Tekirdağ (see also its other names) is a city in Eastern Thrace, Turkey. Tekirdağ is the capital of Tekirdağ Province and it is seen by many as a smaller, quieter town than the industrial centre of Çorlu, which it administers. The population as of 2007 was 134,000.
Tekirdağ's historical names include Rodosto (Ρωδόστο) or Rhaedestos (Ραιδεστός) and during the Byzantine era, it was also called Bisanthi (Βισάνθη). During the Ottoman era, it was called Tekfur Dağ, based on the Turkish word tekfur (deriving from the Armenian tagovar, the one who wears the crown) which designates generally the Byzantine feudal lords. In time, the name mutated into the Turkish Tekirdağ, and this became the official name under the Turkish Republic.
Tekirdağ is situated on the coast of the Sea of Marmara, 135 km west of Istanbul. The picturesque bay of Tekirdağ is enclosed by the great promontory of the mountain which gives its name to the city, Tekir Dağı (ancient Combos), a spur about 2000 ft. in height from the hilly plateau to the north. Between Tekirdağ and Şarköy is another mountain, Ganos Dağı .
History of the city of Tekirdağ dates back to around 4000 BC. The ancient city of Rodosto is said to have been founded by Samians. In Xenophon’s Anabasis it is mentioned as in the kingdom of the Thracian prince Seuthes. Its restoration by Justinian I in the 6th century A.D. is chronicled by Procopius. In 813 and again in 1206 it was sacked by the Bulgarians after the battle of Rodosto, but it continued to appear as a place of considerable note in later Byzantine history.
In the Ottoman period the city was a part of the vilayet (province) of Edirne.
In 1905, the city had a population of about 35,000, of whom half were Greeks who were exchanged with Muslims living in Greece under the 1923 agreement for Exchange of Greek Orthodox and Muslim Populations between the two countries.
Tekirdağ was long a great depot for the produce of the Edirne province, but its trade suffered when Alexandroupolis became the terminus of the railway up the river Maritsa (also called Evros in Greek).
Today the Tekirdağ area is the site of many holiday homes as the area is 90 minutes by road or train from nearby Istanbul. The road follows the coast and the villages of Şarköy, Mürefte and Kumbağ are particularly popular. Much of this holiday property has been built in an unregulated and unplanned manner and thus much of the coast seems very crowded and over-built. And the sea is not all that clean either, but there are still places to access the seaside near Tekirdağ.
Tekirdağ itself is a typical Turkish commercial town centre with a little harbour and little to offer to visitors. Most of the Ottoman wooden buildings have been replaced by practical concrete blocks but the town has neither modern sophistication, nor antique charm, nor any night-life. There is a quiet rural hometown feel to the place, preserved partly as people can sometimes go into Istanbul for big shopping and entertainment. In winter their air is thick with smoke from coal-fired central heating. However there is one reason to visit; the local delicacy is the small spicy cylindrical grilled meatballs (or mini-burgers) called Tekirdağ köfte. This can be followed with a local cheese and semolina pudding.
Tekirdağ is home to the port of Martas and the Botas Terminal; both important for trade activities of Marmara Region.
The inland areas are still farmland, growing crops including cherries, sunflowers, and grapes for making wine and thus the high quality rakı for which Tekirdağ is noted. There is a prison next to the rakı distillery, the smell of the aniseed must make incarceration particularly uncomfortable. The distilleries were state-owned until the 1990s but are now in private hands and the wine and rakı industries are undergoing a renewal.
The University of Thrace Trakya Üniversitesi has a faculty of agriculture in Tekirdağ. However in 2006 it has been announced that a new university, named Namık Kemal Üniversitesi, will be founded here with faculties of science and medicine.
The centre-left CHP do well in the industrial areas of Tekirdağ province. Even though the people of the town are not conservative, the town council of Tekirdağ is currently (2006) controlled by the Islamic-leaning AKP.
Places of interest
The Rakoczi Museum, a 17th century Turkish house where the Hungarian national hero,Francis II Rákóczi lived during his exile, from 1720 till his death in 1735. The house bears a particular importance for Hungarians and for all those with Hungarian roots. Today, the museum is property of the State of Hungary and is widely visited, having become a place of national pilgrimage.
The church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Rheumatocratissa contains the graves, with long Latin inscriptions, of other Hungarian who took refuge here with their leader.
The birth place of 19th-century poet, Namık Kemal, now a museum to his life and work.
Of all the statues of Atatürk in Turkey the town centre of Tekirdağ holds the only one that was made exactly life-size.