French Influences Abound in Istanbul

Istanbul is a grand enormous city. With a population quoted anywhere from 14 to 18 million, the city is sprawling and nearly 5 to 6 times the size of the Chicago – the city I am closest too back home. While the city boasts similarities with other mega-cities and parts of the world, when you combine all of the city’s features togetherIstanbul it amounts to a unique place, a world of its own. Many different cultural influences can be seen throughout Istanbul with the greatest being the Asian/Middle Eastern influences to the more westernized notions stemming from its European past. To focus on the latter, the French have had many lasting effects on the city and its people.

One place that I have been able to visit that has French Roots is “French St” in the greater Beyoğlu district. More specifically it is in Galatasaray which is known for having many French connections – the French Consulate is there, a French High School is there and a French Primary school.  It is exactly as its name implies, a street that is French inspired. 10 years ago it was a run-down, graffiti street just like the surrounding streets, but now it is a popular place for both locals and tourists alike to enjoy a meal, a cocktail all the while listening to live music. Mind you the food and music is Turkish, with the latter occasionally throwing in a classic American tune, but Parisian Cafes selling macaroons won’t be found.  My first visit to the street was with a local who deems it their favorite place to hang out. After experiencing the street for myself, I knew that it was something I would have to share with my friends. While not a full on taste of France or Paris, it still is something a tad different from the usual going out locations in Istanbul. Be forewarned though, there is a sitting/table fee just to be a part of the quintessentially French atmosphere. Make the fee worthwhile by getting a decent size group together, finding the best musician on the street that day and relax back for a few hours. This article gives a great in-depth look at the history of the street if you are interested in learning more.

A tip for finding it – use its other name of Cezayir Sokak when asking locals (:

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Entrance to French Street During the Day Time – Tall buildings make this already narrow street feel like a tiny European alleyway

Then there is the Pierre Loti view point in Eyüp. This hilltop area overlooking the Golden Horn is a great place to catch a good view of the Golden Horn and also to cross another one of Istanbul’s numerous forms of public transportation off your list with a ride on the Teleferik (Cable Car). Two years ago when I came to Istanbul I was taken to this outlook and while I remember the teleferik ride over a cemetery, I couldn’t for the life of me remember where in the city this spot was. For most of the semester I was quite convinced that it was on the Asian side, until a gal in my Turkish course explained how she went there during one of her weekends. In fact it is along the Golden Horn and not the Bosphorus and it then all clicked. So I dragged two friends with me a week or so ago to check out the hilltop cemetery. Pierre Loti was a French Novelist who supposedly came to a cafe on the hilltop (it is now quite famous) to find his inspiration.

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The mandatory tea experienceDSC08950

My friend Doro looking out over the “manzara” – landscapeDSC08947

The cemetery – as my friend Alex shared with me  “People are dying to get in there “DSC08943 A tad dreary – it was a rainy day

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Be sure to stop by both of these places if you are going to be in Istanbul for a week or so. Two places I would have taken my parents if I would have known about them at the time of their visit. While still tourist attractions they are a tad off the extremely weathered path.

Oh and as a funny fact, it was on the hill-top that I found a chocolate Santa. I immediately had to purchase it for a friend of mine here who absolutely loves Christmas – needed to start her December off right with some holiday cheer.

As for further influences, Turkey has borrowed many words from the French language to include “televizyon” for the good ole tv and “rezervazyon” to refer to appointment (like a doctor’s appointment). Lise Turkish for High Schools also derives from the French language with “lycee”.

Cheers from Turkey

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