Eskisehir, an industrial city in northwestern Turkey, has been going through a vast series of transformations in the last decade that led it to be named the “Cultural Capital of the Turkic World” for 2013 by the International Organisation of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY). Owing to a modern city centre, establishments of public parks and gardens, renovations, vitalizations in the cultural scene; Eskisehir is a dynamic city which is an inspiration to its neighboring cities.
Porsuk River is one of the most iconic symbols of Eskisehir, despite its previous bad fame for an unpleasant smell. After extensive renovations, Porsuk River is now cleaned and decorated. Furthermore, a tram network in Eskisehir was introduced in 2004 for faster and more efficient public transportation.
Today, the Porsuk riverside, in the city centre, has become one of the most popular youth hubs. Lined with cafes and shops, one can also enjoy a gondola ride during the summer.
Eskisehir is home to two universities; Anadolu and Osmangazi, which give the city a youthful atmosphere and a vivid nightlife driven by the students. Neyzen Tevfik Street, with its various pubs and cafes, is a popular destination for a night out. It was founded in 2010 for the rising demand of university students for a place to go out and socialise. Its name is given after the Turkish poet Neyzen Tevfik, who was renowned for his heavy drinking and satiric poems.
Perhaps the most visible transformation in Eskisehir has been the several new parks and gardens. Sazova Park is now home to iconic elements of the city, including a “Fairytale Castle” and a pirate ship. All of the towers of Fairytale Castle are inspired by different real towers in Turkey, such as Galata Tower and Justice Tower in Topkapi Palace.
The pirate ship in Sazova Park is another attraction that is particularly popular with children. Also popular sites include a science museum, a working light train, an artificial lake for water skiiers and a Japanese botanic garden.
Local residents have long felt that if Eskisehir was by the sea, it would be the country’s most perfect city to live. With the construction of a beach that was built on Porsuk River, residents of Eskisehir can now enjoy the beach and sun by visiting Kent Park.
Eskisehir, meaning literally “old city” in Turkish, also has a historical city quarter. Many of the traditional Ottoman houses in the Odunpazarı neighborhood were neglected and in danger of collapse before the local government started renovations. Now the neighborhood is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city with handcraft studios, traditional restaurants, boutique hotels and museums.
Meerschaum is a rare mineral often used in pipes and decorative handcrafts. It can be turned into artistic masterpieces in the hands of a diligent artisan. Meerschaum and its associated artisans are renowned for being the main source of commerce in Eskisehir. However, this handcraft has been steadily declining.
In addition to meerschaum artisanship in Eskisehir, glass art is popular and supported by local governments. Anadolu University is the first in Turkey to include glass artisanship as a department in its Faculty of Fine Arts. Some extraordinary creations of glass art are exhibited in the Museum of Glass Art in the Odunpazarı neighborhood.
The art scene in the city is not limited to meerschaum and glass art. In the streets of Eskisehir, it is possible to see statues that were erected by the local governor Prof. Dr. Yilmaz Buyukersen, who is a sculptor himself.
In 2001, the theatres in the city opened their curtains for the first time after 40 years. Since then, demand for performing arts in the city has been rising. Eskisehir also has two symphony orchestras, which traditionally sell out of tickets before the actual events. Thanks to the newly established art and performing arts facilities, the city hosts many national and international festivals in music, art, theater and film every year.
Being home to a significant Turkic Crimean Tatar population, Eskisehir’s Turkic/Tatar cuisine attracts many culinary visitors. Specialties like çibörek and köbete are the gastronomical highlights of cultural tours. Local restaurant owners are thrilled with the regular tour busses that line up during peak times.
The “old city” of Turkey is determined to protect its historical corners such as Odunpazarı district and Resadiye mosque whilst continuing to evolve as a modern city. In the meantime, it will continue to be a shining example for other cities in the region.