In most cases it’s a mega metropolis that makes up a city, but in Istanbul everyone and everything seems to have its place. Old towns, new towns, business districts, entertainment districts and then nuzzled between all of this mayhem are villages. They exist like pellets of rice that have been thrown into a big swimming pool. And when you find one of these pieces of rice, you not only feel a strange bewilderment but also an urge to preserve this now inedible grain.
These villages, most often described using the word ‘quaint’, still exist along the Bosphorous. One of these so called ‘quaint’ communities pokes its head out from below the Bosphorous Bridge on the Asian side of Istanbul.
Welcome to Kuzguncuk. When you find this little piece of Istanbul, you might do one of two things… tell everyone about it, or perhaps in order to preserve and not promote, never speak of it again.
In Kuzguncuk the houses have an old wooden Istanbul architecture, old churches, old mosque, old, old, old. I think that might be the theme here. Everything is as it was. Cobblestone streets also weave around these ‘old’ things.
In the business world, time is money and we also know there are 60 seconds to a minute. But in this town, time seems limitless. The locals who work at the supermarket, bakery and cafes, have time and energy for kindness and patience. As do the locals walking the streets or those sipping tea on tiny stools in lane ways in the shade of trees.
They seem to mirror this notion that time doesn’t fly, it crawls.
Certain Kuzguncuk outsiders have taken advantage of this tranquil picturesque world. Brides and Grooms walk the streets with camera teams lapping at their heels. Crews filming TV series also love the facade of this village. And then there are the photographic mentors and students who pace out the town discussing techniques and trying their camera skills on the ‘old’ things.
The Kuzguncuk residents appreciate their peaceful village and have tried to tackle the above mentioned problems. They have posted signs on the front of their houses saying ‘no filming for commercial reasons’. ‘No filming without permission’.
The appreciation of peace goes further still with no retail stores in the town. So don’t expect a day of shopping at ZARA, Mango or the likes.
The small town layout of Kuzguncuk also only has one main road that cuts through the centre of the town and barely has any traffic flow. On this street there is an old Istanbul köfte institute.
Istanbulites are known to cross from the European side just to enjoy a plate of köfte from this joint. It is called Pala’s place (Pala’nin yeri kofte salonu), which seems an obvious choice of name really as the owner is an ‘older’ man who sports an impressive ‘pala’ (moustache that curls). It is the kind that is long, manicured, curls at the end and could even be tucked behind the ears.
Walking away from the bridge passed the waterfront homes of Istanbul’s elite, head to our next stop – Üsküdar. Üsküdar’s newest addition is the Marmaray project, a train system that links the continents through a tunnel flowing underneath the water. Sounds impressive, but why would you want to miss an Istanbul ferry sea view?
After a quick peek in town continue heading along the Bosphorous and walk around the corner. There are tea houses on the wide and tall stairs by the water facing the Maiden’s Tower. Large cushions are strewn across the stairs, so get comfortable.
What should you do?
Sit down, drink a tea, read a book, talk to a friend, update your status, take a selfie…
Or do nothing but enjoy the face of Istanbul looking back at you. The old town, Galata Tower and Taksım stare at you from behind the Maiden’s Tower. There couldn’t be a more perfect place to view this city.
Best advised to start Kuzguncuk in the afternoon, walk or bus to Üsküdar and position on the stairs ready for sunset to grip the Istanbul skyline beyond the greatest landmarks of any city.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Did you read this, then go exploring?
You may also enjoy reading “Fener“. Read, then explore the streets of old Istanbul – Fener.