My new flat is on the fourth floor of a five storey family building. My landlady and her family live below me, her sister and hers below them, and their brother and his above me. My landlady has a spare key in case the hot water man ever shows up, but last Sunday I came home to find pretty sheer curtains in both the front and back rooms, a pair of salvaged chairs, an inflated air mattress with a cheery pink duvet and matching pillowcase, and other various treats throughout. (I felt like Sara Crewe from “A Little Princess!”)
My back room faces a courtyard surrounded by a modern, mostly empty building with floor to ceiling wooden shutters. The three windows of my front room look into the still vacant buildings opposite that, when renovation is complete, should rent for more than double what mine is.
My street leads down to a wide boulevard with a modern tramway along the Bosphorus. Go left past the narghile cafés to reach Istanbul Modern Art Museum and, eventually, the Dolmabahçe Palace. Turn right and cross the fishermen-lined Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn and head into the Spice Bazaar.
There’s no through traffic on my street, and as such it’s an oasis of quiet in this busy city, for it ends in a collapsed stairway. A lane too narrow for cars zigs between a church and a mosque, ending on two larger streets.
Both of these streets are lined with similar Ottoman-style buildings as mine, with small shops, workshops and cafés on the lower levels. The steeper street to the left winds up to a clean metro station that takes me to work. Both streets climb up to busy, beautiful, pedestrian-only Istiklal Caddesi, which in turn has more historic, treasure-packed streets snaking off in all directions.
I spent all day yesterday wandering the streets of this fascinating corner of Istanbul. The local residents greet me, now that I’m a familiar sight. I ended with a hot chocolate on a terrace with a million dollar view of the Bosphorus joining the Golden Horn. Five minutes later, I was enjoying the budget version of the same view, as I do every day, from my window sill.
I love my neighborhood.