Museum gardens reveal multicultural heritage of Princes’ Islands

Museum gardens reveal multicultural heritage of Princes’ Islands

Pelin Ayten Yaz ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Museum gardens reveal multicultural heritage of Princes’ Islands

Various museum gardens on Istanbul’s Princes' Islands are cultural assets, bearing witness to the history of the islands. They are now hosting tourist groups once a month with a new project.

The Princes’ Islands, which have attracted domestic and foreign tourists for many years with their summer houses, gardens, historical and cultural structures, are ready to be brought further into tourism with the “Island Gardens” project. 

As part of the project, which is sponsored by the Islands Foundation, the Museum of the Princes’ Islands, the Islands’ Municipality, and private investors, the various museum gardens on the islands aim to appeal with their multicultural life and heritage. The gardens have a great range of flora and are home to many living creatures, but they are also invaluable cultural assets, bearing witness to the history of the islands.

Murat Sahir Devres, public relations coordinator at Büyükada’s Museum of the Princes’ Islands, said he wanted to create an open air museum due to the historical and cultural structures in the gardens. 

Multicultural islands

He said the Princes’ Islands were a melting pot of civilizations that once gathered Greeks, Armenians and Turks together. “Being an islander is above everything. Under the ‘Island Gardens’ project we took an important step with the help of multiculturalism, in the name of tourism,” he said. “The age range of the visitors is from 25 to 45, and we organize ‘Island Gardens’ tours once a month with groups of 15 to 20 people,” Devres said. “We have hosted 1,200 tourists so far. We want to start conducting tours twice a month, and we are expecting more tourists in the coming years,” he added.

Devres said the significance of Istanbul and the Princes’ Islands had increased and urban museums had gained importance thanks to Istanbul being the European Capital of Culture in 2010.

Gardens as cultural landscape areas

Landscape historian Gürsan Ergil said the project encompassed the newly-opened Fethi Okyar Mansion and the Vatican Pavilion on Büyükada, as well as the Halki Seminary gardens on Heybeliada.

According to Ergil, such areas should be evaluated as cultural landscape areas rather than as gardens. “For example, the Vatican Pavilion was once the Vatican’s embassy in Istanbul. Besides the natural beauties, there are also historical assets like decorative pools, constructed in an Italian landscape style, and cisterns dating back around 200 years,” he said. 

The garden of the Halki Seminary on Heybeliada has attracted many tourists with its rose bushes and barn, but it is so much more than just a naturally beautiful place, Erbil said. “The surprising thing is that when the tourists visit the Aya Triada Monastery in the garden of the Halki Seminary, they will see Byzantium Icons dating back to 14th century. These gardens form a whole of nature and history.” 

The flora of the featured gardens usually features asparagus, mimosa, thyme, almond and olive trees. 
Ergil said weekend tours can be organized on demand, and that further information can be obtained from the website

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