Arnavutköy by the Bosphorus



ARNAVUTKÖY

Arnavutköy (meaning “Albanian village” in Turkish) is a historic neighborhood in Istanbul, famous for its wooden Ottoman mansions and fish restaurants as well as the prestigious Robert College campus with its centennial buildings. It is part of the Besiktas district of Istanbul, and lies on the European side of the Bosphorus.

Arnavutköy has previously been home to the Ottoman Strawberry, a less juicy and small kind than the usual strawberries found throughout Turkey. To date some strawberry fields survive in the inland of the district and every spring local groceries are pillaged by strawberry lovers.

The population, in a publication of the Sirket-i Hayriye (Istanbul Ferryboat Company), written just before the First World War, was given as 493 Turks and Muslims in 168 households, and 5973 Greeks in 975 households. The population was predominantly Jewish for most of Arnavutköy’s history, but many Jews moved away after the great Arnavutköy fire of 1877.



In history the village has been known, subsequently, as Hestai, Promotu, and Anaplus. The Byzantine church of Ayios Mihael, built by Constantine, used to be here. It was pulled down and its stones used to build the castle of Rumeli Hisari

WOODEN HOUSES OF ARNAVUTKÖY

In the past, Arnavutköy was not just a paradise of trees, flowers and fruit, but a place where the inhabitants of lovely old wooden houses were a close knit community of neighbours and friends.

The wooden houses of Arnavutköy, as the last survivors show, were painted in a wider range of colours and adorned with intricate carving and other decoration on their eaves and balconies

The grocer’s shops and greengrocers on the corners grew creepers at their doors and trained them over the entrance to provide agreeable shade. The vendors of lakerda (salted bonito) and çiroz (dried and salted mackerel) who arrayed their wares on the pavements in the evenings, lit up their glass jars with strings of light bulbs, transforming that corner into a charming scene. The carved, decorated houses of Arnavutköy were not soulless structures, but each a tiny, uniquely crafted world, inhabited by people of sensitivity.