Thursday, March 27, 2014

From Çatalca to Subaşı: Charcoal production in Istanbul

Today's photo trek is taking place along the roads from Çatalca to Subaşı in the european side of the province of İstanbul.  Following the D569 road and being lead by the signs of smog,  you will find small villages and along the way the tradicional  production process of charcoal being made by locals. 

To get there you will have to drive about 45-60 min thru the highway E80. As is one of the main backbones of the traffic in the province (and algong with D100 are the main roads connecting it with neighbouring regions), it has turned into a heavily congested urban road of İstanbul.  Nonetheless this trek is worth all the trouble.

Before I start, I would like to give a special thanks  to Nancy Habbas and Linda Caldwell of the Photo Club İstanbul  who kindly led this photo trek and share with us this adventure.
Charcoal chimney.
For those like me who barely knew about charcoal, I look for the definition and here is what I found:  The charcoal is a light black residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from wood (in this case).  The Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood in the absence of oxygen.   


There are various methods of making Charcoal.  The way they do it in those villages is the traditional method: "This is essentially a pile of wooden logs (e.g. seasoned oak) leaning against a chimney (logs are placed in a circle). The chimney consists of 4 wooden stakes held up by some rope. The logs are completely covered with soil and straw allowing no air to enter. It must be lit by introducing some burning fuel into the chimney; the logs burn very slowly and transform into charcoal in a period of 5 days' burning. If the soil covering gets torn (cracked) by the fire, additional soil is placed on the cracks. Once the burn is complete, the chimney is plugged to prevent air from entering." Wikipedia

Making the wooden pile around the chimney.

This traditional method is still use in İstanbul.  Before this trek I had no idea of the process followed  but as we drove the road we encountered several charcoal productors and we could see the process in several stages. 

Cutting wood.

I was impres in how friendly the charcoal producers were to us and how open they were to share and explain what they do for living.   My respect to all of them and many thanks for letting us take their pictures.

Small branches needed for the chimney.

The chimney consists of 4 wooden stakes.

Piling up with smart selection.

Women working along the family business.

Husband and wife.

For those villages, the charcoal is a family business. We could see a husband and wife working together to pile up the woods along the chimney.

The logs are finally piled up.

The logs are completely covered with soil and straw allowing no air to enter.

Covering it with soil.

İt is primary hand made process. We could see only men filling the pile with soil.

Two stages of charcoal process.

  It must be lit by introducing some burning fuel into the chimney.

Letting 5-7 days burn.

If the soil covering gets torn (cracked) by the fire, additional soil is placed on the cracks.

The heating of wood in the absence of oxygen.

Smock slowly coming out of soil.

Every day they check it up and soil is added if needed.

 Puring watter and other waste from the chimney.

  Out of 10 tons of wood only three tons of charcoal are being produce.

 Once the burn is complete, they remove the soil and stack the charcoal.

The resulting soft, brittle, lightweight, black, porous material resembles coal.

Once the charcoal is removed you can find in the woods black circles of dust and piles of charcoal covered with plastic for protection.

Little house on the woods.

Charcoal is sold by kilograms for home grilles and restaurants in İstanbul.   Just like the restaurant we went after the trek.  We could taste Turkeys flavors,  buffala yogurth as well as salads and grilled şiş kebab in one of the restaurants of the village.   
I really enjoy this trek in spite of the smoke and me smelling fume.  I had a great time with the Photo Club of Istanbul. Thanks again to Nancy and Linda for leading it.   And the most important part, thanks to  all the charcoal producers we met, for letting us in and being such a friendly people.

I hope you enjoy the views!

 Soreya Reyes

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Büyük Valide Han

Today we are going to explore one of the most important Hans of İstanbul, the Büyük Valide Han. İt was use to store goods coming off ships anchored in the Golden Horn and as a caravanserai or hotel, for traveling merchants. Now a days there are workshops inside were you can see craftmen working on different materials iron, pottery, lamps, textil among others.

          The Büyük Valide Han's roof.

 Views of Suleymaniye from the Büyük Valide Han's roof. 
To get there you leave the Grand Bazaar via the Mahmutpaşa Gate. You will be able to walk down to the Spice Market along a route that takes you past many of the city's oldets hans. Walk along Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu and then turn left along Tarakçilar Caddesi. At the end you will see the huge Büyük Valide Han.

The Büyük Valide Han's roof.

At the entrance, note the enormous iron-plated doors, which were—and still are—closed at night for security. The han continues to be a working building, occupied mainly by textile wholesalers and small sewing workshops, but visitors are welcome to have a look around.

İron door at the entrance of Büyük Valide han.

Workshop door detail.


Büyük Valide Han is a two-storey, three-courtyard type han; and with reference to the settlement area, the largest among the Istanbul hans.  İt has an irregular plan, determined by the site’s conditions and the layout of the roads.    The uniqueness of the building comes from its three courtyards, a characteristic not observed in Istanbul hans until the 17th century. It has 153 rooms at the first and second courts, and 57 rooms at the third, cumulating to 210 rooms. 

 Hall at Büyük Valide Han.

Hall at Büyük Valide Han.

Hall at Büyük Valide Han.

Tunnel connecting to the patio.

Connecting door to small patio inside the han.

Stairs to the Roor.
In the northwest corner of the Büyük Valide Han, a crumbling old stone staircase leads up to the roof, which offers a fabulous view of the city.


The roofs

Walking thru the Büyük Valide Han's roof.

If you wish to venture up, find the caretaker, Mehdi Bey (who is usually on the northwest corner of the second floor, near the room where he lives), and offer him a small tip to unlock the door for you. Note that climbing up to the roof is at your own risk, as there aren't any railings on the roof.

Büyük Valide Han roofs.

The han's three courtyards have become very dilapidated, especiallysince the use of the old weaving machines was banned in 2007, but if you can get up there, the view from the roof top is absolutely extraordinary, taking in the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and much of the Old City.

Views of the Golden Horn from the roof of Büyük Valide Han.
From here you will also be able to examine the adjoining Byzantine Tower of Eirene, which was badly damaged and cut down in size by and earthquake in 1926.
Tower of Eirene from Büyük Valide Han.

Büyük Yeni Han. 

The third courtyard of the han used to be called the Sair (Foreigners) Han because it was inhabited by Persians. İts name has now been corrupted to Sağir (Deaf) Han. Deep inside it the remains of what appears to be a Byzantine chapel go completely disregarded.

View of metro bridge that crosses the Golden Horn from the roofs of Büyük Valide Han.

View of the New Mosque from the roofs.

View of Suleymaniye Mosque from the Büyük Valide Han's roof.

Walking thru the roofs of Büyük Valide Han.

View of the New Mosque and Galata Bridge from the Büyük Valide Han's roof.


Workshops inside the han
İn its prime it could accomodate up tp 3,000 traveling traders. There's a Shiite mosque in the center and in the 16th century one of İstanbul's first printing presseses was housed here.

Workshop view from door frame.

Metal worksop.

Craftsman working with iron candelabre.

Pieces of Candelabre.

Reflections of the mirror.

 Looking thru the glas of a workshop.

Craftman working pottery.

 Pottery art craft.

Pottery hanging in the wall of a workshop.

 Window of a workshop.

İron keys at workshop door.

Lamps in the hall outside workshop.

Lamps inside workshop.

Workshop reflections from a mirror.

 Pottery workshop.

It was a winter rainy morning and even though the weather was not great,  the visit was worth seeing it.  I would certainly like to do it again.   I hope to see it next time during spring or summer.  Mean time I hope you enjoyed this rainy views!

Soreya Reyes

Twitter:  @street_photos_