Writing's on the Wall of Yeldeğirmeni
Named after the windmills set up in the 18th century, Yeldeğirmeni district in Istanbul's Kadıköy is a revived place and a new hub for expats with trendy cafes and culture spaces. Although the windmills are no longer there, the frequency of bakeries in the neighborhood is testament to its legacy.
It has been an area that has a powerful functional relationship with the sea since the ancient times due to the port of Himeros which was located in the area that serve as Haydar Pasa Station today.
While many neighborhoods of Istanbul have lost their neighbourhood spirit due to the cosmopolitan structure of the city, Yeldeğirmeni is one of the rare areas where this spirit thrives. The neighbourhood has always held a composite identity.
The region attracted attention with the buildings of German and Italian architects, engineers and workers who came to build Haydarpaşa Train Station in the early 1900s. Yeldeğirmeni is known as the first neighborhood in the city to have blocks of flats. Kehribarcı, Menase, Celal Muhtar (used as a hospital for immigrants injured in the war after the First World War), Demirciyan, Sünget and Valpreda were among the first apartment buildings built in Kadıköy.
This authentic neighbourhood has hosted different ethnicities such as Armenians, Jews and Greeks since the 15th century and the traces of these different periods are still visible throughout its architecture as well as religious complexes. The population of Muslim raised after the construction of the Iskele Mosque built in the 18th century whereas the immigrants of non-muslim communities increased in the 19th century thanks to the privileges of the reforms and the impact of the large fires at other districts. A very large part of the Greek people living in the region with a large population left the region as a result of the melee made with Greece in the years that Republic of Turkey had been established.
Rasim Pasha Mosque was built by his wife Ikbal Hanim in 1905, restoring a previous masjid.
The Notre Dame du Rosaire Church, built in 1895 as a monastery, school, and church, today serves as the Yeldeğirmeni Art Center where you can enjoy concerts of jazz and opera.
Ayios Yeorgios Greek Orthodox Church is the newest and most recently built Greek church in Istanbul as of its construction date. It was converted from an old school building in 1919. A portion of the church, the Basilica of the murals depict seen in the plan is a copy of Chora Museum.
Built in 1899, Hemdat Israel Synagogue, is one of the oldest and most beautiful Jewish houses of prayer in İstanbul.
Thanks to the efforts of Kadıköy Municipality and ÇEKÜL, Yeldeğirmeni has experienced a renaissance over the final couple of years. Yeldeğirmeni owes its recent fame to be converted into an open-air art gallery. Since 2012, Muralist, an international street art festival, has been held every year. Artists such as Pixel Pancho (Italy), Amose (France), Dome (Germany) and Cladio Ethos (Brasil) have contributed to this festival. Start your adventure in Yeldeğirmeni by visiting the mural on Karakolhane Street, which is actually a map of the neighborhood and a list of all of the main points of interest.
Right in front of Franco Fasoli's One-2-One Mural, you'll find park dedicated to the Gezi Demonstrations martyr Ali Ismail Korkmaz.
City's Asian side remains a mystery for most tourists but recently not for expats. It's a diverse mix of rich and poor, young and old, hip and uncool, religious and secular. Simply wander around the streets, soak up the history, have a chat with the friendly locals and shops from the small local vendors. Follow the simit-scented streets and stop by the little bakers who continue to faithfully produce this fresh and crispy bagel.
Interspersed between traditional kahves and kıraathanes are dozens of art galleries, cafes and social centers infusing the neighborhood with a lively, friendly and bohemian vibe. The Don Quixote Social Center, Istanbul's first squat, has become a cool collective space, which offers a variety of art, hobby and horticulture workshops. There are plenty of cool cafes and small restaurants which are definitely worth trying. Try Garda for a delicious lunch; MU, Benazio for good coffee, Anti Cafe for spending time.
Did you know, I in fact, spent a few years as a kid growing up here 😉 What a nostalgia to write about the streets you grew up at, school you went to...
200 year-old Ayrılık Çeşmesi Cemetery is where the nobles of the Ottoman Palace were buried.
Ayrılık Çeşmesi Fountain is where once the soldiers and pilgrims were bid farewell.
Can you believe this part was once a red-light district?
Ecevit Çalışkan has started to decorate his house on Uzun Hafiz Street with toys he never had during his childhood. When Toy House became famous, people started donating toys to him, as well as received some as gift from Ecevit Çalışkan.
The stones behind the statue pay a tribute to the windmill stones.
You know in Istanbul (and rest of Turkey) cats are kings, right! Speaking of which, I highly recommend a documentary on cats based in Istanbul, directed by Ceyda Torun. You can find a sneak preview here.
Don't forget to read about Kadikoy here. On your next free weekend, hop on a ferry and visit Asian side's rival to Karaköy and Cihangir!
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