Standing impressively on a slight hill, with a strategic view looking out through the entrance of Cesme bay and towards the Greek island of Chios stands Cesme Fortress. The fort was built in 1508 under the order of Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid the Second.
Despite being relatively new compared to other Castles in proximity to Cesme, it has been the centre of many conflicts involving the Ottomans. It was most recently damaged extensively by the Russians during the 1770 Russo-Turkish War-(Not to be confused with the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War that I wrote about in my Battle Of Shipka Pass blog).
After some renovations and alterations by the Ottomans until their demise in 1920, the castle continued to play a key role in Cesmes five year hundred year history.
Before I continue with the history of Cesme Fortress, I will tell you about visiting the castle and what to see at the place.
From the outside, Cesme Fortress doesn’t seem very big. However, your perception immediately changes as you enter through the small arched doorway. When you proceed through the castle, the first thing you’re expected to look at is the three room archeological museum.
This museum exhibits artefacts found in the surrounding areas archeological sites and the artefacts include; very small glass jars, ceramic amphorae, Roman, Hellenistic and Ottoman coins, and a small selection of stone statues.
As you walk up the slight incline, you come across the first courtyard area. When we went, there were workmen planting and repaving the small garden area, which also exhibits a selection of Ottoman gravestones and should be most impressive upon its completion. From here, you can head up and along the castle walls, where from the top there are amazing views of the town, the Greek island of Chios, and surprisingly, you can see the Northern coast of the Karaburn peninsula.
The castle also has two more exhibition areas. One is in the bottom left tower, called the … tower, which contains Roman and Ottoman gravestones, and Greek statues.
The other exhibit room is at the bottom of the castle. This one was particularly interesting to me, as it detailed the Battle of Cesme of 1770, during that Russo-Turkish war.
It’s interesting to hear this battle is sometimes considered by the Russians as their Battle Of Trafalgar.
In the exhibit there are paintings, portraits, uniforms worn by both sides, coins from both countries during the time and information about the leaders of both countries and captains that took part in the battle…the most famous of which is Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha.
Born in Algeria, he was a fleet commander during the Battle of Cesme, and despite the Turks losing most of the Ottoman fleet and the destruction of the castle, Pasha became a Grand Vizier, and later Admiral. If you’re interested in him, he’s a bit like the equivalent of Admiral Nelson!
Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha began his sailing livelihood as a Barbary pirate and ended it during the last battle high he fought in which was during the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-1792, where – at the age of 85 – he orchestrated his fleet on three different occasions-(may I add, however, that he lost all of those engagements!).
Outside the castle, there’s a statue of him beside his pet lion, which he actually domesticated, and it went everywhere with him.
What’s most notable about the exhibit, is how it explains Russia’s rise as a world power and the desires of the Tsars and monarchy for Russia to become a global colonial power. It’s examples of this were the several wars Russia had against Turkey/the Ottoman Empire, and its wars with Poland.
Cesme castle then, is an incredibly interesting place to visit, and a place you simply must visit whilst in Cesme.
I may release some blogs about Didim and Kusadasi in the coming days, and keep an eye out on the Fethiye Times, where my ” Whistle Stop Tour” articles are regularly released. Go check it out, I talk about traveling to beautiful hotspots and locations in Turkey such as the Gocek Bay, Bozburun Peninsula and Datca’s Peninsula!
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