural heritage sites not to destroy them.