I took a walk in the woods of Emirgan recently. I miss trees and a good walk. The southern winds which are called “lodos” in Turkish were quite strong that Sunday morning. As I walked up and down in the hilly woods of Emirgan I remembered old days. In the 80’s the three kiosques that are in these woods underwent restoration by Çelik Gülersoy and the Turkish Touring and Automobile Institution. One of kiosques, called the Beyaz Köşk-White Kiosque- was home not only to wedding celebrations but a home to a concert series as well. I am not sure how long the concert events lasted but aside from a white grand piano, the kiosque was home to a beautiful Salvi harp. Long after the wedding trend ended there these instruments lived in the kiosque, sadly abandoned.
On the upper level of the kiosque, in the corner hall overlooking the side and the back of the gardens there was a nice size music library. Held in the glass windowed cabinetry the library held a good selection of books on Western and Turkish music. The somptuous harp was held in that hall and would spend the winters in its trunk. Summer would come and that was the only time the harp would be played, I was the only one. When I was a student at the Geneva Conservatory we would spend summers in Istanbul. We would take a dip in the Bosphorus in the mornings and 3-4 times a week I would come up to Emirgan for practicing. When I would break during the sessions I would open a window, join two armchairs, pull a book out of the library and relax in the plesantly cool wind blowing all the way from the Black Sea to the woods and into the hall.
If I happened to arrive around lunch time, the cook of the White Kiosque would offer me food cooked for the keepers of the premises. I ate a good amount of eggplants with minced meat as this is a popular summer dish in Turkey. I do not remember how many summers I spent like this. Those days, the woods was somewhat a desolate place. Not always safe either. There were not that many walkways cutting through the woods and strange people would wander around. My mother had given me a scouts whistle which I would wear around my neck. The only guards were at the main entrance. I was 15 or so the first year and I bit scared.
The hall that held the music library had nice acoustics with very high ceilings and wood floors. I really enjoyed playing there. I would often forget time. The harp was in bad shape though. Played only from summer to summer it would sit all winter in its trunk in a non-heated place, without seeing the daylight, with lots of broken strings. The first few fays out of the trunk would be spent in “healing”. Putting new strings on and tuning and tuning…the sound would open a little bit after a few days. Yer later the harp was acquired by the Bilkent Symphony Orchstra where I saw it. I knew it never had a chance to have a good sound as for that harps must be played a lot when they are young. As for the library, I do not know its fate. But I know that somewhere in the 90’s the woods were out of the hands of the Touring and Autumobile Club and that was the end of an era.
The Emirgan woods remain, the park is well trimmed and well attended to. It doesn’t have the wild and abandoned atmospehere I experienced. It can be heavily populated in good weather, but on days with lots of winds it is still a wonderful spot where one feels a belonging to Istanbul. I lied down under the trees to watch them dance. Lovely.