The Contrasts of Istanbul
Historically Byzantium, Constantinople, and finally Istanbul has been a bridge for the people between Europe and Asia, which has made it an extremely cosmopolitan city. Whether it is the Greeks, the Italians, the Jews, the Kurds or the Armenians, all these communities have lived next to each others for centuries and have left an indelible heritage on the city, still visible by its architecture and religious edifices.
With the fall of the empire in 1923 these communities gradually left the city and have been replaced by rural Turks from the four corners of the country. These new Istanbulites transformed these neighborhoods by importing their lifestyle,they are now pieces of Turkey in Istanbul and contribute fully to the megalopolis diversity that will fascinate you.
During this day we will make you discover the history, the cultural and religious heritage of these great communities through the visit of several fundamental districts of our city. We will also explain you the transformation of these neighborhoods that contribute to the many facets of our city, where history and modernity coexist without always being close to each other.
First part of the day: discovery of the districts of Fatih, Fener and Balat
Fatih one of the most conservative and loaded with history neighborhoods of the city. It is here that the first Sultan who conquered Istanbul in 1453 (Mehmet II, called Mehmet the conqueror) erected the magisterial complex of the Mosque of Fatih, where he is also buried. Now populated by Turks from regions where religion is important, you will be intrigued by the devotion and the very pious way of life of the inhabitants of the neighborhood.
We will then head to the districts of Fener and Balat, descending to the Golden Horn. Populated since the Byzantine Empire mainly by the Greek and Jewish communities, these districts are among the most fascinating of the city. In the alleyways of the narrow streets we will see many beautiful typically Ottoman wooden houses, as well as religious buildings with churches and synagogues.
Peuplés par une population moins conservatrice que celle de Fatih, ces quartiers donnent l’impression ici d’être dans un village. La vie se passe dehors, les enfants jouent au foot dans la rue, les commerçants discutent devant leurs boutiques avec un thé à la main, les hommes jouent aux cartes dans les cafés, c’est très vivant et à la fois reposant.
We will also visit during this morning the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which is one of the supreme religious authority for hundreds of millions of Orthodox throughout the world.
After this morning between religions and traditions we will embark on the Golden Horn and navigate to Beyoglu to discover another Istanbul.
Second part of the day: Discovery of the districts of Karaköy, Galata and Nişantaşı
The district of Karaköy was historically the port and commercial center of Constantinople. Founded by the Genoese it developed on the model of an Italian city with beautiful stone buildings and churches. From the 19th century, the district became the financial center of the Ottoman Empire, as witnessed by the magnificent buildings built by the wealthy families of Armenian, Jewish and Levantine bankers. We will also visit the ancient coffers of the Ottoman central bank.
After a long period of abandonment it has imposed itself for several years the new cultural center of the city under the impulse of the Museum of Modern Art which opened right next door. The galleries and cafes flourish next to the more traditional stalls and give this area a new vitality. It is also an increasingly known neighborhood for its street-art that is displayed on the walls and storefronts of shops.
We will continue by discovering the Galata district known mainly for its tower. It was a residential area, housing the rich families of bankers and mainly Greek and Jewish merchants who worked in Karaköy. It is now one of the most charming district of Istanbul and it enjoy a village atmosphere that we will discover together in the narrow streets of the neighborhood.
Like Karaköy, Galata has been growing in recent years and a real artistic community is emerging.
We finish this day by the district of Nişantaşı, very central and western, it is also the fashion district in Istanbul. The contrast with the neighborhoods visited in the morning is striking and gives the impression of having changed century. It will be like having start the tour in Syria and finishing it in Soho in NYC.
Between history and modernity, this day is a journey through time that will allow you to discover and understand a part of the many contrasts of our city, discovering completely different and fundamental districts in the history and current events of Istanbul.