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Turkey: Eco Centre Narköy offers seminars and eco comfort

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

For nearly two years an exemplary organic hotel, a couple of hours drive to the east of Istanbul, has been attracting exhausted urbanites to this green lung in the mountains around Kandira. What you find here is not only an intact world of nature but also an opportunity to get to know country life and to book courses in grow-your-own the organic way. A modern bio-hotel offers the level of comfort you expext these days, outstanding cuisine, peace and quiet and a relaxing view of a wooded valley stretching away to a chain of hills. The little eco village is called Narköy. ‘Nar’ in Turkish means pomegranate, but it’s also there in the name of the person who initiated this development - Nardane Kuscu. ‘Köy’ is the word for village. Here the Kuscu family have fulfilled their eco dream that they are striving to perfect all the time. Get more Impressions from the video.

(Picture: The founders Ahmet and Nardane Kuscu, on the left, and hotel manager Selin Özgül)

They have constructed two buildings for the hotel itself. There are 22 rooms with 45 to 55 beds, plus some extra beds as and when needed. They have consciously kept the furniture simple; much of it was designed by their daughter who then had it made from recycled materials. Waste timber from building sites was given a new lease of life, and the rooms acquire not only individuality but also sustainability. The colourful paintings do the same, creating a contrast in the rooms where natural shades dominate. Eco thinking pervades the hotel, from the organic cotton bed sheets to the eco detergents and cleaners. Hotel manager Selin Özgül is proud of it all. She comes from classic hotel management and is always pleased when guests praise the examples of sustainability found in  Narköy: "Many guests emphasise the fact that they come here because there’s no Cola on the menu and no television in the rooms." Instead of a TV screen, what you’ve got here are windows from floor to ceiling. "People want to enjoy nature," is Özgül’s explanation. 

(Pictures: Narköy offers authentic ecological life in the country and comfort in the rooms. A herd of goats and sheep provide milk that is processed on-farm)

Lots of seminar groups now come to Narköy. Firms send their employees, mainly from Istanbul, out into the countryside and they usually stay in the hotel for two to four days. Having retired as a teacher in 1996, in 2002 Nardane Kuscu set up NAR NLP for family counseling and NLP trainings. Company, with its new name NAR T&D, was transformed into Turkey's one of the well known training and consultancy firms with 22 full time consultants starting from 2005 by his son Ozan Kuşcu. Mother Nar's dream of an eco-village merged with Ozan's dream of an eco-training hotel, backed up by company's financial income from T&D projects, and created Narköy. Nar, has good contact with big firms that understand the importance of eco-management and sustainability. Underlying her concept is eco-psychology
“People need to be ‘earthed’ via a link to nature, forests, the soil, sunlight and fresh air. I’m pleased to say that here we can offer them all of that,” says the 61 year-old Nar Kuscu. She expresses her conviction: “People who permanently deny themselves this connection with nature end up with problems.” By building the eco hotel and creating an organic farm “a dream has become reality”. Coming from a farming family in the south of Turkey, here she was able to connect again with her roots. She has often observed how a stay in Narköy inspires guests to adopt a more ecological lifestyle. "The eco-psychological transformation induces bank managers, after the seminar, to plan a green roof on their office block in Istanbul or to add a balcony to their building so that their employees can get plenty of sun and light. (Picture: The restaurant in the eco centre Narköy, designed by architect Beste Kuşcu, east of Istanbul; on the right, Nardane Kuscu with their own handbook on compost making)

The complex – two buildings for accommodating guests, a reception and porter’s lodge, where vegetables are sold, the restaurant and the private house – was planned by the Paris branch of Emir Drahþan+LEA Invent. Nardane’s 29-year-old daughter Beste was involved in the planning because, at that time, she was working there after completing her architecture studies. She then helped with the work on-site and designed also the wooden restaurant building. She also designed and realized the whole interior design project of Narköy. Within just eight months from the start of building in November 2012, everything was finished. The planners made a great effort to install ecological technology. Water is heated by solar panels; the rainwater from the flat roofs is stored in a 40 m³ tank and used for flushing the toilets. A sewage system using plants filters waste water. They are soon going to install another purification system for the grey water that is collected separately and will be treated by bacteria in a special pipe.

(Pictures: People come from the surrounding countryside to shop in Narköy - Nardane Kuscu’s brother Mümtaz Bayat looks after the stall. On the right: Seed, here sesame, is also produced in Narköy.) 

The heating concept involves using not only the sun’s energy via a decentralized array of water-heating solar panels but also wood pellets (in the private house) and logs in stoves (in the restaurant, for example). The two apartment blocks, that especially in winter are not used regularly, have electric heating that can be turned on as and when required. “Since the buildings are well insulated, we think that’s acceptable,” says Beste. This part of the complex still doesn’t have its own generation of electricity from wind or sun.

Although Narköy seems to be a joint effort of Nar, Ozan and Beste, there are hidden heroes from the family. Ahmet, the father, and Mümtaz, Nar's brother. While Ahmet is responsible for the technology and IT - although he often has to go to Istanbul to work in his firm for technical medical equipment – her brother coordinates the farming, horticulture and seed production. (Nardane Kuscu in the storeroom for seeds) 

 Below the bio-restaurant, positioned on a hillside and flooded with light, is the 10 ha plot where they grow many vegetable varieties. You also see here a couple of yurts, more buildings with work and store rooms and animal sheds. In a little wood, they have set up an open-air classroom with hammocks for relaxation (picture on right). The organic seed bank, with over 800 mostly old seed varieties propagated on-farm, is located in one of these buildings. At the far end of the plot, a wind turbine raises water to the surface to be used for irrigation. Two compost toilets on the plot are a demonstration of a sensible alternative to water closets, and of course they are there to be used as well. Volunteers who discover Narköy via, for example, WWOOF or Work Away, plus their own employees, work in the organic agriculture practised on the farm.

You see edible and decorative plants not only on the plots below the buildings but also between the buildings where there are flowering and “edible” gardens, with herbs, flowers, peppers, maize and tomatillos that can harvested by the guests. They alternate with young lemon and pomegranate trees. Nardane is very interested in botany and experiments with plants that don’t normally thrive in this region, like sesame, peanuts and various sorts of melon. The restaurant has even got green walls inside: in two galleries you find herbs and climbing plants, and outside there are three galleries with plants growing up the walls. (Picture: Architect Beste Kuscu in front of a plant gallery. In 2011 she went on a permaculture design course)

“About 80 % of the food that we need for our business is produced here by us,” says a delighted Nardane. This means they not only harvest fruit and vegetables, cereals and potatoes but also process, add value and preserve bread, bakery goods, milk, butter, cheese, jams, fruit compote and vegetable conserves. The milk comes from a herd of about 50 sheep and goats. By using two greenhouses (800 m² in total), the growing season for tomatoes, paprika, salad, herbs, aubergines and zucchini can be extended quite considerably. Surplus produce is sold on the farm or in shops in Istanbul. (Picture on right: Volunteers helping the local farm workers)

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