Istanbul's glorious but crumbling past

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Remnants of old Istanbul

‘I‘ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow the house down,’ said the wolf to the 3 little pigs…

Why do these lines from a half-forgotten fairytale resonate as one walks through the backstreets of Istanbul’s old neighbourhood, Fener?

The answer reveals itself, if you stand below a house, look up at it and exhale gently in its direction, you get the feeling that a mere breath might bring the house crumbling down.

Most of the houses huddle like old women bent over canes, with withered faces, hunched shoulders and trembling hands, leaning on each other as if seeking extra strength and support.

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The forgotten streets of Fener

Fener is an area known for its authentic Istanbul architecture. The mostly unkept buildings with magnificent architecte make for an interesting walk in the decrepit yet still liveable Istanbul area.

It sits along the Goldern Horn and is an area where conservative Islam lives side by side with a Greek orthodox community.

The orthodox attend the Greek School that is perched on the hill and towers over the neighbourhood. Its size and architecture is in overwhelming contrast to the falling houses that lie at its feet.

The conservatives are a mixture of women with coloured clothes covering the body to the ankles, wrists and topped with a head-scarf, while others are cloaked in a sheet of black.

What will Fener be ten years from now?

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Renovators dream

Could it be worth the risk to buy a beaten down house now while prices still reflect a forgotten borough?

Questions galore with no easily available answers.

Although, it isn’t hard to imagine this neighbouhood a decade on, re-born as the new elite hub of Istanbul with fashionistas sipping lattes at the latest cafe to line the strip.

Try and imagine that scenario… perhaps then you might wish, ‘If only I purchased ten years earlier!’

Who is willing to take the risk? Refresh, renovate and wait…?

Written by Sheldon Heyes

Fener Tip

Try this path – Start your walk following the steep cobbled street that leads up to the Greek School. Continue along the back of the school in any street. Then follow any street down to the other side. You should arrive back at your original starting position as if you have circled the school and the community. The Golden Horn esplanade has just been refurbished. Stroll in the direction of Eminönü. Then grab a taxi when the esplanade tapers off.

Be free not constrained. Wander and do not be afraid to get lost.

Have you read ‘Fener’, then explored the area?

Please comment below.

You may also enjoy reading “Kuzguncuk“. Read, then explore a small Istanbul village along the Bosphorous.

About Sheldon Heyes
Lifestyle writer for Turkey - I will prepare you for Istanbul. I will show you my city. Stemming from an Australian media background I have been in Istanbul since 2012. With a foreign heart and a writer's pen I have since embraced, danced, swallowed and mumbled the Turkish culture, music, food and language. Currently - Read by thousands of passengers zooming across the globe at 38,000 feet with Turkish Airlines inflight magazine 'Skylife'. Freelance contributor at The Guide Istanbul Magazine. Online guest posts with www.yabangee.com. Freelance journalist published online at www.gallipoligames.com. And... thanks to popstar and musician Mehmet Erdem, having a bit of cultural fun and flair appearing in the Turkish video clip - 'Aşkımız Bitecek'. Past contributions - Istanbul Timeout and Home Art Istanbul magazine.

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