Karaağaç, green like Holland

Karaağaç, green like Holland

Wilco van HERPEN Hürriyet Daily News
Karaağaç, green like Holland

The long stone bridge over the Maritsa River.

Karaağaç in the northwestern province of Edirne is one of those places in Turkey that deserves more than “just” being a small border town. Karaağaç is a nice little place where university life made the sleepy village area livelier. In the past, Karaağaç used to be a busy place but once the beautiful old train station closed its doors and the border post became more or less redundant because of the new highway, Karaağaç slowly became a ghost town. After Trakya University started using the beautiful train station building as the faculty of fine arts, little cafes and some restaurants began to open just outside the campus.

In a way it felt a bit like being home; like Holland, Karaağaç is so very green. Not unexpectedly, of course, because there is water everywhere in this area of Turkey. The streets were clean and there was not too much traffic. All the houses in that area are one or two stories high and wherever you look or walk there are trees.

Karaağaç is a charming old neighborhood of Edirne but it once was a small village independent from Edirne. This area has always been very strategically important for Turkey; the Greek border lies just two kilometers away. Nowadays local Greek and Turkish people are about the only ones (besides some clever smugglers who think this checkpoint is easy to cross) who use this border crossing. They visit friends, go shopping on the other side or just visit a restaurant that is a couple of kilometers away from the border. I parked my car on the corner of the street opposite the main entrance of the university. It was a pleasant and colorful 10-minute walk to the Lausanne monument.

Impressing monument

I love this monument. Unfortunately, in spite of the many talented artists, I have rarely seen monuments in Turkey that impressed me as much as this one. Once there was such a monument in the eastern province of Kars, but that has been destroyed. Another one can be found in Yalova and reminds us of the terrible earthquake of 1999. This Lausanne monument has style, grace and of course a strong symbolic meaning. The first things you see are the three metal columns, all different sizes. The tallest column symbolizes Turkey, the second one Trakya and the third (and shortest) symbolizes Karaağaç. Placed on a round circle that connects the three columns is a female figure. She holds a pigeon in one hand (how original) and a sheet of paper in the other. This document is supposed to symbolize the treaty. It is an important monument because it evokes how the Western powers recognized the Turkish Republic. Walking over the campus in the direction of the railway station you can see an old locomotive. It is a reminder of the old times. During the pre-electric and diesel era, locomotives worked by steam. And here you find one that you can climb on, look at, or, as I did, take some nice pictures of. The locomotive is “chained” to its place by the rails that have been cut some meters in front and behind it. Nowadays the railroad is following another route; it goes straight through town. The beautiful old Ottoman train station was then closed and it became a part of Trakya University. I cannot really tell you when to visit this place but for me late afternoon was perfect. The light on the building, the beautiful orange, purple and indigo-colored sky; for me this worked out just fine.

Bridge over Maritsa

After having a nice cup of coffee in one of the little cafes, it was time for my last port of call, the bridge over the Maritsa River. This is quite a long bridge entirely made of stone. In the middle of the bridge there is a particular spot where during summertime the Ottoman Sultan used to sit and watch the beautiful sunset over the Maritsa River. I wanted to experience this sensation for myself so I acquired a beautiful turban, an old-fashioned Ottoman cape and some more accessories. I felt a true Sultan; sitting in the middle of the bridge overlooking the Maritsa river.

You should have seen the faces of the people crossing the bridge. They could not believe what they saw. But I was having the time of my life watching the beautiful sunset and enjoying my cup of tea. Life was probably not bad at all for the Sultans; at least they knew how to enjoy it.