A More Traditional Life
Arnavutkoy, mulberries

A More Traditional Life

Sankar and I are fortunate to live near one of the most intact historical neighborhoods in Istanbul. Arnavutkoy is a hillside town that hugs the European side of the Bosphorus. Its name means “Albanian village,” a reference to past residents. It is known for its wooden Ottoman mansions and fish restaurants.

I walk through Arnavutkoy five or six times each week as I head for the bus stop or a walk along the Bosphorus, to buy bread or go to the Tuesday produce market. Each time, the walk lifts my mood.

Here are some photos of Arnavutkoy that I took during a recent two-day period.

Down the hill from my apartment are several mulberry trees. Right now the sweet, juicy fruit is ready for plucking. I eat it wistfully. I’ll be back in Minnesota next June, and might not ever see a mulberry again.

Ripe white mulberries

Some houses along the way down the hill are small, but as we reach the business area, most rise several stories above the narrow streets. They are constructed of wood, painted in pastel colors, with protruding upper rooms, Ottoman style.

Some homes appear to be stacked on top of each other because they are on hills.

With zero plot lines, people’s “yards” are simply a profusion of flowering plants and bushes lined up against their houses.

The sign on this paint-challenged mansion reads “Fun Street”

I am surrounded by hundred-year-old houses that have similar architectural details and flourishes. They are a mute testament to human collaboration, harmonious living.

There is other evidence of community as well, and my eye turns to Arnavutkoy’s four-legged residents. People leave plastic bowls of water and piles of dry pet food out for the resident cats and dogs. Dogs feel so comfortable that they take naps just about anywhere, even in the middle of the road.

                                                                              (Photo by Leah Corey)

Cat on a warm tin roof


Arnavutkoy’s 8 by 2 block commercial area offers a wide selection of delicious essentials.

Sauteed mushrooms, beef with peas, lentil soup, rice, pasta, soup, desserts. . .

Not Turkish, but a summer treat

In addition to the perennial business activity, Arnavutkoy has an active social life. Women call out to neighbors across the narrow streets. Men gather daily on the narrow sidewalks to drink tea and shoot the breeze. Boys in soccer gear walk in groups down to the local “spor kulub.”

At a small playground halfway up the hill, these mothers watch their children while enjoying tea and the sea.

I often wonder what it would be like to live permanently in Arnavutkoy. I would know everyone I do business with, and probably their families as well. I would feel a strong sense of belonging.  But small communities can also be stifling, and surely Arnavutkoy has its factions and feuds. 

Still, to an outsider, life in Arnavutkoy looks pretty good.

One thought on “A More Traditional Life

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