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x0x Through the eyes of a Levantine Pera

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    [See more at: http://www.levantine.plus.com/testi35.htm ] x0x Through the eyes of a Levantine Pera By RIZA KIRAC One of Istanbul s most colorful quarters,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13 10:06 PM
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      [See more at: http://www.levantine.plus.com/testi35.htm ]

      x0x Through the eyes of a Levantine Pera


      One of Istanbul's most colorful quarters, every corner
      of Pera has a different story to tell, and Giovanni
      Scognamillo knows them all.

      Giovanni Scognamillo is a Levantine who was born in
      Pera, has a memory associated with its every street and
      building, and never once in his life ever thought of
      leaving. Known in Turkey for his works of literature,
      his book on the history of cinema and countless books
      on Beyoglu, he is, in short, a symbol of the quarter.
      Soon his latest, `Beyoglu Writings', is going to appear
      in Turkish, a collection, once again, of writings on
      BeyoGlu together with a chronology and a bibliography.

      We took a spring stroll with Giovanni Scognamillo,
      whose name is synonymous with Beyoglu, and his
      assistant, Nalan Soylemez, through the streets of this
      quarter, once known as Pera.


      "Starting from the mid-19th century, every street name
      in Beyoglu has a story to tell," says Scognamillo. "But
      many of them have been changed today. Street names more
      or less tell their own stories. For example, the street
      we know as Kallavi Street today was actually called
      Ravani Street. The Buyuk Londra Oteli stands at the
      corner with Tepebasi. Before it became a hotel it was
      the residence of the Ravani family, after whom the
      street was also named." The Venetians and Geneose had a
      big hand in the formation of Pera.

      First they settled in the Galata area. Then the
      embassies went up along today's Istiklal Avenue between
      Galatasaray and the Tunel (a short underground
      funicular operating between the lower end of the avenue
      and the district of Karakoy on the Golden Horn). The
      Europeans regarded Beyoglu not as an entertainment
      district but a residential area, considering the
      quarter and and its environs a suitable place to

      "Beyoglu is a Levantine center," continues Scognamillo,
      "but to me there was always something perverse about
      it, even though I'm a Levantine myself. It was a sort a
      free zone, inside the Ottoman empire but having no
      connection with it. From the second half of the 19th
      century onwards, everything that couldn't be found in
      other parts of Istanbul, in the cultural sense
      especially, could, for better or worse, be found in
      Beyoglu. In other words, it was a window open to the


      As a boy, Scognamillo sold tickets at the famous
      Elhamra Cinema, where his father was manager for a
      time. His love of the cinema would never leave him, and
      the books he has written are a virtual declaration of
      his love for this art form.

      We're caught in a shower on our way to the Elhamra
      Arcade. As we sip tea and coffee there, Scognamillo
      tells us how Ataturk once watched a film at the cinema.

      Today there is no cinema in the Elhamra Arcade, the old
      cinema having been reduced to ashes in a fire seven
      years ago.

      Scognamillo says that people of different races and
      religions always treated each other with respect in the
      Pera of his childhood. "The thirties were the years of
      my childhood. Living between two cultures was always an
      advantage, never a liability. Today's Beyoglu did not
      spring out of nowhere; it bears certain traces of the
      past. If we consider Beyoglu a center of art, culture
      and entertainment today, it's because that's what it
      is. It still preserves that identity. The Christians
      celebrated when the Muslims had a holiday, and vice
      versa. There was togetherness."


      As a Levantine, Giovanni Scognamillo insists that he
      lives on one of the most beautiful avenues in the
      world. True, there are famous avenues in other cities.
      But which of them is a place where art, culture,
      entertainment and fashion have always been so closely

      It would probably be no exaggeration to say that
      Beyoglu in this sense is one of the most unique places
      in the world.

      "Beyoglu has always been a cosmopolitan place," says
      Scognamillo, adding, "There are two forms of life in
      Beyoglu: one, living and residing in Beyoglu, the
      other, coming to Beyoglu from another part of the city
      on weekends. In the old days of course, people didn't
      parade around Beyoglu in worn-out clothes. Suits and
      ties were the rule then.

      Today's people too come to the avenue decked out in the
      latest fashions."


      Another important feature of Beyoglu is that the arcade
      culture in Turkey first appeared here. When we began
      exploring the arcades with Scognamillo, he peered into
      all the shop windows with the curiosity of a child, as
      if he was seeing them for the first time despite all
      his memories. He examined the toys, the knicknacks, the
      silver jewelry.He explains how construction of the
      first arcades began on the Grand Rue de Pera (now
      Istiklal Caddesi) in the 1850s.

      "The Suriye Arcade, today's Avrupa Pasaji, was known in
      the old days as the Mirrored Arcade, and the Flower
      Arcade (Cicek Pasaji) was one of the most important
      places in terms of social and economic development.
      Every arcade had its own unique personality. The Hazzo
      Pulo Arcade was as it is today; it was where you went
      if you were looking for a needle, or to have a broken
      toy or an umbrella repaired."

      The emergence of the arcades was without doubt a sign
      of developing economic relations in Beyoglu. Tailors,
      florists, haberdashers and milliners, booksellers
      dealing in books from different countries, and shops
      selling cosmetics carried on a constant trade in the
      arcades, which were of course also venues for the
      cinema, the theatre and other cultural activities.


      With its irresistible 'aura', Beyoglu would soon become
      a regular haunt for visitors, as well as a popular
      place of residence.

      Without doubt this is an extraordinary place, different
      from Istanbul's other quarters. But where does this
      extraordinariness come from? From the lifestyle? From
      the ethnic diversity of the locals? The things that
      bind Giovanni Scognamillo to Beyoglu are none other
      than these. Scognamillo sums it up like this: "There's
      nothing mystical about Beyoglu's attractiveness. A
      person feels more free on Istiklal Avenue. You can find
      entertainment in the style and variety you want in
      Beyoglu. And all those features were there in Beyoglu
      right from the start."

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