Named after the Albanian (Arnavut) builders brought to Istanbul by Sultan Abdülmescid in the 19th century to lay sidewalks in the city, Arnavutköy is home to beautiful wooden houses, many of them lining the Bosphorus waterside. The original population was a mix of Turks and Albanians, and there was a large community of Greeks and Jews but today only a few Greeks remain.
This delighful seaside façade acts as an enticement to explore the streets behind. Many of the grand old homes in this suburbs boast Art Nouveau designs, although most of the ornate naturalistic whimsies are believed to have been added to existing buildings.
One exception can be found in Dulkadıroğulları Sokak, where an architect designed house showcases the best of Turkish Art Nouveau.
Inland, behind the simple Tevfikiye Mosque and reached by traversing narrow tree-lined cobblestone streets that make you feel as though you are in a country village, is the 19th century Taksiarkhes Church. Built on the site of earlier churches, the large plain square building houses the most extraordinary dome painted deep evening blue. The expanse of heaven is scattered with glistening stars which reflect the gold leaf of the imposing iconostasis which forms the screen between the nave and the sanctuary. The icons forming this wall are housed in elaborate frames and hold notes, gold and other offerings from grateful worshippers. Underfoot lies a crypt where former residents were buried. It is forbidden to photograph inside the church and I doubt an ordinary camera could do justice to the extraordinarily ethereal quality of the interior.
These are just a few highlights from this lovely neighbourhood. If you visit in spring make a day of it by visiting nearby Emirgan Park in April for the annual Tulip Festival or if you come in winter, plan your day around lunch or dinner in Arnavutköy or the nearby and very upmarket suburb of Bebek.
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