Beyoglu is a district, located at the European side of Istanbul. In the older times, the area was named as Pera. Pera, the word is derived from Greek meaning `Across`. After the foundation of rebuplic of Turkey, the district was named oficially as Beyoglu.
Altough the word Beyoglu, means son of a lord, historians believe that the word is derived from the layin word Bailo. Bailo was a title of a Venetian diplomat who served as a mediator between Venetian and Ottoman trade and political relations. The first Bailo was sent to Istanbul in the time of Suleyman the Magnificent. Most probably the Bailo had a palace in this district, therefore this area is named after himself.
First inhabitance of Beyoglu, dates back to the period of Christ. After the 4th crusade, a lot of Venetians settled in this area till 1261. In 1273, Pera was given to the Republic of Genoa and became an important trade colony. In 1348 the Genoese built the famous Galata Tower. After the Ottomans conquered the city of Constantinopolis, Genoese kept living in the area under the Turkish rule.
At this time, Venice established political and commercial ties with the Ottoman Empire, and a Venetian Bailo was sent to Pera as an ambassador, Most pobably it is the Venetian Bailo who suggested Leonardo da Vinci when the Sultan mentioned his intention to construct a bridge over the Golden Horn.
The Venetians were also the first Europeans to taste Ottoman delicacies such as coffee. Centuries before other Europeans saw coffee beans for the first time in their lives during the siege of Vienna in 1683.
During the 19th century Beyoglu was again home to many European traders, and housed many embassies, especially along the Rue de Péra (İstiklâl Street). The presence of such a prominent European population - commonly referred to as Levantines - made it the most Westernized part of İstanbul, especially when compared to the Old City at the other side of the Golden Horn.
Beyoğlu was one of the first parts of İstanbul to have telephone lines, electricity, trams, municipal government and even an underground subway. Subway in Tunel was built in 1875 as the world's second subway line (after London's Underground) to carry the people of Pera up and down from the port of Galata and the nearby business and banking district of Karaköy, where the Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street), the financial center of the Ottoman Empire, is located. The theatre, cinema, patisserie and café culture that still remains strong in Beyoğlu dates from this late Ottoman period. Shops like İncluding famous for its delicacies still survive today.
The foreign communities also built their own schools, many of which went on to educate the elite of future generations of Turks, and still survive today as some of the best schools in Istanbul.
The rapid modernization which took place in Europe and left Ottomans behind was symbolized by the differences between Beyoğlu and the historic Turkish quarters such as Eminönü and Fatih across the Golden Horn, in the Old City. When the Ottoman sultans finally initiated a modernization program after 1839. Numerous buildings in Beyoğlu that mixed traditional Ottoman styles with newer European ones were constructed.
In addition, Sultan Abdülmecid stopped living in the Topkapı Palace and built a new palace near Beyoğlu, called the Dolmabahçe Palace, which blended the Neo-Classical, Baroque and Rococo styles. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Turkish Republic was founded, Beyoğlu went into gradual decline. Much of the foreign communities left the city, and the local communities of ethnic minorities such as Greeks, Jews, Levantines and Armenians who formed the majority of the residents in Beyoğlu found it increasingly attractive to live elsewhere. The Wealth Tax of the World War II years and the Cyprus dispute in 1974 resulted many non-muslim families and business to leave Pera district. The widespread political violence between leftist and rightist groups which troubled Turkey in the late 1970s severely affected the lifestyle of the district, and accelerated its decline with the flight of the middle-class citizens to newer suburban areas.
By the late 1980s, many of the elegant apartment blocks which were once inhabited by the late Ottoman elite became home to immigrants from the countryside of Turkey. Most of the consulates are still in this area; the Italian, British, German, Greek, Russian, Dutch, and Swedish consulates are significant in terms of their history and architecture.
Higlight of the area is Istiklal Street once known as the Rue de Pera. A pedestrianised 1 mile street of shops, cafes, patisseries, restaurants, bookshops, cinemas and art galleries. Some of İstiklal has a 19th century metropolitan character, and the avenue is lined with Neoclassical and Art Nouveau buildings. The nostalgic tram which runs on Istiklal Avenue, between Taksim Square and Tunel, was also reoperated in the early 1990s with the aim of reviving the historic and nostalgic atmosphere of the district.
One of the higlights of Istiklal Avenue is Cicek Pasaji (Cité de Péra). The 19th century Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage in Turkish or Cité de Péra in French) opened in 1876. A miniature version of the famous Galleria in Milan, Italy, The site of Cicek Pasaji was originally occupied by a theatre, which was burned during the great fire in 1870. After the fire of 1870, the theatre was purchased by a local Greek banker. Architect Kleanthis Zannos designed the current building, which was called Cité de Péra in its early years. In 1908 the Ottoman Grand Vizier purchased the building, and it became known as the Sait Pasha Passage. By the 1940s the building was mostly occupied by flower shops. The building was restored in 1988, it was reopened as a passage for fish restaurants.
In our winter private walking tours of Istanbul, I always enjoy being in Beyoglu and Istiklal Street. Let me take you to the highlights of Istanbul and show you the contasts what makes Istanbul a unique place. For more information please contact us.
by TransBalkan Tours is a fully licenced tour operator since 1963 and a member of TURSAB.