Fener-Balat, Another Wanderlust Experience

I can not grateful more for chances to live in Istanbul, the city that always have anything to offer for its visitor in each corner of its city. As we know from the history, Istanbul had witnessed long story chronicles, took a role as the capital of two big empires in the past, the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires. As muslims as majority living in the city, it’s not wonder if we can find minarets in every single corner of the city. When you hear the praying calls are sounded five times a day through the minarets of the mosques, people visiting Istanbul for the first time perhaps will have the question in their mind, “Is there any people practicing other religion in this beautiful city?”

The answer is Yes. After Fatih Sultan Mehmet took over the city in 1353, Islam dominated the religion within the city. Mosques were constructed, churches were converted into the mosques, and etc. However, the freedom to practice the other religions were not neglected. When we take a look around the city, we could find many churches and synagogues still stand up, and are still functioned as the worship place for its congregations.

Last week, to fulfill another wanderlust experience I went to the neighborhood called Fener-Balat. Even though I have been living in this city for more than 6 months, and passed this neighborhood many times, I didn’t have any chance to walk around the neighborhood and see how it is with my own eyes.

If you’re kind of traveler that prefer to be away from abundant of tourist crowds, then I will recommend Balat, where you can can spend a day getting lost in the narrow streets of Fener-Balat neighborhood. Here, the houses are painted in different myriad colors, washing clothes were hung between buildings, children playing on the streets, men sitting in the coffee house and many interesting daily life that Fener-Balat could offer to explore. Just a friendly reminder, please using comfortable shoes when you’re visiting the neighborhood since it’s so sleepy and hilly.

Golden Horn, seen from the top of the hill

The name of Fener was taken from ‘Fanari’ a Greek word meaning lighthouse. The area has been the seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul since 1600. The large number of the Greeks living in Istanbul lived here right up to the early 20th century. The less affluent Greeks and Jews of Istanbul lived in neighboring Balat, which is home to number of churches, mosques, and synagogues. Located on the European side of Istanbul, on the western bank of Golden Horn, Balat is known as traditional Jewish quarter in Fatih district, Istanbul. Fener-Balat is a place where traces of Jewish, Armenian and Orthodox communities still stand in the city.

I haven’t explored the whole of area yet. There are many historical churches, museums that are worth to visit, and I promised myself to spend two or three days in the future to visit each of them.  Balat is full with cute coffee house too, so on that sunny day, I pampered myself by getting lost in the alleys and treated myself a cup of Turkish coffee to end up my day.