Çorum’s castle surrounded by abandoned houses

Çorum’s castle surrounded by abandoned houses

Wilco van Herpen ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Çorum’s castle surrounded by abandoned houses

These photos show the evacuated and abandoned houses around the castle. Most of the houses’ doors are open and there are no signs of life inside.

The fun part of my job is that I can do things that “normal” people cannot do. Don’t get me wrong, but making a television program sometimes gives you certain privileges.

Last week I was in the central Anatolian province of Çorum and I wanted to visit the castle for my program. We had permission but there was one thing we did not have: the key to open the gate. We went to the city hall; it was not there. We went to the Zabıta; it was not there. Also the doorman did not have the key but he allowed us to have a peek from the nearby mosque. What I saw was so nice and unspoiled; I really wanted to go inside. So there was just one alternative: climbing over the gate.

Climbing over the fence

Before I did this I discussed it with my cameraman, Oğuz, because it might give the wrong idea to the people, but we had permission to film there so we thought, “Never mind.” I was the first one to climb over the fence, walked around a bit and was very enthusiastic. Oğuz became very curious but he had to deal with a big problem: his camera. How could we get his camera over the fence? I climbed up the fence again, took his tripod and camera and slowly descended.

In front of us there was a long, narrow road. Everywhere I looked I saw weeds since no one had walked around in this place for a long time. To my right and left there was another road that led to some other side streets. I started to walk on the road that lay right in front of me. Looking right and left all I saw were abandoned houses. Most of the doors were open and a couple of chickens flew away when I approached them. I entered a house and looked around. The people had probably been given some time to abandon their house because it was completely empty. Carefully I walked around, scared of encountering some disturbed stray dogs or maybe even a homeless guy who took shelter here, but there was no sign of life whatsoever. It looked like a Hollywood film set; nobody around but suddenly I would be surrounded by creatures whose sleep was disrupted and were hungry for fresh flesh. None of this happened of course but I’m just trying to give you the feeling I had over there.

HDN Evacuated houses

I walked back to Oğuz, who was filming some general shots. Then another house caught my attention. The main entrance door was broken and curtains were still in front of the window. I entered and saw.
It was as if the people in this house had suddenly been evacuated. There was still a bed with the sheets on it. A Colbert jacket hung on a nail on the wall and books were scattered all over the place.

In another room there was a huge hole in the floor. To make such a hole is quite a job; you need at least some big electric drills to make it since the floor was made of concrete. The hole was deep; at least one meter, and there was the beginning of a tunnel. “Wow, treasure hunters,” I thought. In such an abandoned place as this, a castle, not very surprising, but probably they lost hope of finding the gold they thought would be there, or they were disrupted during their illegal work. I left the room and looked around a bit. The kitchen was still equipped, and I even found an egg. It turned out this was the only house in this state; all the other houses were completely empty. Just before I left I entered another house. It was the front door that drew my attention. Hand-carved, this door would be worth a fortune in Çukurcuma, the antique area of Istanbul. Inside there were even more beautiful doors and the house was huge. “What a pity that nobody is doing something with this place,” I thought. “If I had loads of money I would turn this place into a nice boutique hotel and restaurant area,” I thought. I would not change anything, just restore everything. But most probably some project manager will go there one day, look at the place and decide to break down everything to bring it back to its original status. But what is original? I think Çorum would be a livelier place if they followed the ideas I have, combining the way certain Turkish people transformed the inner castle into an area where people used to live and laugh with, of course, the historical feeling of the castle.

Together Oğuz and I walked back to the fence. We could easily have made a complete program about this place but I was in Çorum to make a program about Hittite food.

Shocked by the project

I was definitely not the first famous person to visit this beautiful castle, but I might have been one of the last ones. Evliya Çelebi (a famous Ottoman traveler) visited this castle in the 17th century, and he was very enthusiastic about it.

After writing this story I visited the website of the Çorum City Council. I was in shock when I saw the project that they have planned for the inner castle. Is this all Turkey can do with its beautiful history? Sorry, but the architect who designed this has to be exiled to Siberia, I think.

See www.corum.bel.tr for the latest project of the, still beautiful but probably not for long, castle.

Wilco van Herpen,