Museums for a Weekend Escape
Four surprising contemporary art and archeology museums that would take you to the gravity spots from Istanbul to Troy, and deep into the Turkish heartland.
Some places are so magnetic that you hit the road just to see them! We are talking about places that are normally out of your radar, like a rundown forgotten neighborhood of the city, shining again with a new museum, or a contemporary art institution waiting to be discovered like a shell in the middle of steppes. We have selected four such museums that are true destinations in themselves and could trigger your next vacation for a wonderful weekend filled with ancient and contemporary art.
Leaving its old venue in an elegant 19th-century townhouse of the pedestrianized Istiklal Street, Arter has landed on the urban jungle of Dolapdere last month -a former problem area of Istanbul associated with drug dealing, where car mechanics rub shoulders with gypsy families living side by side with Kurdish and African immigrants. The brandnew modern skin of Arter bears the signature of London-based Grimshaw Architects, an architectural studio praised for its designs from museums and art spaces to urban spaces like the new Istanbul Airport. The building looks like the cherry on the cake in a neighborhood that has been gentrified at a thunder-speed during the last couple of years. Besides contemporary art exhibitions, the museum offers a satisfying calendar of events from musical performances to a well-thought learning program for kids and adults.
WHILE IN DOLAPDERE >> Buy prosciutto from İdeal Salam, İstanbul’s last butcher shop selling pork, discover Panayia Evangelistria Greek Orthodox Church that waits for its time like a dusted jewel among crumbling houses, visit new contemporary art spaces like Dirimart, Pilevneli Galeri and Evliyagil Museum, clustering around Arter.
Visitors to Troy are usually disappointed, as the humble ruins of the legendary ancient city do not appeal much to the modern eye. This Bronze Age city was the site of Trojan War, during which it was besieged for 10 years and eventually conquered by a Greek army led by King Agamemnon around the 1200s BC. So one should not expect grand Roman temples or forums like one would find in the city of Ephesus, for example. A new on-site archaeology museum now helps the visitors to visualize how life was here 3 millennia ago! The cube-shaped building itself is an ode to minimalism. Inside, 2.000 artifacts from Troy and other ancient cities surrounding it are displayed.
WHILE IN CANAKKALE >> Eat cheese halva, sip Turkish Coffee at Yalı Han, taste local wines at Suvla Winery, see the wooden horse used at the film set of Troy, visit Manfred Kormann Library and have a Gallipoli War tour.
Eskişehir was a sleepy town in the Turkish heartland with almost no touristic charm, but now is one of the most livable cities of Turkey thanks to the correct municipal policies implied for the last two decades and its interesting small museums. It is a pleasure to have a weekend escape to this university town 2 hours away from Istanbul by train. The latest addition to the city’s attractions is Omm, a new contemporary art museum designed by famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. We will see if the brand-new museum will spark a “Bilbao effect” for Eskişehir or not. Art installations commissioned by the museum and art literacy workshops for the kids, on the other hand, are praiseworthy!
WHILE IN ESKISEHIR >> Eat çibörek (fried empanadas with minced meat), meet travel addicts at Varuna Gezgin Cafe, have a picnic at Sazova Park, enjoy thermal waters of the city at TASİGO Eskişehir Hotel, join parachute, paragliding and model aircraft courses at Eskişehir base of Turkish Aeronautical Association.
Imagine a world-class contemporary art museum at a remote Turkish village in the middle of nowhere. Imagine the alienating impact of nature in contrast with the highest form of human culture, which is art. And imagine more than that. There you have Baksı Museum, anchored like Noah’s ark at Bayraktar village, 45 kilometers from the Black Sea town of Bayburt. The founder of the project is Hüsamettin Koçan, a visionary Turkish artist and academician, who was born in this village. The collection and activities of the museum are dedicated to forming a dialogue between the regional culture and the global one, prioritizing educational programs for kids.
WHILE IN BAYBURT >> Eat ziron dumplings and lor dolma (beetroot leaves stuffed with cheese), see Bayburt Castle (the 3rd biggest of Turkey), visit Aydıntepe (Hart) Underground City and Medieval Georgian cathedrals of İşhan, Barhal and Öşvank in Çoruh Valley, do rafting on Çoruh River.