Tea Tavla and Tall Tales Research

Research material gathered as the foundation of the Tea Tavla and Tall Tales project, and as inspiration for the invited artists.

Sykai, Galata, Pera, Karaköy, Perşembe Pazarı, a pass through history

Greek Village
Sykai, place of the figs, was the most important ancient settlement in the north shore, it was made the 13th ward of Constantinople during the reign of Theodosius II (r. 408-50). A report dated 431 stated that Sykai had 431 houses, a church, a forum, public baths, a theater, a harbor and was surrounded by a defense wall. Tiberius II (r. 578-82) built the Castle of Galata, which held one end of a giant chain that was attached to the Golden Horn and was lowered when attacked by sea.



The Venetians and Latin knights of the 1st Crusade attacked Constantinople and captured the Castle of Galata in 1203 and then seized Constantinople. The next year, the Latins came, holding the city, and Galata for the following 57 years. Then in 1261 the Greeks, with their alliance with the Genoese, regained the city.

Genoese Town


The Genoese were awarded Galata as their base and harbor, to be run as an independent city with its own governor, appointed annualy by the senate of Genoa. Even though they were allowed to fortify Galata, they did so anyways, also adding to the town for the next 1.5 centuries. In 1348-9 they built the Tower of Christ (Galata Tower), as the upper-most part of their defense system. Galata Port was one of the principal ports in Levant, handling three times more trade than the
                                   Byzantines in Constantinople. The upper part was commonly called 'Pera’.

In come the Ottomans


The Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, after a siege of 7 weeks. The Genoese Galata remained neutral, so their town was spared the 3 day sack that Constantinople endured. The new sultan refused to accept Geonese ownership of the city, but let them remain, keeping their possessions, trades and commerce. By the 17th century many foreignpowers built embassies in the area, forming separate 'nations', complete with their various churches, populations, hospitals and shops.  
                                   During this time Galata was divnded into wards : 8 Moslem, 7 Greek, 3 Frank, 1 Jewish and 2 Armenian, with 1,160 streets
                                   and 200 taverns and wine-shops.

Modern Times


The population is now almost exclusively Turkish. When the city was given street signs for the first time in 1864, some of the historical names for the streets were lost, others changed and some remain the same. There are still some churches and synagogues in the neighborhood, though some have been converted into mosques. The area is now formally part of the Beyoğlu Municipality, the area surrounding Galata Tower is considered 'Galata'. Above this is still called 'Pera', and below
                                   this area, towards the water is considered 'Karaköy', with one small part called 'Perşembe Pazarı’.

More Information
» Karaköy history on Wikipedia
» A short history of Galata - John Freeley's "Galata” book
» Galata History  on the website of the Galata House Restaurant located in the old British Jail

Buildings and Structures

Voyvoda Caddesi


Also known as Bankalar Caddesi, or Street of the Banks, this street was home to the headquarters of the Ottoman bank and many other International banks. Today all the major banks still have branches here.
» Panoramic Image of each building on Bankalar Caddesi

The Ottoman Bank


Officially christened as the Ottoman Bank in 1892, and was used as the bank's head office until the end of WWI when it became the official state bank of the Turkish Republic until it became a commercial bank, established as a corporation in 1993. The building was designed by the French architect Alexandre Vallaury.

                                   » The Ottoman Bank on Wikipedia
» The Ottoman Bank Museum

The Zulfaris Synagogue


One of the three synagogues in the area, built in 1923, now is open as a museum of the Jews of Turkey. The Quincentenial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews tells the history of Turkish Jews, museum, archives, events (open every day but Saturday)

The Arap Camii


A mosque that was based on a former 6th century Dominican Church, destroyed and rebuilt several times and converted to a mosque between 1475-78. In the Ottoman period, it was taken from the Genoese, converted to a mosque and given to the Muslims of Spain who arrived fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Several fires later, it was restored to become how it appears today.
                                     » Arap Camii History on Wikipedia

Rustem Paşa Hanı (Kurşunlu Han)


A caravansarai-type 2 story building built by Mimar Sinan for the grand vizier Rustem Paşa just before 1550. It is said to have been built on the foundations of the Latin church of St. Michael. 

Camondo Stairs


Most of the Camondo real estate was in Karaköy, around Voyvoda (Bankalar) Street. The sons of Abraham moved their residence to the building in Camondo Street (Banker Street) No. 2-6, right behind their office building. Today it is the Galata Residence Hotel. To reduce the distance between their home and business, they built the Camondo Staircase. Its in the art
nouveau style.
                                    » Camondo Stairs, photos and information on Albtranslator's blog

Yeralti Camii (the Underground Mosque)


The only Byzantine remnant in the area is a vast substructure believed to be the dungeon of the Castle of Galata. It was converted into a mosque in 1757 by Kemankes Mustafa Paşa. It is below the Kemankes Mosque. 

The Old British Jail


First it was the civil prison of the British Empire from 1904-1919, then the British military police station, afterwards it turned into residences, lodgings and offices for various individuals. It is now home, office and Georgoan Restaurant of architect / planner Nadire & Mete Göktüğ.
» Galata House Restaurant
                                   » History of the British Jail

Hearsay and Rumors

Galata Port Project


In following tradition with many other port revitalization projects throughout the world, Istanbul seems to have wanted to do the same with the area of land from Karaköy Port to Tophane. Various different plans include an expanded cruse ship port, restaurants, an aquarium, hotels, shopping centers, walkways, concert halls and various other recreational facilities.

                                  » The Galata Port Plans of Studios Architecture who this particular was commissioned by is not clear
                                  » Waterfront Revitalization as a Challenging Urban Issue in Istanbul by Bas Butuner, ISoCaRP Congress 2006

Leonardo Bridge


In 1502 Leonardo da Vinci produced a drawing of a single span 720-foot (240 m) bridge over the Horn as part of a civil engineering project for Sultan Bayezid II. The vision was resurrected in 2001 when a small footbridge of Leonardo's design was constructed near Ås in Norway, lead by painter and public artist Vebjørn Sand. In 2006, it was announced that the prime minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbaş had decided to resurrect the Leonardo da
                                   Vinci Bridge project. The Turkish architect put charge of the construction was Bülent Güngör, known for the restoration of the
                                   Çiragan Palace, the Yildiz Palace, and the Sümela Monastery. The Bridge was suppose to have exact copy of da Vinci's
                                   design, unfortunately the project has been cancelled.
                                   » Leonardo Bridge Project Website




International collective Xurban's 2005 proposal: 'Re:fuse', an investigation into three areas of activity in Karaköy: the brothels, the chandelier makers and the ablution space in a mosque.



In the last decade of the 19th century, Karaköy developed itself to a banking district. The Ottoman Bank established its headquarter on Voyvada Cad, Italian and Austrian insurance companies opened branch offices. Every major bank operating in Turkey still has a branch on Bankalar Caddesi. 

Shipping / Trade


Karaköy experienced a second wave of Christian inflow when British, French and Italian forces of the Allies came to Istanbul to fight in the Crimean War (1854-1856). The lack of piers made the unloading of troops and military equipment difficult. A French company obtained 1879 the concession to build the quay in Karaköy, which could be accomplished in 1895 only. With the increasing trade activity in the early 20th century, the port was extended with customs buildings, passenger
                                     terminals and naval warehouses. Karaköy became also famous for its Greek taverns located along the quays. 

Sex Trade

Since its days as a port town, Karaköy has been home to brothels and bars, servicing guests and locals, travelers, traders and under-employed. There are as many as 20 brothels still in operation, though there are many rumous that many of these (some state owned) will be closed or moved.

» Time of Uncertainty on a Notorious Street an article about brothels on Zurafa Street. Hurriyet Daily News, 2009.

» A little less sex in Istanbul the demolition of the Karaköy brothels and short history of the state-sanction and illegal brothels. Asia Times 25/7/09



Karaköy is a passageway from the tourist area of the Golden Horn, into Galata and the bars and restaurants around Istiklal Caddesi. Tourists will often stop by the Fish Market, sometimes wandering through the hardware shops on their way up the hill to Tunel. 



During its heyday as a port town, each country operated its own hospital to treat its citizens. The hospitals were located in a belt between the port and the living quarters higher up the hill. Most of these hospitals are still in operation today, though under private management.

Manufacturing / Distribution


Today the area his home to hundreds of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and electronic parts suppliers.

Things to Eat

balık / ekmek (fish / bread)


A few small shops have sprung up inside the Fish market by the water. Others can be found on the lower, pedestrian part of the Galata Bridge that crosses to the Golden Horn. 



The most famous baklava maker in the area is with out a doubt Karaköy Güllüoğlu, the company f a family from Gaziantep in South East Turkey, famous for the sweet nutty layered dessert. This shop produces 2.5 tons of baklava per day. 

other restaurants

Our friends with the food blog Istanbul Eats have features on four places in and around Perşembe Pazarı...we too can highly recommend all of them.

» Karaköy Lokantasi
» Akın Balık
» Mutfak Dili
» Grifin

Major Disastrous Events

» 1696 and 1731 Great Fires of Galata
» 1872 Cholera Epidemic

Ancient Mythology

Io and Hera


There was once a maiden named Io….
» Story of Io and Hera and how the Bosphorus got it's name (Cow's Passage)

Amphiaraus Temple


Byzas the Megarian, the founder of Byzantium supposedly erected a temple in the area that is now Galata, dedicating it to the hero Amphiaraus, a seer who was swallowed by the earth, together with his chariot. 

Infamous Characters

Matild Manukyan


Manukyan is an Armenian businesswoman, most famous for her brothels in Karaköşy. In all she owned licensed brothels, 70 business centers, 500 apartments and dozens of other hotels, businesses and properties.
Matild Manukyan on Wikipedia 

Abraham Salomon Camondo


Camondo was a part of the Ottoman urbanization process. He was a member of the 'Commission for City Orderliness', formed in Pera (Beyoglu), selected as a pilot region in 1855. It became the first modern municipality of Istanbul. When Camondo died, the stock-market and all financial institutions took a day off, the merchants in Galata and Halic closed their stores. The Funeral procession was followed by two military detachments, the Imperial Band, the upper class members of  
                                    the Empire and a large group of mourners from the Istanbul Jewish community.
                                    » Abraham Salomon Camondo on Wikipedia 
                                    » Abraham Salomon Camondo in the Jewish Encyclopedia

Mustafa Güllü


Güllü, a fourth generation baklava-maker came from Gaziantep to Istanbul in the 50s, opening the first baklava shop in the city. He created commercial films at the Atlas Cinema and placed ads in newspapers and magazines in an effort to teach Istanbulus about the baklava. Mustafa Güllü in an article about baklava (towards the bottom)

Ethnic Groups



From 1500 on, more Sephardic Jews settled here, who escaped from the Spanish Inquisition. As recently as the 20th century one could hear Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) spoken on the streets. Many of the Jews became prosperous merchants, and many worked as physicians.
» Jewish Sites in Galata



Armenians were active in the trade of Ottoman Galata as well as working as administrators in the banking sector. Their living quarters centered around St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, established in 1391. Armenians also served as shopkeepers, artisans, and sellers of timber, flour, soap, tobacco and oil.
» Armenian sport life in the pre-WWI Ottoman Empire



The French had trade history with Istanbul starting in the 18th century. They were importing cloth and manufactured goods from the West. Many buildings in Karakoy were designed by French architects.
» French trade in Istanbul in the eighteenth century, preview of the book by Ethem Eldem



Around the year 1000, the emperor of Byzantium granted to the merchants of Genoa the permission to settle and do business at this location. The district developed rapidly, and the Genoese built sturdy fortifications to protect themselves and their warehouses. Fragments of the Genoese walls are still visible, but the Galata Tower, the highest and strongest point in the walls, is the most visible of all. In the 15th century, Galata looked just like an Italian city.



During Ottoman times, the most numerous in the area, the rich Greeks were mainly merchants, the others tended to be artisians, tailors, weavers, bakers, porters, tavern keepers or owners of bozahanes (places selling boza, a drink made from fermented millet)



After 1917, thousands of White Russians fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution landed here and settled in the area.

Animals of Istanbul

Leeches, spiders, dolphins, cats, dogs, cockroaches, sheep, pill bugs, camels, pigeonsmosquitos, horses, scorpions, cows, donkeys, cranes, jellyfish, seagulls, fish, humans.
» More about all these animals on Attila Pelit's Blog 


© Julie Upmeyer, Anne Weshinskey 2016