Fragments of Dikmen

My husband’s family has lived in Dikmen for over half a century.  His grandfather built the first apartment building (three floors, two flats on each floor) on the hill.  My mother-in-law recalls their flat being surrounded by old whitewashed houses with red tile roofs and vineyards when she was a child – a sunny hill of green and gardens.

dikmen houses.JPGDikmen’s now a city of cement, vineyards replaced with staggered layers of three and four story apartment blocks all almost identical in their ’90’s style, with a few taller towers rising here and there.  The roads twist and wind, some up the hills and flanked by firs, some roaring with traffic and lined by Burger Kings, chain grocery stores, and household goods shops with discounted wares spilling out onto the sidewalk.

Dikmen is a neighborhood of Fords and Fiats.  It’s primarily a residential area for mid-income office and government workers, a place people return to in the evenings and complete their grocery shopping at on the weekends.  It’s not a place non-residents visit – no great cafes or art galleries or museums or office buildings or trendy hair salons or shopping malls like Or’an to the south or Yildiz and Hosdere across the valley (the Dikmen Vadisi park).  Apart from access to the winding park that lights at night, the most exciting thing I’ve found is the Saturday bazaar.

Dikmen is middle class – but with pockets of poverty and the occasional nicer street with straighter sidewalks and well-trimmed front yards.  Like the rest of urban Ankara, there are very few detached homes – and those I’ve seen are all crumbling old houses.  In some of Ankara’s neighborhoods, around the castle and on the airport road, these dilapidated houses cover whole hills (See “Onek: Old Ankara Slums“); here they’re just scattered in pockets, one of two here and there in places too steep or narrow for new apartment buildings.

dikmen old houseNone of them have been restored, and all of them look like they’re just waiting to fall down and be purchased for larger developments.  For me (coming from a country where we cherish our older architecture) it seems a shame – why doesn’t anyone buy any of these older houses, restore it, and then live in a spacious villa with garden on a hill in the city?  But apparently few of these residences have complete legal building permits and land deeds, which means that they don’t actually fully own their homes and thus perhaps have little incentive to put money into remodeling them.

Anyway, after a week of residing in Ankara without plans (between the rush of getting my residence permit and the upcoming business of work starting next week), and a few too many walks through the neighborhood, Dikmen is decidedly boring.

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