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Discovering the western shore of the Golden Horn
2003 / AUGUST
On the façade of the building on Feshane Caddesi which houses the Historical Buildings Conservation Society in Eyüp is a stone nesting box like a miniature palace. It is spring, and the starlings are busy carrying twigs to the nesting box, indifferent to the roaring traffic along the road below. And the mosques, tombs and other historic buildings of Eyüp are equally indifferent, preserving their ancient tranquillity. On Sundays in particular people arrive in large numbers along the road where once the sultans came for their accession ceremony, past Mihrisah Imaret and the many mausoleums, to fill the courtyard of Eyüp Sultan Mosque. To the sound of pigeons beating their wings, they whisper stories about Yavedud, Eyüp Sultan and Aksemseddin to one another. Eyüp is a place where people touch the stones with reverence, and pour out prayers and thanks. For the great 16th century architect Sinan, Eyüp was the door to his appointment as chief imperial architect, and for the sultans the door to the throne.
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Discovering the western shore of the Golden Horn
2003 / AUGUST

The many religious buildings here and the cemeteries whose occupants include many members of the Ottoman royal family make it a place of pilgrimage. From Eyüp let us fly south like the doves to Cibali, passing through Ayvansaray, Balat and Fener, with their clustered mosques, churches and synagogues built by the local Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Bulgarian communities of these districts. In the era of Ottoman splendour these districts grew wealthy with the empire, and altered character according to whichever communy'si power tipped the scales. The name Golden Horn is attributed by some to legend and by others to the colour of the inlt'sr waters at sunset. The same waters also gleamed gold in the flames of the terrible fires that raged so often through the city, sparked off by candles that illuminated the gold leaf of icons, oil lamps left unattended in houses, or caulking material allowed to smoulder in the dockyards.

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Discovering the western shore of the Golden Horn
2003 / AUGUST
Such fires transformed Balat and Fener time after time. The sound of hammering would echo across the Golden Horn after the fires burnt themselves out, as new houses rose on the ashes of the old. Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century settled in Balat, where they built fourteen synagogues, but today only the Ahrida Synagogue on Kürkçü Ali Caddesi remains. On the same road stood Balat's most famous tavern, the Agora, famous for its musicians and singers, songs, loves, hot wine and steamed fish. Along the waterfront were summer palaces, mansions, and coffee houses. Balat ferry terminal has long since gone, together with the caiques that rowed passengers back and forth to Hasköy and Halıcıoglu. No longer do men wearing bowler hats walk along Mürsel Pasa Caddesi, whose cobblestones have made way for asphalt, although the sundial on the rear wall of Ferruh Kethüda Mosque remains.
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Discovering the western shore of the Golden Horn
2003 / AUGUST

A pigeon perched on the roof of Balat Jewish Hospital takes wing for Fener to the south, home to the Orthodox Patriarchate and to the aristocratic Byzantine families who were granted privileges by the Ottomans after the conquest. The well-educated upper-class Greeks who lived here were employed by the Ottoman palace as interpreters, administrators, teachers and diplomats. The ordinary people meanwhile were sailors, shipbuilders, artisans or merchants. At the Greek Lycée for Boys, whose imposing chateau-like building dates from 1881, the curriculum included ancient Greek, Latin, philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, French and Italian. The only Byzantine church where services are still held today is the Church of Mary of the Mongols, a Byzantine princess sent to marry a Mongol prince who returned to Istanbul after a series of tragedies.

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Discovering the western shore of the Golden Horn
2003 / AUGUST
Fener was also renowned for its sacred springs, where Muslims as well as Christians came in search of health. European travellers who visited Istanbul in the 19th century also describe the thousands of colourfully decorated caiques that skimmed over the blue waters of the Golden Horn. These slender graceful boats, including the magnificent royal caiques, were built at boatyards in Ayvansaray. In those days as evening fell lamps lit up the shores and streets, and the candles were lit in the taverns. Today the place of the caiques has been taken by the rowing team of Kadir Has University. In Cibali you can see the picturesque building which once housed Cibali Police Station, and Cibali Gate, the only city gate to survive along the Golden Horn. Passing through this ancient gate and turning left brings you in front of Kadir Has University. This neoclassical building was formerly a cigarette factory which closed down in 1990, and after the restoration opened as a university in 2002.
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Discovering the western shore of the Golden Horn
2003 / AUGUST

Finally we come to the neo-gothic Bulgarian Church. This unusual blue-grey building is made of cast iron, its sections prefabricated in Vienna and transported to Istanbul by ship along the Danube and across the Black Sea. Now we are at the end of our journey along the southern shores of the Golden Horn, which are illuminated each morning by the first rays of the sun rising over the hills.

* Nezahat Turkan is a freelance writer

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