If we are to start from the beginning, it all started when Mustili Efendi, a well-known shoe-master of the last century, decided to build a home for his household in a serene neighborhood of Alaiye Castle. After several generations and decades of degradation which brought the mansion to the point of extinction, the latest owner decided to restore it to its original glory and open it to public use as an extraordinary boutique hotel.
A place where the last centuries’ ways would be remembered and relived, the mansion was conjectured as a place devoted to the Turkish way of living (A la Turka) and to all things that are indisputably Turkish. Hence the name: Villa Turka.
However owing to its status as a cultural asset located in a first degree archaeological site, the restoration was as meticulous and exhilarating as an archeological excavation and every detail was reconstructed in accordance with the original. The hard work paid off when in the end, the ruins revealed the great mansion beneath.
Today the mansion is considered a prime example of traditional 19th century stone castle houses. Locally known as Mustililer Mansion it embodies many of the finest local characteristics exemplifying the rich tradition of Alanya’s vernacular architecture: Villa Turka features centuries-old cisterns that have served many generations, 60 cm thick stone walls for perfect insulation, a sahnisin (a protruding room akin to a bay window) that rests solely on two 6-meter-high wooden poles, several çardak’s (a special type of wooden balcony) for enjoying the fabulous Mediterranean panorama, and a hayat (a semi-enclosed living room) with a hearth providing a cozy atmosphere in the cold weather.
ALANYA CASTLE MANSIONS
As is with any kind of vernacular tradition, the house is a mirror which reflects the customs, beliefs, values and the life stories of the earlier generations. Taken as a whole, the elements shaping the architecture of the traditional Alanya houses make these houses a rare breed among the other traditional Anatolian houses. From the sloping terrain on which the castle is grounded, to the rocky ground formation, to the microclimate that surrounds peninsula and to the dominant cultural values of the times, every detail plays a determining role in the evolution of vernacular Alanya architecture.
One can start by looking at the most striking feature of these houses, the cumba’s. These protruding rooms resting on wooden poles can easily be seen as attempts to expand the interiors of the house limited by the insufficient area within the castle and the steep slopes hindering development. Built using a special structural unit called “bagdadi” made of lightweight wood, these rooms typically offered the best panoramas. Owing to this quality, they were mainly used for welcoming guests and accordingly named “şahnişin”, the primary room.
However for the household, the main living quarter was the “hayat”, literally translated as “life,” located in the second floor. Unlike today’s home, where the bedrooms are tucked away in one remote corner of the house away from the guest rooms, all individual rooms were connected to hayat, which was the main hub where everything interconnected and happened. From making food in the wooden hearths, to sleeping on the broad divans, to having dinner from the copper trays on the floor, life went on in hayat.
The first floor rooms on the other hand were usually employed as bathrooms and stalls for the livestock due to the presence of bedrocks protruding from the back walls. The lack of means to wipe these rocks out was another reason for the need to expand in the upper floors. The untouched parts of bedrock are still present in some of the bathrooms of our hotel.
Another significant consequence of these extensive bedrocks covering the ground was the impossibility of drilling water wells. Castle inhabitants therefore had to look up to the sky for water, which explains the ubiquity of the cisterns. Some as old as the walls themselves, the cistern was at once the life saver and the life source, making it possible to collect and store rainwater like a cactus in the desert. At least one for each household, most with capacities exceeding 30 tons of water, they were made to last during the summer. But it was also customary for those going to the mountain plateaus for the summer to let their neighbors use their cisterns.
If there was one good thing about the rocky terrain, it was that people could easily make use of the readily available stones to build very thick stone walls that provided excellent shelter from the merciless summer heat and somewhat harsh winter conditions.
All in all, Alanya Castle together with its sweet little houses, grand mansions, ancient temples, towers, arsenals all interconnected with a web of narrow cobblestone roads is a vast field of clues waiting to be explored. It is up to the visitor to unearth its secrets.