On the picturesque island of Buyukada in the Marmara Sea about an hour’s ferry ride from Istanbul, tourists climb a steep track through pine trees to peer through locked gates at the decaying remains of an old Greek orphanage.
Sealed behind crumbling walls, reinforced with ornate rusting bedsteads, the derelict property, formerly the Prinkipo Orphanage, is six stories high and 100 meters long. Valued at 80 million euros, the structure is reputed to be Europe’s largest wooden building.
It also has been the focal point of a legal battle that has seen Turkey’s fragile Greek community assert its rights, amid jockeying between Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and entrenched secularists, for control of the country’s cultural identity. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archives.]
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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, where he writes for the Times.