Friday, March 16, 2018

City of Countless Names- Haskeui p2

Today, we're exploring some of the intesting locations in Constatniople's neighborhood of Haskeui.

Beyond the crest of Haskeui’s hills is the vast empty heights named Ok-median by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, from the Turkish meaning “Field of Arrows”. The field begins east of Kaliji Oghlu and Haskoy and extends west over Kassim Pasha. Ok-Meidan’s heights give a fantastic view of the Golden Horn and the vista of Stambul’s northern shore.
Freed from the cramped city streets, Ottoman Sultans and their most prized soldiers came to Ok-Meidan to train and compete using bows and arrows. The trials on Ok-Meidan valued the strength of the archer’s draw, not the accuracy of their aim. Small pillars and monuments memorializing particularly impressive arrow flights and spear throws rise out of the brush on the plane. Sultans often used foreign idols taken from their conquests as targets for their soldiers. Visitors to Ok-Meidan still find old, lost arrows lying on the ground.
In a modernization of this tradition, the Ottoman army uses Ok-Meidan as a drilling ground to prepare their troops for the war in Crimea. No arrows cut through the air, but recent shipments of British and French weapons and equipment made their way to the heights for testing and training.
During a plague outbreak in the 1590s, the Grand Mufti and the Greek Patriarch chose Ok-Meidan as a gathering place for the faithful of both faiths to pray for Constantinople’s deliverance from the disease. Since that massive assembly, congregants of all faiths return to Ok-Meidan after earthquakes, fires, or droughts to pray to the Heavenly Host for mercy.

Aynalıkavak Palace
During Haskeui’s days as an idyllic forest free of the city, the Sultan Ahmed I built a pavilion surrounded by gardens in sight of the imperial ship yards. The beautiful view of Stambul and the Golden Horn drew following Sultans to expand the pavilion into a palatial complex with quarters for the imperial harem, a treasury, barracks, baths, and mosques.
After signing a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire in 1718, the Venetian government sent Sultan Ahmet III a set of ‘mirrors as tall at poplar trees’, orAynalıkavak” in Turkish. The Sultan had the mirrors installed in the palace and their fame gave the palace its name.
Sultan Selim III tore down most of the buildings to expand his shipyards leaving only the pavilion, a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture. The pavilion sits on a terraced hill with two stories facing the Golden Horn, and one story facing Haskeui. The lower floor was devoted to servants, the main floor to two large halls, a magnificent domed Reception Hall, and a rectangular Inner Hall with quarters for quests. A calligraphic script praising the pavilion stretches across the cornice curving around the large windows and door frames of the Reception hall. Some thaumaturgists believe Turkish sigils might be buried among the letters. Like most palaces on the northern shore, the Aynalıkavak Pavilion is under renovations funded by Sultan Abdulmejid.
The Greek Aluminat faithful of Constantinople believe an agiasmata (a spring of holy water) linked to Saint Pantaleon flows in the pavilion’s gardens.

Friday, March 9, 2018

City of Countless Names- Haskeui p1

Moving on in our exploration of Constatniople during the Crimean War, we reach Haskeui.

Haskeui (Areovindou, Aravindou, Khasgiugh, Pikridion, Hasköy, Haskoy)
Further up the Golden Horn’s north shore from the military harbors of Tershane, is the village of Haskeui. The shore line looks much the same as Tershane, with shipyards, warehouses, docks, and barracks, but cultivated beauty flourishes further inland. Haskeui’s many well-tended orchards and vineyards supply Constantinople’s inhabitants with a bounty of fruits, such as lemons, oranges, grapes, peaches, and pomegranates. The villages’ wines too are drunk in taverns, consulates, and progressive Ottoman circles across the city. Its fruitful gardens and pleasant countryside made Haskeui a popular holiday spot for the Ottoman royal family in the 1600s.
As industry and modernization crept up the Golden Horn’s coast, its idyllic environ faded and the wild game moved on. Only a few buildings from the Empire’s golden days remain. Its name, meaning “elite or select village”, still reflects back on its past glories as an Imperial paradise.Most of Haskeui’s residents live in pleasant one-story houses built on the hill’s gentle slope. The wealthiest own large mansions on the slope of the hill overlooking the village.Haskeui is an insular community, with very few Turkish inhabitants.  Much like the neighborhood of Balata across the Golden Horn, Has Keui’s population is predominately Jewish.  Dissimilarly to the ghetto of Balata, Has Keui’s Jewish residents are mostly middle class and a few families live in considerable wealth.
Although they share the same Yehudite faith, the Jews of Haskeui come from very diverse origins. Some ancestors fled to Constantinople to escape persecution in Spain. Others were forced into Haskeui after the Sultan confiscated their land in Emin Eunou to make room for the construction of Yeni Cami. Still others descend from the Jews welcomed into Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II to repopulate the newly conquered city.  
A small Armenian community lives in the western side of Haskeui, where they too live in more comfort than their kinsmen across the water in Stambul. England’s partnership with the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War brought British engineers and ship-makers to Constantinople. They and their families settled in Haskeui near the ship-yards.

Famous Locations:
Mayor Synagogue
The largest synagogue in Haskeui is Mayor Synagogue. Its edifice juts out of a hill almost  a block from the shore of the Golden Horn northwest of Taskizak Shipyard. Rough, jagged masonry covers its squat walls giving the Synagogue a mystic and ancient appearance.
The majority of the synagogue’s congregants are Sephardic Jews, descendents of refugees from the Iberian Peninsula. Their ancestors built the synagogue 300-400 years ago, although some histories suggest the building dates back to the Byzantine Empire. Some postulate the Synagogue received its name for its impressive size, but most locals agree Mayor derives from Majorca, the island from which many of the Sephardic Jews emigrated.

As I write these descriptions of the neighborhoods north of the Golden Horn, I glean more accurate geographical information. This Post is a little shorter than usual, so to make up for that, here is the updated map of Pera-Galata:

Friday, March 2, 2018

City of Countless Names- Galata p4

This week we're finishing our list of famous locations from the Galata quarter of Constantiople:

Custom House
On the eastern end of Galata’s shore, near to the many quays and piers of Tophane, sits a building unavoidable to any visitor to Constantinople, the Custom House. Every steamship from Europe docks in Tophane, and Turkish custom officials meet every ship. Passengers are allowed to disembark after their belongings pass inspection or they offer the appropriate bribe (about 3 piastres). If the cargo requires payment of a duty, or if the custom official finds illegal items, their owner is doomed to visit the Custom House.
The Custom House is a large stone warehouse, with a short squat tower of tile-roofed offices on top. Every morning, a crowd of people squeeze onto the walkway separating the Custom House from the water of the Golden Horn. Most hope to reclaim their possessions or buy impounded cargos. In appearance, the Custom House serves the Sultan’s interests, but inwardly it is the most crooked and confusing institution in Constantinople with only a small percentage of its revenue reaching the Imperial Treasury. Its records, storage organization, and bureaucratic procedures are a tangled mess only the officials understand. They commit their larceny with a noble decorum rarely seen in a criminal enterprise.
Church of SS Peter and Paul
Southwest of Galata Tower, an eclectic congregation of Roman Aluminat faithful observe mass at  the Church of SS Peter and Paul (or Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church). The majority of the congregants are Levantines, but French clerks, Irish soldiers, Italian shopkeepers, and Armenian merchants fill out the pews.
After Sultan Mehmet II converted their church into a Mosque, a group of Dominican friars moved to a house owned by a wealthy Venetian named Zaccaria and resumed services in his chapel. In 1535, Zaccaria gave his home to the friars in exchange for a monthly burned candle and a weekly mass for the souls of family. Today, the ceremonial mass for the Zaccaria family only happens annually.
The chapel was expanded into the Church of SS Peter and Paul in the early 1600s, and has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt several times in the intervening years.  In 1843, the church was rebuilt for the fifth time as a beautiful basilica with neoclassical stonework. Despite the building’s magnificence, Turkish law prohibits courtyards and street-side entrances, allowing only a small entry door in the alleyway.
Although, the church possesses a fine collection of relics, it’s most important artifact is the Hodegetria Icon (a religious painting depicting the Virgin and Child) displayed on the fourth floor. Not merely a symbol of religious instruction, the Icon has become a symbol of French authority in Constantinople, not least because an over-patriotic restorer painted fleur-de-lis into the Virgin’s cloak.

Stampa’s Shop
In the shadow of Galata Tower, a small shop serves as a hub for Europeans in Constantinople. Foreigners come to Stampa’s shop for a taste of home, good advice, and to meet their fellow countrymen for a chat.  Few shops sell a greater variety of luxury food and drink even in London or Paris. The owner and proprietor, a gregarious and intelligent Italian halfling named Antonio Stampa, sells a remarkable selection of imported goods, such as, French cognac, Yorkshire bacon, Stilton cheese, Scotch whisky, English port, and Havana cigars, along with the simple staples of civilized life such as cutlery, ink, shaving razors, needles, and soap.
Traveler’s come to Stampa’s shop for more than just his stock. He knows local customs, steamer timetables, and the solutions to the problems common for those new in the city. He speaks most languages like a native, and if a customer cannot find his heart’s desire in his shop, Stampa undoubtedly knows who sells it.