Birgi which still keeps its characteristics of being an ottoman town is located about 110 km away from Izmir. Recent years more and more tourists have been aware of the existence of this typical ottoman-styled town and now many travel companies have put this lovely place into their Turkey Tour programmes.
The history of the town having a population of 3000 dates back to 2000 BC. Through history it lived the periods of Frigians, Persians, the Kingdom of Pergamon, Rome, Byzantium, Dynasty of Aydınogulları "Aydınids" or Aydin Beylik and finally the Ottoman Empire. In the 7th century BC the town was named as Dios Hieron meaning "the city of Zeus". That's why for a long time the researchers have searched for a big temple dedicated to Zeus in the region. When christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, with the purpose of destroying all signs of paganism, the name of the town was also changed into Christopolis meaning "the city of Christ". During the Byzantine period the name of the town was called Prygian, a Greek word meaning "Fortress". And this was the name where today's name was derived from.
The town flourished under the rule of the Aydin Beylik in the 14th century. The founder of this Beylik, Mehmet Bey, chose the town as the capital for about fourty years. After the death of Mehmet Bey, his son Umur Bey took over the control of the Beylik. During his period Umur Bey founded the first Navy forces of the Turks. When he was at the age of 25 he captured the whole Aegean Sea. But finally he was killed by the Crusaders when he was only 35.
It is mentioned that in the 16th and 17th centuries Birgi was even bigger that Izmir and Aydın. Isa Bey was the last one who managed the Beylik. He moved the capital of the Beylik to Ephesus which was called as "Ayasulug" on this time. During the period of the ottomans Birgi was a religious centre. It is also known that some ottoman sultans came to the town to spend hot summer days.
Today the town hosts many important buildings and is where some traditions of the ottomans can bee seen.
Ulu "Cami" Mosque, was built by Mehmet Bey in 1312, five years later than the occupation of Birgi. It is one of the first examples of Turco-Islamic mosques built in the Beyliks Period. Originally the mosque used to consist of three parts, hamam, turba "graves", medrassah "muslim theological school" as an islamic tradition. In this tradition the mosque symbolizes spiritual cleaning, medressah logical cleaning and hamam body cleaning. From this complex today only mosque and turba still exist. The materials used for construction of the mosque were taken from "Dioshieron", City of Zeus located around Birgi.
Pavillion of Cakiraga "Konagi", is one of the most beautiful Ottoman buildings in Anatolia. Konak was built by a rich leather tradesman called Serif Ali Aga at the end of 18th century. Because of his profession, Serif Ali Aga used to travel different cities in Anatolia and Europe and impressed by the designs of the houses that he saw. He wanted to have a house like the ones he saw built in Birgi and he brought some of the most famous and important architects in Anatolia. Finally the house was built and became very beautiful example of Ottoman architecture.
The Konak has three stories. The first floor consists of the rooms of servants, second floor was used for winter period and that's why there are very few windows in the rooms. The third floor was for summer surrounded by rooms with many windows. Two of these rooms are very famous and each of them were decorated for the owner's two wifes. One of them is called "Izmir" while the other one is named as "Istanbul". There are pictures in both rooms depicting beautiful Izmir and Istanbul.
Houses of Birgi, are typically built in Ottoman-Style. They have two floors surrounded by high walls with a courtyard in the middle. The first floor is the main place where the woman of the house spends much of her time working, cooking and doing daily activities. There is no or only one window in the first floor. According to islamic tradition, the privacy of the families are important. That's why all these houses are surrounded by high walls so that nobody can see the family. In the upper floors there are many rooms, some of which are enlarged and have lots of windows so that sunlight can penetrate into the rooms and other dark parts of the houses.
The town has tiny streets designed without any order as they were built in accordance with the necessities of the community.
In every street there are special owens made of clay which are reserved for the public use. The women use these owens to make special breads and cook some meals. As seen on all of the Ottoman towns there are fountains on the streets. During the Byzantine period, they wanted to store the water so that they could use it when needed and that's why they built so many cisterns. But during the Ottoman Empire period they wanted to release the water so that everybody could use it whenever they wanted. That's why they built so many fountains on every corner. We can say it is the same in Birgi. Some of the fountains in Birgi are monumentals. One of them is called Bicakci Seyit Ali. The water of this fountain comes from the snow on the mountain of Bozdag.
The day starts very early in Birgi. The women work at home while the men complete the works on the fields. The women spend much of their free times by making some handicrafts and the men go to tea-shops to play some games.
Birgi can tell you more stories. If you would like to hear more, you can visit Birgi on Eren Gonul's Best of West Tour all year round.