Recently I came across a file that I had made for a young German woman, Lisa, who was doing a project for university about Galata. She came to my first little cafe and asked if she could interview me. Of course I said yes and then she also asked for some of my favourite photos. And this is the file I came across. I decided I would post them and write what I remember about them. Some of these were everyday places in Galata and some were down the hill in Karakoy. Ah, another stroll down memory lane. How lucky I am to have such memories.
I don’t remember this man’s name, but he was quite a character. He spoke in a gravelly thick voice but was always cheerful. He came up with different ways to sell things on the street, fruit, small cucumbers that he peeled and salted, and then this, the spiral apple phase. This was around 2004, when there was still traffic in the square.
For a few years I often helped my emlakci (realtor) friend Sait when he was showing flats to yabanci (foreign) buyers. It was a great way to see into buildings around Galata. From this flat, the tower was on the right and this is looking down at the square. And by chance that is my friend Cevdet in the green t-shirt. Ah, the good old Galata. There was a stone sculptor in the open courtyard, then the municipal bread stall, the manav (greengrocer), the market. One time when I was at the manav, some guy in a car made a comment about me, a yabanci woman. I did not catch it, but the grizzled old manavci told him ‘she is ours’. I really appreciated it.
There were often activities on the square, some larger, some smaller. These Ecuadoreans starting coming in about 2005, every year bringing a few more, including some women. Some of the musicians were very young. They came only for the season and then went to Europe or back home. I actually had a small group play in my cafe once. They did not speak English and not much Turkish. My Spanish is spotty and I don’t know Quechua, but one young man spoke French, so we got along ok. He and some of the others have university degrees.
The other group is young Turkish women getting ready to dance. I loved their bright clothing and I am glad that there are a lot of folkloric activities there.
I am going through these photos as they are in the file, so this is not quite Galata. It is a dig down the hill from the tower. My friend Kay was staying in the Galata House Hotel across from this. We and another friend Asha were sitting on Kay’s tiny balcony and got to look at it more closely. Galata was like that– lift a stone and there is history under it. When I left, the dig, still undug, had a big fence around it. Someone told me it was going to become a parking lot, but I don’t see it happening. But you never know, in istanbul.
There was an event going on by the tower with a good-sized audience. The boys climbed the wall for a good vantage point. Getting up onto the wall is not really easy, so this is a young manly sort of thing to do. Some are sitting above the cesme (chesh may), which was once a place to get water and also was once in another place. I am not sure why they moved it and I am too lazy to research it.
These two places are in Karakoy. The first one is on a side street going down from the tower. I liked the medieval walls, the grated windows, the thick iron doors still going strong. They are full of small industries, or were then, early 2000s. The second photo is a working cesme on another street below the tower. You can see the woman getting water from it with probably her bored husband waiting. And here is this beautiful fountain surrounded by a squat industrial building. Galata was full of interesting and often not very beautiful contrasts like that.
This is Huseyin the hamal. He is going or coming to a job where he carries big or heavy or awkward things. I have seen him carry kitchen appliances or stacks of boxes. I don’t know what that padded rack is called, but old-time hamals use them a lot. There is also a man who comes around once in a while to mend them. Huseyin was in his 60s but both he and his hamal brother were still working. I had Huseyin haul some things for me a few times. I would ask how much he wanted and he would reply sort of ‘whatever you think’, which put me in a quandary because I did not know the normal price. So I asked what normal price was and we agreed. I often added a little something. He grew up in Galata, but he had moved his family to Sisli some decades before. I suspect it was when Galata was in one of its down and out phases, guns, drugs, prostitution. Actually, there are still several government overseen brothels down the hill in Karakoy, in the old day full of sailors.
This is the view from my bedroom when I lived on Muellif Sokak. That is the Golden Horn. I looked at that view for three years. Lovely.
Yes, it snows in Istanbul. Though this much may happen once in the winter. It is fun though, as it brings the city to a halt and it brings out playfulness in many people. The guys on the left have a percussion shop and the snowman on the right were both on Galipdede, the main street leading from Istiklal down to the Galata Tower. In fact, we yabanci often called it ‘the music street’ because of all the music shops. Years before my time it had been old book street. I think there was one old book shop left when I was there.
Galata was not very Muslim until maybe the last century. For centuries there were active churches and synagogues. Several have taken on other uses or have become derelict for lack of congregation. The gray doors are for a synagogue which became an art gallery. The other door is a little church tucked in to Karakoy. This may be the Turk Ortadoks Kilise (church).
Not sure why I included this. Somewhere I have a lovely photo of the wisteria in bloom. I kind of like derelict buildings, wondering what their stories were. These are about a block from the tower.
Two more faces of Galata. Omar is at the manav when it was right on the square. I always thought he looked like a greengrocer, sort of jolly guy. However, he also has a temper, which I saw a few times. A few years before I left he disappeared from the manav, His brother, Bayram, a big booming Kurd, was kind of the godfather of the whole clan, which is a whole other story. He and Omar fell out, so Omar went away. It was around that time that I learned that Omar had killed someone many years before. Gulp. Here he is just a proud weaver of cherries.
The other man I saw often and occasionally bought from. That is my phone on the table, so you can see when this would have been taken. At any rate, he sold rather dried up fruit and nut bars, which I think people bought out of pity than taste. But he was out every day, even when he had had something done to his leg and walked with a cane.
These are quite old stairs left from when many of the roads around Galata were stepped. These are the kind of stairs horses could go up. I remember reading Pierre Loti’s account of riding a horse through Galata and wonder if he rode up this way.
The other view is looking down some stairs, perhaps these same ones, at the Ashkenazi synagogue. It was not being used much at that point, mostly for bar mitvahs and weddings.
This is the tea garden in snow. The tea house is on the right. At that time it had a wood stove and was very toasty. This was when it was gradually becoming less of a kiraathanesi (cafe for men) and if not welcoming of women, at least tolerant.
Wow, and here we are at the end of a zigzaggy tour of the past. They were very good years. More to come.