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x0x Fishing in Istanbul's Beyoglu district

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  • TRH
    [See photographs at: http://www.geocities.com/istiklalbeyoglu/balikpazari.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2007
      [See photographs at:
      http://www.informatik.uni-bremen.de/~net/images/turkey/istanbul-other/124-2474_img.jpg ]

      x0x Fishing in Istanbul's Beyoglu district

      Saturday, June 16, 2007

      While there were fish markets elsewhere in the
      city, one of the best known was in Beyoglu where
      the fish would arrive freshly caught in the
      Bosporus or even in the Golden Horn [HH]
      Renovating Beyoglus BalIk PazarI is part of the
      Beautiful Beyoglu project that originated with
      Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Dr. Kadir Topba$ when
      he was mayor of Beyoglu and is being carried on by
      the present mayor


      ISTANBUL Turkish Daily News

      The area in Istanbul known as the BalIk PazarI
      (Fish Market) and the Cicek PasajI (Flower
      Passage) began life as a flower garden. Historical
      sources talk about Sultan Yildirim Bayezit hunting
      in the forests around here in the late 15th and
      early 16th centuries and as the result of his
      stopover during a hunt, we have the famous
      Galatasaray Lycee but that's another story. The
      land between the Galata Tower and the present day
      BalIk PazarI gradually became filled with
      buildings, especially foreign embassies, stores,
      apartment buildings and homes. So if they wanted
      flowers to spruce up their lives but didn't have
      the means to grow them, it was natural for them to
      turn to the flower gardens found here. When the
      fish market started is not known but one can
      appreciate the difficulty of shopping for fish
      having to go down the hill to the waterfront so
      whoever first set up shop to sell fish had a very
      good idea.

      The last time that fire wiped out this area was in
      1870. It spread and destroyed practically every
      building in an area circumscribed by Taksim,
      Istiklal Caddesi, Tarlabahce and Galatasaray. More
      than 3,000 buildings were destroyed, according to
      Zeynep Celebi in her book, The Remaking of
      Istanbul. By now however, city planning had become
      important with the arrival of foreigners and some
      enlightened Turks.

      Schemes were made for a revamp of the burnt out
      quarter that would allow for realigning the city
      streets and to create a large boulevard
      (Tarlabahce Caddesi) along the edge of the area.
      This would create another modern European shopping
      street, a rival to Istiklal Caddesi. Eventually
      the financial idiocy of duplicating Istiklal
      Caddesi that already had its modern European
      buildings dawned on the planners and what emerged
      is more or less what we have today.

      Foreign as well as local architects were only too
      glad to lend a hand in this planning, resulting in
      a very Europeanized look to what was perceived in
      any case to be a magnet for foreigners. Up and
      down Istiklal Caddesi and on the side streets
      leading off it, we today still have many old
      buildings dating from 1870 for the most part.

      Building the BalIk PazarI

      To clear up a small point that causes confusion,
      the BalIk PazarI and the Cicek PasajI are not one
      and the same. The Cicek PasajI is a major
      three-storied building whose upper floors served
      as an apartment building. The ground floor was
      devoted to the sale of flowers, hence its name.
      The BalIk PazarI was and is a pedestrian street
      located along the south side of the Pasaj. Other
      buildings include an Armenian Church.

      On the other side of this street are two other
      passages, the Aslihan PasajI and the Avrupa PasajI
      (later known as the Mirror Pasaj because of the
      numerous mirrors located in it).

      Originally the Naum Theater where the Italian
      opera composer Gaetano Donizetti's works Belisario
      and later Lucrezia Borgia were first performed,
      was located where the Cicek PasajI is today.
      However 1870 was not the first time it burnt down,
      1870 was the second time it burnt. This time its
      owner, Naum Efendi, couldn't afford to have a new
      building constructed so he sold the land to a
      Greek banker born in Turkey, Hristaki Zografos,
      who built the Greek men's lycee just across the

      Following the construction of the Cicek PasajI
      building, he gave the shops on the ground floor
      over to flower selling hence its name as the
      Flower Passage. Its real popularity however, came
      after the Russian Revolution when White Russians
      fled to Turkey and settled in Istanbul. Many made
      a living selling flowers so it was natural for
      them to gravitate to Beyoglu and the Cicek PasajI.
      [We also owe the nearby Rejans Restaurant with its
      famous lemon vodka and chicken Kievski to the
      White Russians who opened it in 1930 or 1932 or
      1934 depending on the source.)

      While there were fish markets elsewhere in the
      city, one of the best known was the one in Beyoglu
      where the fish would arrive freshly caught in the
      Bosporus or even in the Golden Horn. No one in
      Istanbul who loves fish would feel his or her meal
      was complete without a green salad so part of the
      market was given over to people who sold
      vegetables and fruit. And of course, fish had to
      be accompanied by raki so people sold Turkey's
      national drink there. Shopping would perhaps be
      followed by going to a nearby restaurant with
      friends to enjoy a glorious evening of drinking,
      talking and eating well.

      The BalIk PazarI today

      Over the years, the market spawned its own
      restaurants so you did not even have to walk the
      two or three steps to the Cicek PasajI where many
      restaurants now serve food instead of flowers. The
      entire ground floor is devoted to restaurants. A
      few flower sellers tried to make a living among
      the fish but it wasn't the same and today there
      are none.

      The restaurants that had insinuated their way into
      the market then spread into neighboring side
      streets such as the famous Nevizade Street, which
      still has one of the only Armenian restaurants in
      Istanbul. People began to drift there as the Cicek
      PasajI became filled to overflowing and one had to
      wait for a table. Besides it acquired a rather
      rough reputation and it wasn't out of the question
      to see some scruffily dressed man walking past the
      crowded tables, flipping a knife. Even the
      tourists who were told that this was a place to go
      began to worry about going there and getting hurt.
      When the natives also began to avoid it, something
      seemed about to give.

      But no one thought that what would give was a
      basement floor in which kegs of beer were kept and
      which was being dug out for more storage space.
      The collapse occurred in 1978, apparently around
      4:00 am when customers and waiters had gone home.
      No one was hurt but the passage was closed for
      inspection and then restoration. However it took
      10 years before it reopened.

      The BalIk PazarI in the meantime suffered because
      of concerns that other parts of the buildings that
      neighbored it might come down and because fewer
      people were now frequenting the place. The passage
      was closed even though there were plenty more
      places in which to drink further along on the side

      Some of the fish sellers left and other kinds of
      stores began to appear in the market such as
      kitchenware. The small stands against the Cicek
      PasajI wall had been selling fruits and vegetables
      but now they have turned to other things like
      inexpensive earrings, mementoes, baby clothing,
      hairpins and knickknacks of various sorts. Sutte's
      is still there with its delicious meats, sausages,
      cheeses and preserved fish to have as hors
      d'oeuvres with your raki before indulging in your
      favorite fish.

      Today the street seems sanitized, more open and
      certainly cleaner. After all the municipality of
      Beyoglu in which the market is located is
      celebrating its 150th year in existence and has
      chosen to refurbish it as one of its projects.
      Entering from Istiklal Caddesi, you come across a
      metal entrance gate proclaiming the anniversary.
      Walking through seems easier although it may not
      have been too crowded that particular day. On the
      crossroads, an iron chandelier-like decoration
      serves as a flower holder.

      Just a week or so ago, the Istanbul Metropolitan
      Mayor Dr. Kadir Topba$ and Beyoglu Mayor Ahmet
      Mizbah Demircan opened the renovated BalIk PazarI
      after two years of renovation. The changes made
      were part of the Beautiful Beyoglu project that
      Topba$ had begun when he was Beyoglu's mayor. Over
      the past three years, the current mayor has taken
      over 3,000 buildings for renovation, etc.
      providing funds for the work. He expressed the
      desire to see the BalIk PazarI return to its
      original, colorful situation. Lots of other people
      would like it to return also.

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