Look up while roaming the streets of Istanbul, and you may see little palaces carved into the sides of its mosques and schools. The city’s birds have been calling these ornamented miniature mansions home for centuries.
People had been building birdhouses before the dawn of the Ottoman Empire, but they weren’t as ornate. The ones the Ottomans built were not simple structures, but were instead complex multi-level houses with copious ornaments and details. With their intricate windows, balconies, roofs, and towers, they mimicked the sort of grand abode you’d expect to find a regal human living in.
Creating the little bird palaces went beyond pure aesthetic appeal. It was said that building the houses and showing such kindness for the city’s feathered residents was a way to curry favor with God. The structures also kept birds from nesting inside buildings.
Only handful of such bird palaces remain, but you should find some in nearly every city in Turkey. Many of them have survived in Istanbul. They’re aged and weathered with time, but a number of them still boast the fantastic details that make them so intriguing. The oldest one is on the side of Büyükçekmece Bridge close to the city.