On her frequent visits to Constantinople (İstanbul) Gertrude got to know Osman Hamdi Bey, the polymath artist, archaeologist and collector who was the brains behind the İstanbul Archaeological Museum. She would visit him either at the museum where she could see the work in progress or at his house in Kururçeşme on a site whose location cannot now be one hundred per cent verified. Once she even went to visit him at his summer house in Eskihisar, near Gebze, arriving by boat in the days before instant communication to find him away from home.
On her visits she will have heard Osman Hamdi talk about his excavations at Nemrut Dağı, which she never saw, and at Lagina, near Yatağan in the southwest of the country, where he uncovered the only temple to Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft and crossroads, so far found in Turkey. While working there he stayed in nearby Iliena, today’s Turgut, where a fine stone house that he probably rented is now theoretically open to the public as the Osman Hamdi Bey Konağı. According to the men in the local teahouse Gertrude also stayed there.
Visitors to Lagina are passing rare despite the beauty of the setting. Not a lot more can be found at Stratonikeia to which it used to be linked by a Sacred Way, the route now severed by the quarrying that eventually drove the villagers of Eskihisar (not to be confused with the place of the same name near İstanbul) to leave their lovely homes built on top of the ancient ruins and move to Yeni Eskihisar, a far less evocative location.
At Stratonikeia visitors wander through layers of history, the gracious stone houses of Eskihisar sitting on top of and around the Classical ruins. For some reason that she doesn’t really explain Gertrude was not much taken with the place. For me, however, it is one of the most beguiling archaeological sites in Turkey as well as a poignant reminder that Turkey could have been a country of charming villages just as full of character as those in the UK if only it hadn’t allowed the concrete blight to run riot in the country as well as in the towns.
Up the road in Alabanda Osman Hamdi’s little brother, Halil Ethem Bey, was soon carrying out his own excavations making this a corner of Turkey whose sites will always be associated with that illustrious family. Needless to say Gertrude paid it a visit too.