When Constantinople fell in 1453, Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, was a remote rural settlement. By the late 19th century it was home to people from all parts of the Empire. Less than half the population was Turkish and Russian exiles, Turkish-born Jews and Greeks, and even German workers made up the balance. Although many of them have moved on, traces of this multicultural mix are still evident today. Small orthodox churches dating to the time of Chalcedon nestle on corners, while a migrant from the Black Sea tempts a sweet tooth. Süreyya Opera House pays homage to European architecture and culture, but a few blocks away 1970s Anatolian rock music rules. International cuisine is served with Turkish flair in a former summer house and flavoursome ice cream is available year round.
Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir
Back in 1777, a Turkish villager made the arduous trip from Kastamonu near the Black Sea to Istanbul. Like many before him, he dreamed of wealth and riches. Unlike many others he turned his dreams into reality. Today, the small sweet shop established over two centuries ago by Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, is world famous. Very quickly Hacı Bekir’s lokum became the choice of sultans. The name is derived from the Arabic rahat’ül hülküm, meaning ‘comfort of the throat’. Made from starch, sugar and assorted flavourings, it’s more commonly known as Turkish Delight. Once only available in the Ottoman Empire, an Englishman visiting Constantinople in the 18th century tried these ‘mouthfuls of delight’, and took some home as gifts. In the 19th century the Haci Bekir name became widely known after they won numerous gold and silver medals in prestigious confectionary contests in France. After the first exquisite bite, it’s hard to decide which flavours to buy to keep and which ones to give to friends.
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Café Zanzibar is housed in one of the few remaining wooden köşk lining the Marmara Sea. Built to escape the hot summers, they were once full of playful Istanbul families on holiday. Now beautifully restored, the sounds of gently clinking cutlery and the swish of fine wine, played over a background of the tide, fills the rooms. In the cool evenings of spring dine in the upstairs room decorated with hand-painted ceilings and lush red velvet banquets, evoking an idyllic, hedonistic past. In summer enjoy the cooling breezes and get respite from the sun on the leafy terrace, overlooking the water.
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Dondurmacı Ali Usta
From the moment they opened their doors in 1969, people have been lining up to buy ice cream at Dondurmacı Ali Usta. It’s made the Turkish way, with a natural gum called mastic and sahlep, a flour made from orchids. Combined with fresh fruit or ingredients such as cacao, vanilla and other flavourings, the taste and texture are irresistible. Choosing ice cream is a serious business in Turkey and everyone has their favourite. On its own, or topped with chocolate sauce and crushed nuts, sitting under the trees outside Ali Usta eating ice cream is a quintessential part of any visit to Kadıköy.
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Barış Manço Evi
Barış Manço began playing music in his teens and was one of the founders of Anatolian Rock, a synthesis of Turkish folk and rock. In 1970 his first hit single sold 700,000 copies and by his death in 1999, he’d written 200 songs. His look was typical rock star, long hair and moustache, but he was loved for more than his music. On his TV programme ‘From 7 to 77’, a music, documentary and chat show, his segment talking to children won him lifelong fans.
Barış Manço Evi is his legacy. Commissioned for an Englishman, designed by a Greek architect and once owned by a German family, Manço bought the house in 1984. He carefully restored its original splendour and the lavish rooms contain prizes and ornaments from around the world, gifted to Manço over the course of his life. The Steinway piano he called ‘My dream’ takes pride of place in the main salon. A keyboard staircase leads up to rooms once used by his family. In the Whizz Kid Room, nostalgic adults journey back in time to their childhood.
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