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Tuesday, May 21, 2019
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You could probably argue that the mind of the architect has never dreamed up a style of building quite as romantic as the Gothic fortress. There is something about its points and precision - sharp turrets pointing towards the heavens, a room at the top perfect for a trapped princess or a fairytale character in some curious peril - that sings across the centuries. What, after all, is the Cinderella Castle - the fibreglass fantasy which adorns Disney theme parks across the planet - but a modern evocation of this grand design?

 

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You can find the real thing easily enough, of course - Bran Castle, the hilltop marvel eternally associated with the Dracula legend, in central Romania; Hohenzollern Castle in Baden-Württemberg, in southern Germany; the Alcázar of Segovia, in central Spain. The blueprint even extends to Mudurnu in north-western Turkey - although the strange cluster of Gothic "castles" found on the outskirts of this unheralded town, 180 miles south-east of Istanbul, has far more in common with Walt Disney's whimsical vision than the masterpieces of European construction of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

  

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Indeed, you might question whether Burj Al Babas - as this unlikely project is known - will last into the next decade, let alone survive for half a millennium. It involves more than 700 Gothic-style villas, each resembling an identikit miniature castle, laid out immediately to the south-west of Mudurnu - having been conceived in 2014 as a luxury community for foreign buyers looking to invest in the Turkish property market.

 

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However, Sarot Group, the developer behind the site, has run into cash-flow problems as the Turkish economy has experienced a downturn. Although around half the villas - some 350 properties - were initially sold, largely to Middle Eastern customers, the company has filed for bankruptcy protection. Some of the buyers have backed out of their purchases, thanks - the news agency Agence France Presse has reported - to the slump in oil prices. At present, Burj Al Babas is unoccupied, unfinished and unopened.

 

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Mudurnu itself is not an unappealing place to live. While small of size, it has long been a fixture on the map - the ruins of a Byzantine fortress still crown a bluff above the town.

 

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It may be that this remnant of a former glorious era outlives the "castles" gathering cobwebs in the valley below - although anybody tempted by turrets will find plenty of availability on the building site. The homes were reportedly on the market from US$400,000, but interested parties may be able to negotiate a bargain.

 

Turkish Ghoast Farytale Castles - COFL from Community of Lights on Vimeo.

 

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