ORDU: Golibices (Cormorants), Violets, Bay-Windowed Houses…


At that time, the wooden house where I was born had a view of the sea, and this house remaining from the Turkish Greeks was in cobble stoned Sıtkı Can Street… By the sea there were not many multi-story concrete buildings. All day long we used to play ball in the sand stretching from Taşbaşı Church to the exquisite kiosk right in front of the old Governor mansion. I was one of the kids who broke the windows by their long kicks of the houses which appear in the foreground of the pictures of Ordu with Boztepe view taken in 1960’s. Even one of those who pilfered plums from the gardens of those houses… Today those houses do not exist, neither does that fine kiosk! Though the old governor mansion is still standing, the aroma does not come anymore from the magnolia tree of its garden. The green jeeps that used to climb up to Boztepe from Sıtkı Can Street have become already scrap. Incidentally, I have to mention here that the man who gave his name to our street, an educator, researcher and writer, Sıtkı Can (1904-1958) did publish Yeşilordu Magazine as a publication of Ordu Halkevi (People’s House).

The memory of the cities can only be maintained by their architectural texture. In the 1960’s the architectural characteristics of Ordu used to be made of wooden houses. Most of those houses used to remain from the years of the population exchange. Zaferi Milli Mahallesi (Neighborhood) used to be called Ermeni Mahallesi (Armenian Neighborhood). With the very few Armenian friends of ours we used to play matches in the backyards of İsmet Paşa and Cumhuriyet primary schools, and perhaps due to the softness of the wood, there were no quarrels among us. Moreover, Greeks who migrated during the population exchange years used to come from Greece to their land of birth, and the Ordu folks used to visit their friends in Greece too.

One of my childhood streets was Menekşe Sokak (Violet Street). The Taşbaşı Church used to be a half-open prison. While walking towards Tabyabaşı, I watched from above the prisoners playing volleyball in the backyard of the Church used to give us a different sensation mixed with dolefulness. Tabyabaşı was a promenade known by the local folks as ‘lovers’ road’ right before the seashore road was opened. This is just Tabyabaşı as in the line of the folk song ‘Three girls at Tabyabaşı are side by side / One of them made eyes at me…’ Then the rock group founded by the youth of the Tabyabaşı used to enchant the guests of the wedding ceremonies at Gülistan Hotel and the People’s Education Center. To listen to the 45 records at the teahouses by the sea used to be a different passion. It was not only us to lend an ear to those songs but also golibices (cormorants) unpredictable ones where they would come up in the water were included in the audience. İddia (Betting), Loto and other digital lottery games did not exist then. Nevertheless to place a bet on where golibices (cormorants) would surface didn’t harm anybody.

Ordu Municipal Black Sea Theatre, which opened its curtains in 1965 with a play called Hülleci (A Man Taking in Part of a Deceitful Marriage) used to be the main artery of the cultural life of the city as it’s today. With its full house full movies, Millet (People) Cinema, Yıldız Bahçe (Star Garden) and İnci Bahçe (Pearl Garden) were two other summer cinemas. Criers carrying wooden panels with posters attached on them used to pass the streets by shouting out ‘Colored-Turkish Cinemascope two Movies at once.’  Who else used to go by: knife-grinders, junk-dealers, watchmen, dyers, paper kids, gypsy women… Yes, gypsy women creaking like bellows lacking oil: Tinsmith is heeereee! There was an older man selling candied rusters. He used to walk with a glass covered box on his arm where he fitted his rooster shaped candies. Football was as always one of indispensable indulgence. We used to anxiously wait for the weekly Fotospor magazine. The sportsmanship consciousness of Orduspor fans alongside with its female supporters had been forged even at that time.

When you take a look from Boztepe in the years of the 1960’s, one could not see anything but Taşbaşı, Zaferi Milli, Düz Mahalle, Saray, Azizye and Selimiye neighborhoods. The Ordu High School from which I graduated was very far away from the beach and soybean factory. In front of the mayor’s Office, there were two wooden piers approx. 300 meters apart from each other. Fishing boats used to dock at these piers. To salt anchovies in olive oil cans used to be indispensable part of our culinary culture. In those years passenger ships such as Aksu, Tarı or Cumhuriyet (Republic) used to get to Ordu. Ships used to wait offshore, and the passengers used to be transported from these piers by boats. I never forget the day when we waited for my aunt coming from Istanbul with great distress since the boats were not able to sail in a very stormy sea. Had she been alive today, this woman of Republic could have set a very good example for today’s young girls in terms of her dressing, ideas and mannerism.

Squares, parks, green areas make up a city’s lungs for life. Unfortunately Ordu is a city without a square. The area before the Provincial Palace used to be called as People’s Plain just like a square. People’s Plain according to the sources was a square constructed by Ataturk’s order in 1924 after its sand and wet clay was cleared by a tram line. This square used to be integrated with the historical, stone buildings in Saray (Palace) neighborhood. Some of stone buildings are still standing. Yet the ones not used as official buildings should be given some functionality. People’s Plain in time turned into a vegetable market. Loin clothed village women used to carry their produce, fruits and vegetables in their baskets called ‘Şelek’ made out of hazelnut branches to sell here. Yogurt was put not in plastic boxes but in copper buckets. It was possible to find ‘high plateau beet’ in the market. In summers it was high time to get to the high plateau called Çambaşı where ‘our firewood would not burn.’ This high plateau once decorated with shingle roofed houses has become a victim to concrete as the other Black Sea high plateaus experience.

Promenade by the sea used to be used during hazelnut season as a harvest place. The hazelnuts collected from the orchards close to the city center used to be spread out here for drying. Its shell used to be burnt in stoves, its embers taken from stoves used to be put on braziers. In every household there were one or several copper braziers. On a tripod mount placed in the brazier coffee and even dishes were cooked. The most popular place of the houses was the kitchen. The coverings laid on the couches by the windows used to reflect the elaborateness of the life style of that time. In that life style there was no room for turbans or veils. In fact, women at that time used to do whatever is required from them in terms of their belief. Perhaps the capital was not as globalized as today! Hazelnut tradesmen of the national capital did not employ religion as exploitation means.

The architectural texture of Ordu has started deteriorating in the 1970’s. Bay-windowed, wooden houses at the foot of Boztepe were not able anymore to see the sea because of the multi-story buildings erected by the shoreline. From then on I did not have the chance to watch the sunrise out of our house with its hinged windows and brass-knocker. The resentment experienced by me and other kids of whose homes stayed behind those stone masses lies in the political powers of those years. Back  during those years there was no such concept like urban transformation. If it were, these ugly formations would have been for sure regarded as a requirement of the urban transformation! To get rid of a place of  historical value or a street is equal to deleting the memory of the cities. In the residents of a city with its memory wiped out, the sense of living in a city would not develop. I say sense of living in a city; not solidarity among the fellow country-people. For some reason caring about your countryman reminds one of self-interested relationships.

Nevertheless with the restoration works done in recent years, books and projects written and cultural activities, the efforts made to regain this beautiful city’s memory should be acknowledged to recognize the Ordu folks who nicely absorbed the sense of living in a city.   

Dostoyevsky once said ‘Being a native of a city means you have a place to go.” Thanks to God I have had places to go throughout my life: Ankara, Ağlasun, Gölhisar, Çarşamba, Gümüşhane and Sinop… The days are becoming heavier; I wonder if only I could lift up my wings like a golibice (cormorant), like a hawk and fly from one sea to the other, from Sinop to Ordu?

            What if the stone stairs of that lonely house I haven’t seen for long would have mossed!

İlyas Tunç

Translated from Turkish by Mesut Şenol

The Cities Deserving Their Past To Be Wiped Out,

Cumhuriyet Books Prepared by Işık Kansu