Cité de Pera (Flower Arcade)

While walking through the old part of Beyoglu (Istiklal avenue), you’ll come across an eclectic Ottoman building called Cité de Pera just opposite Galata Palace, today’s Galatasaray Lycee. It might remind you some of the 19th century buildings in Paris and Vienna with their beautiful architectural ornaments on their facades.

a06f8b27c1c7b55e93b89a3501016012                                                      Colbert Pavillon, Louvre-Paris

Istanbul 2013 043                                                                     Cité de Pera

The first thing that attracts your attention among the exaggerated architectural lines and ornamentation of the building is the two Caryatids standing above the engaged columns on the left and right side of the main arched entrance. These two ladies look like the stagehands ringing the curtains up, even though they are the imitations of the Hellenistic caryatids look as if they were supporting the upper architectural element above their heads.

Being commissioned by banker Hristaki Zografos Efendi, Cité de Pera was built as a new type of shopping arcade in 1874-76 by Cleanthe Zanno. When the Florist’s Cooperative moved here in 1930, it was named Flower Arcade. In 1950’s it has become an arcade full of pubs and fish restaurants. Today, the caryatids continue to welcome many people day and night as they used to do in different architectural contexts of the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Renaissance times.


Here, in Istanbul they are some of the youngest sisters of the Limyra caryatids located in southern Turkey at  Pericles’ Heroon in Limyra.


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Archaic Greek in the Modern World

An endangered Greek dialect which is spoken in north-eastern Turkey has been identified by researchers as a “linguistic goldmine” because of its startling closeness to the ancient language, as Cambridge researcher Dr Ioanna Sitaridou explains.


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“Nowhere else could we have started the Hogarth Press, whose very awkward beginning had rise in this very room […] Here that strange offspring grew & throve; it ousted us from the dining room […] & crept all over the house. And people have been here, thousands of them it seems to me”

Virginia Woolf’s Diary, 9 January 1924

Hogarth100 poster

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Hittite Spring Equinox: Purulli Festival

“Let the land prosper and thrive, and let the land be protected”…..from the myth of the Illuyanka.

musicians hittite

Spring equinox was  celebrated as a fertility ritual  in the Land of the Hatti.  The celebration of these rites were reflected on some rock reliefs that were discovered  in Ancient Anatolia.  A cuneiform tablet found during the excavations contains a reference to ‘the mighty festival of the beginning of the year’ when all the gods have gathered and come to the house of the Hattic  Weather God  (Teshub) and the Hurrian sun goddess Hebat to eat, drink and pronounce the life of the king and queen and the life of heaven and earth’.


Hebat, sun goddess of Arinna from Central Anatolia, exhibited in Metropolitan Museum

Spring equinox was the New Year Festival known as Purulli (Festival of the Earth)  at the vernal equinox in the Land of Hatti and it is believed that Yazılıkaya was the most likely place where the celebrations took place and ended in a sacred marriage.  The purpose of the festival was to reinvigorate the earth and overcome the stagnation of winter.

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Yazılıkaya Hittite sanctuary

The vegetation renewal myth of the festival reenacts the drama of the battle between the weather-god of Heaven and the dragon Illuyanka who represents a repetition of the first time, when real chaos was defeated and cosmos emerged.


Teshup kills the dragon illuyanka, Anatolian Civilizations Museum at Ankara

Hittites’ land and Ankara can be visited in three days escursion. Ankara Anatolian Civilization museum has the unique collection of the Hittites’.

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Ortaköy: A pretty village on the Bosphorus

The knot of fear                                                                                                                          United in peace                                                                                                                               Every now and then                                                                                                     Juxtaposed                                                                                                                                           Just a few steps apart                                                                                                                    Looks at each other compassionately                                                                                                  On the shores of Istanbul                                                                                                                 The Ezan                                                                                                                                              The Bell                                                                                                                                                 The Hazan                                                                                                                                           Beki L. Bahar


This pretty village lies on the European side of Bosphorus. When the Byzantine emperor Basil commissioned a famous monastery here, the village was called as Haghios Phocas. At her cape, a 19th century Ottoman mosque takes everyone’s attention stretching out on the waters of Bosphorus. Once, this point was called as Kleidon, the key of bosphorus, and the Ortaköy mosque adorns it with its rococo ornaments.


The wide waterfront square of the village, formerly acted like a mouth of the Ortaköy river which was ending in Bosphorus. Today, this old river  bed cuts the valley vertically as the main avenue of the village. On the contrary, the waterfront square functions as the main gathering place of the writers, poets, artists, students and visitors. One can find all different kinds of entertainments here full of cafes, bars and restaurants. A half day can be spent here to explore the historical buildings such as the 19th century Ottoman Feriye palaces (Galatasaray University), its police station (Feriye restaurant), Esma Sultan Palace, Fehime Sultan and Hatice Sultan Yalıs, 18th century Damad Ibrahim Pascha Fountain, 16th century Ortaköy Hamamı (Turkish bath), 19th century Hagios Phocas Church, and Etz Ha-Hayim Synagogue.


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Hittite Spring Equinox: Purulli Festival

“Let the land prosper and thrive, and let the land be protected”…..from the myth of the Illuyanka.

musicians hittite

Spring equinox was  celebrated as a fertility ritual  in the Land of the Hatti.  The celebration of these rites were reflected on some rock reliefs that were discovered  in Ancient AnatoliaContinue reading

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Looking into the lives of Anatolian women: Judith Starkston, a historical novelist and researcher


Judith  Starkston

Judith Starkston as an historical novelist and researcher hands one a telescope to peer back into Anatolia’s past. In her novel, Hand of Fire, she tells about Trojan Women and their roles in Ancient Anatolia and Mycenean Greece, particularly about Briseis’s, the captive woman who sparked the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad. Besides this fascinating book, she is currently working on her next novel, an historical mystery with the Hittite Queen Puduhepa. On the first surviving peace treaty in history, Puduhepa pressed her seal beside her foe’s, Rameses II, but she didn’t realize until now that she was a sleuth.  If you would like to travel into Anatolia at the time of Late Bronze age through Judith’s eyes, you can find her books on Amazon and follow her writings at her web site:  


Judith is  at one of the springs of Lawazantiya

          P1130198                                                                     Judith and me

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Yasar Kemal: the hero of Turkish literature

All my life, my only dream was to write a little bit more, a little bit better.

                                                                                                                                Yasar Kemal

Acclaimed as one of the greatest   writers in Turkish,  has died in Istanbul  aged 92. He was the first Turkish writer nominated for the Nobel prize for literature. His works often chronicled the lives of the downtrodden, and have been translated in to 40 languages.

Yasar-Kemal1  yasar-kemal 2

In his stories and novels, he tells of the Tauruses, the residents of the plains of Çukurova who fight for survival, the harsh landscape, and power battles between the Ağas (feudal masters / lords), which caused the villagers to suffer. Continue reading

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Strolling through Beyoglu-Istiklal Caddesi (Old Pera)

There are two versions for the origin of the name Beyoglu, which in Turkish means “Son of a Prince”. One version has it that the name stems from that of Alexius Comnenus, son of Prince Alexander of Trebizond. After Trebizond fell to the Turks in 1461, Fatih brought Alexius and his widowed mother Maria to Istanbul, where they converted to Islam and were taken into the sultan’s harem. When Alexius came of age he was given an estate on the heights above Galata in what later came to be known as Beyoglu because of its association with this son of a prince, or so the story goes. The other version has it that the name comes from that of Alosio Gritti, son of the Venetian Doge Andrea Gritti, who in the mid-sixteenth century built a palace in Pera.

A glimpse into some of the details of the buildings at old Pera

Çiçek pasaji or  ‘Flower Passage’ Aka ‘Cité de Pera’ where you can quench your thirst and sample the tasty Turkish appetizers known as ‘meze’

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Çiçek Pasaj, which opens at one end onto the avenue and at the other onto the old Istanbul Balık Pazarı or Fish Market, plays host to some very old denizens indeed. Maruni Naum Efendi’s wooden theater and a hotel called ‘Palais des Fleurs’ once stood in the area where the Çiçek Pasaj and Avrupa Pasaj, both built following the Pera fire of 1870, stand today. The Avrupa Pasaj in particular presents a sharp contrast to the other arcades with its unique architecture and ornamentation.

Avrupra-Passage  avrupa_pasajinin_heykellerinden__ornekler

The statues in the arches of the upper level of this long, corridor-like arcade and the unusual items sold in the shops give this pasaj a different air. Colorful ceramic tiles, embroidered silk covers and Turkish fabrics and kilims dazzle the eye in this pasaj which is known as the mirrored arcade for the mirror-encased columns separating the shops.





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From Romulus & Remus to St. Valentine’s Day

Constantinople had its own distinctive holidays, including some with pre-Christian overtones that lingered well into the Middle Ages. Each new year began with Calends on january 1-4, when residents hung laurel wreaths on doors, held costumed parades, and exchanged gifts. Continue reading

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