Taking leave of Arnavutköy

It’s time to bid my beloved Arnavutköy farewell yet again. I’ve grown to love this charming community in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. Oh, if only every city were a conglomeration of such sweet village-like communities.

Arnavutköy’s famous ‘seaside houses’~

Friday night before I snapped off the light I heard a deep, resonant voice calling from the street—”BO-ZA! BO-ZA!” I was just too darned tired to walk down for some, though I love it.

I slept in after a long night with aching legs. The excessive stair climbing at school had wreaked havoc with my hips, knees, and legs after their week’s hiatus of strolling the flat terrain of Antalya. I ended up lying with my hips on a pillow, my legs extended up the wall to ease the pain. UGH! I scheduled a session with Edith, our Arnavutköy massage therapist / holistic healer. When I had similar pains last fall, she fixed me up in one session of acupuncture and massage. All fingers crossed. Enough whining, though.

More of Arnavutköy’s Ottoman houses below my apartment

I got up and settled in the living room with my morning coffee, Libby curled beside me. “SEE-MEET!! SEE-MEET!!” echoed from the street. I peered down to watch the simitci as he climbed the steep, cobbled street with a huge tray of hoop-like sesame breads balanced on his head.

“Time to start,” I reminded myself, rising to sort through the desk drawer and sundry piles that have materialized in my apartment (amazing what one can accumulate in five months). I made a schedule of social events, errands, and purchases for my last few weeks, then headed down with Libby to begin the process.

The local hardware store where the owner cut off a small bolt for me, free of charge~

I had friends coming for dinner, so my tasks included buying food for Egyptian Kosheri, recycling paper(from my culled piles), framing a hamam picture, and repairing my ailing hair dryer. (My Scotch tape repair just wasn’t cutting it.) It began drizzling as we headed past the old synagogue ruin and down to the recycling bins on the Bosphorus. We trekked along the pier past the ferry station and up into the village for our first stop: the art and frame shop. The framer speaks no English, but my Turkish was adequate to the task. We chose an ornate gold frame, which will be ready in a week. Cost for a custom-made frame: 10 lira ($6). Amazing.

Fishing boats along the Arnavutköy pier~

A statue to Ataturk in the town square~

…and up the street, Istanbul’s ugliest sculpture.

Second stop: grocery store. Though Libby was not thrilled to be tied outside again, when I emerged from the store she greeted me like she hadn’t seen me in months. Love that enthusiasm.

Third stop: electrician. I’ve used the cluttered Bogazıcı Elektrik a few times, and since the owner likes dogs, I knew Libby would be welcome. He has a big German shepherd who likes to remind Libby of her position in the world of street dogs. This time he was lazing contentedly outside the shop and didn’t even muster a growl.

The Electric Shop’s guard dog–NOT!


The young proprieter, clad in a black stocking cap, jacket, and polar plus shirt, sat behind a desk in the back of a tiny shop crammed with sundry electronic devices and accoutrements. He stood as I walked in, and when I showed him my bozuk (broken) hair dryer, he gestured me to a seat. Would it be that quick, I wondered? He plucked a screwdriver from the mountain of wires, tools, drills, cables, and numerous newspapers covering his worktable and dove into the task–on his lap.

My electronics hero–note the workdesk to his left.

As he worked, we chatted about life in Arnavutköy, the Black Sea area he came from, our parents, and Libby, who warmed right up to him.
A few men came into the shop, greeted us both, then showed him a bulb or electrical connector. He’d give them a a code number and explain how to navigate their way through the thousands of boxes of electronic paraphernalia piled on shelves up every wall (and on the floor). They helped themselves, pocketed their purchases, told him what they’d taken, then headed off. I wondered whether they were partners or would sort out the money later, but it was too much work to figure out how to ask. He never wrote anything down, though at least fifteen items walked out the door while I was there.

It took nearly a half hour to fix my hair dryer, which included soldering wires with an iron he heated against his electric floor heater.
When I asked what I owed, he said it was nothing, then offered me coffee. I promised I’d be back for coffee later and left a ten-lira note on the table ($6). Precious little for a half hour of his time.

Another happy customer in the Boğaziçi Elektrik shop~

Our last stop was the bakery, where the proprietor always slices up a loaf of Kepekli ekmeği (whole grain bread) with a smile. I bought a cheese-filled roll to share with Libby and a few of her street dog buddies on the way home.

Farewell, sweet bakery!

I’ll miss all these sweet Arnavutköy shops, which also include the cobbler who put new arches in my shoes, the butcher who tosses all his bones to the dogs, the tailor who took in my slacks, and the anahtarci who fashioned three sets of keys for my apartment. Actually, Margaret’s apartment, and it’s soon time to hand it back. Sigh…

Farewell to the Tuesday street market!

Farewell to the cobbler!

And Libby, of course, bids a fond farewell to all the Arnavutköy cats…

especially to Fat Cat, who lives just up the street.

Ah, Arnavutköy!


CH-CH-CH-Changes (apologies to David Bowie)

A few days ago I had an appointment with Edith, our community’s holistic healer—acupuncture, massage, pressure points, etc. She welcomed me with a warm smile, and though I think she may be nearly my age, she looked even younger than I remembered her. As she massaged my weary legs (thanks to the hills of Istanbul), we talked at length about all the recent changes in our precious village of Arnavutköy.

These fishing boats sit along the quais at Arnavutköy.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that the Abracadbra, my favorite seaside restaurant, had closed. The neighboring fish restaurant has taken over the building, and I mourn the loss of that funky restaurant that once adpated classic Turkish foods into gourmet delights. Rumor has it that licensure was a problem, and the bribes were \too expensive. Hmmm…

This corner used to be the deep-red Abracadabra Restaurant, now annexed by Sur Balık.



Happily, a plethora of Ottoman houses have been refurbished, and others that were beyond repair have been torn down and rebuilt. I watched one being torn down a few years ago, and it’s now a towering Victorian-looking mansion ready for new inhabitants.

One of Arnavutköy’s stunning refurbished Ottoman homes.

This one is across the street from my apartment building…

Who could help but be charmed by this entrance?

Many Ottoman houses await their turn—hope it’s not too late for this one!

Another nice change is a few pet stores, one just three blocks from my apartment. Libby is thrilled. She’s also pleased that the cat population remains unchanged—unless it’s increased a bit. There’s no lack of cats to chase as we walk up and down the cobbled streets of Arnavutköy each morning and evening. A few Toms have the guts to stand up to Libby, who knows when to turn tail and skulk off.

A surprise awaits Libby around every corner.

The newly cobbled streets were completed before my last departure, and I continue to find them immensely charming.

I wrote a few years ago about a gecekondu near my old apartment that had been demolished one night; the remains remain. A second one just below it has also been destroyed. What I wouldn’t give to know the real story behind all that destruction. It infuriates me. Why them, when the city’s entire hillside is rife with gecekondus (hastily built homes)?

There were three small grocery stores on the north side of the village, and the largest of the three is closing down as I write. The other two are franchises, obviously hard to compete with. Edith told me a bank will be moving in. That’s a little scary, because of course we fear that this sweet village is going to become a high-end tourist destination like Bebek, the next community up the Bosphorous. What can one do?

Farewell to this super market that was open just yesterday–these bins filled with produce.

Robert College feels much the same to me, though of course many of the staff have moved on to other schools. Turnover is inevitable in schools that employ foreigners, and its always hard to see good friends go. I’ve returned to the same attic office with three of my former office mates as well as four new ones. With eight of us, it’s a busy office. Oh–and the step-climbing hasn’t changed, either. I climb 99 steps to our attic each morning and add something between 200 and 400 more steps each day—and that’s just going UP! (Hence, the visit to Edith.)

An early morning shot of Robert College–prompted by the Morning Glories.

One change that makes me a bit sad is our night view. They finally finished cleaning the facade of the picturesque Kuleli MIlitary School across the water, and it looks gorgeous during the day. Unfortunately, the night lighting is bizarre–white towers with gold lighting between them. Some changes just don’t work for all of us.

Another thing that’s still the same is an ancient ruin just below my balcony. I look out on ancient brick-and-stone arches from who-knows-what kind of structure. It’s reassuring to know that some of these relics are being preserved in spite of the escalating property values in this picturesque Bosphorous community.

This ruin still stands just below my balcony.

Hooray for Heritage!