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x0x Galata In just 152 square meters

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  • Turkish Culture List
    [See more on this subject by visiting the pages selected for you by Anita Donohoe: http://www.turkradio.us/k/galata/ ] x0x Galata In just 152 square meters By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 10, 2009
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      [See more on this subject by visiting the pages
      selected for you by Anita Donohoe:

      http://www.turkradio.us/k/galata/ ]

      x0x Galata In just 152 square meters


      Once transformed from a walled medieval town into
      a commercial center, Galata's history is now being
      rediscovered even as it was teetering on the brink
      of oblivion.

      It doesn't occur to most of us in the daily grind
      to take a stroll as travelers through the city in
      which we live. Somehow we can never find the time
      to wander aimlessly through its streets with a
      guidebook in our hand, to take photographs or buy
      little presents for our friends and souvenirs for
      ourselves. Or perhaps it does occur to us every
      now and then but we always put it off for some
      reason. To be perfectly honest, even I am one of
      those who people say to themselves year after
      year, "Spring is the most beautiful season in
      Istanbul. This spring I'm going to stroll through
      Istanbul like a stranger and rediscover it." Yet
      somehow I never managed to set out on one of those
      'renewal of love' tours.

      Until, that is, I toured the 'Galata through the
      Ages' exhibition that opened recently in one of
      Galata's loveliest buildings. Galata for me was
      just a point of transit that I pass through when
      returning from Beyoglu to Kadikoy, a place whose
      name I hardly ever mentioned, referring to it as
      either Karakoy or Beyoglu. A place where I bought
      fresh fish at the stalls near the ferry landing,
      where I caught my breath on the Galata Bridge, or
      stood and admired the statues on the facades of
      the buildings on the square, a place with which I
      was not particularly familiar even though I knew
      it was steeped in history. The exhibition, which
      became an occasion for me to renew my acquaintance
      with Galata, is in a building constructed in
      1890-92 as the Main Headquarters of the Ottoman
      Bank, the most prominent building of its period
      after the Galata Tower. For some time now the
      Ottoman Bank Museum has been hosting modest yet
      impressive exhibitions, coordinated by Museum
      Director Sima Benaroya and aided by the research
      of Prof. Dr. Edhem Eldem and the creativity of
      Bulent Erkmen.

      The 'Galata through the Ages' exhibition, which
      runs to 26 August, acknowledges the Museum's debt
      of gratitude to its host, which was on the verge
      of oblivion despite having been a major center in
      the past, but whose star today is once again in
      the ascendant.

      A 2000-YEAR HISTORY

      Edhem Eldem explains that Byzantine Galata, whose
      history dates back to the 1st century B.C., was a
      small settlement on the opposite shore of the
      Golden Horn known as Sykai (Fig Trees). In
      planning the exhibition, he adds, they treated the
      transformation of Galata over a period of six
      centuries in three different dimensions - space,
      time and people.

      The exhibition is designed around an insurance map
      produced for Galata in 1905. Walking over this
      map, which is on a scale of 1/500, is a little
      like taking a stroll through the Galata of those
      years. Another key feature of the exhibition
      design are two dual-projectors, each casting
      images on two screens.

      One screen depicts the main stages of a
      two-thousand-year historical process with a brief
      text and pictures that help us to visualize the
      period to some extent, while the other indicates
      the place in Galata's topography of the area being
      described on first screen. The map too begins to
      take on color with the settlement of the Genoese
      in Galata at the end of the 12th century. In her
      book, 'Galata and Pera', Nur Akin explains that in
      this period Genoese, Venetians and Pisans lived at
      Galata, which was of great importance due to its
      port; in particular, that the Genoese secured
      special privileges from the Byzantines and,
      exploiting the Empire's weakened state, encircled
      the area with walls. On the screen we can see the
      creation and development of those walls, which are
      one of Galata's most significant features and, of
      course, the Galata Tower, the only building from
      the period still standing today.

      The Muslim population also begins to swell with
      the Turkish conquest of the city, and Galata,
      never losing its importance as a commercial
      center, continues to grow making up one-tenth of
      the city's population. In the photographs coming
      and going on the screen and in the colors on the
      map we can also follow how, without losing its
      characteristic cosmopolitan structure, the balance
      of the wood frame and masonry buildings changed
      starting in the 1850s, and the number of office
      and apartment buildings increased in the last
      quarter of the 19th century and at the beginning
      of the 20th.

      So much did Galata grow that it gave rise to Pera
      in the previously unoccupied area to the north
      with the arrival of the non-Muslim minorities who
      came in the wake of the European embassies that
      settled along the axis that is Istiklal Avenue
      today. And closer to our own day, I bear witness,
      a little sadly, to the emergence of today's
      Karak?y square and main avenue in the demolition
      of 1958, and to the expropriation of properties
      along the shore in the 1980s.


      The second of the dual-projectors shows the Galata
      of a hundred years ago, when the district's most
      detailed insurance map was made in 1905. Here too
      one of the screens is allocated to topographical
      data, the other to texts and illustrations.

      Clearly visible in color on the map, which has an
      extremely dense texture, are the Muslim quarters
      concentrated in the western sector, the Greeks who
      were spread diffusely over the entire district,
      the Jews and Armenians who were concentrated in a
      single central area, the rise of apartment
      buildings in the direction of Beyoglu, the tiny
      shops and large office buildings, and the
      distribution of bakeries, grocery shops and
      coffeehouses, as well as taverns and other places
      of entertainment. Eldem says that these projected
      images constitute the heart of the exhibition,
      which aims through them to illustrate the
      relationship between time, space and man. "There
      is a widespread pre-conceived notion that Galata
      was the Ottoman center of foreignness and
      modernity. While correct to some degree, this must
      be shown to have its limitations," says Eldem,
      going on to explain that in 1905 two worlds still
      co-existed here; for example, that the eastern
      sector between Azapkapi and the Arab Mosque had a
      very traditional structure while the commercial
      hub was centered around the harbor and today's

      The Galata Tower of course also speaks volumes
      about Istanbul and Galata, but it chooses to
      express itself through looks. When you enter the
      cylindrical section that is also set up on the
      map, you are surrounded by three different
      360-degree panoramas showing Istanbul as seen from
      the Galata Tower at approximately hundred-year
      intervals. Naturally Galata is also included in
      the view. These three panoramas, one drawn in 1813
      by Henry Aston Barker, one photographed around
      1900 and the present-day one specially
      commissioned to photographer Serdar Tanyeli, are
      arranged one below the other to enable visitors to
      follow the transformation of the district through
      parallel images in just a few steps.


      I continue following other traces of the city's
      history in the panels arranged at the sides of the
      map and in the objects on display. The walls that
      made it a medieval town, its streets 'like a
      chessboard' as Evliya Celebi put it, the
      architectural language of the buildings from
      classical Ottoman to art nouveau, the bustling
      commercial life, the colorful ethnic mix, and the
      everyday life, particularly the varieties of
      entertainment, are brought to life on six panels,
      in photographs, engravings, and snippets from
      contemporary documents, written texts and
      pictures. Exhibited on the backs of these panels
      and on two other panels are original documents in
      the form of books and maps, while two Genoese
      gravestones stand watch like monuments over their
      history. Although no catalogue was prepared for
      the exhibition, there is something even better: an
      illustrated map of Galata. Galata is like a
      colorful kaleidoscope that presents different
      views every time you turn it. And in the pleasure
      of partaking in those colors, I hit the streets
      now with all the enthusiasm of a foreign traveler.
      For who can tell the story of Galata better than
      Galata itself.

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