Taksim backstreets – Dreaming in Russian, talking in Turkish

Come check out the Taksim backstreetsBehind the bright lights of shops selling well-known fashion labels on the one mile long Istiklal Street linking Taksim Square to Tünel, lies a warren of Taksim backstreets containing a surprising wealth of cultures. But you have to know where to look. Next to traditional Turkish restaurants featuring linen-covered tables and the wailing sounds of fasil music accompanied by the clinking of rakı glasses, are thriving reminders of the former Ottoman Empire, home to Turks, Armenians, Jews, Greeks and Albanians, and many more.

Included in this multicultural mix were the Çerkez people. Known in English as Circassians, their presence in Turkey goes back to the time of the Sultans when the women were prized for their pale skin and high cheek bones. Later, large numbers of them came to Istanbul after they fled Russia during the 1917 revolution. Many continued on their way to Europe and America, but the White Russians who stayed settled in the Asmalı Mescit neighbourhood of Taksim.

Come and explore the Taksim backstreets with me!I often go to Taksim to catch an exhibition at Pera Museum or Salt Gallery. Afterwards I head to the cosy Erra Goppa restaurant for lunch. The menu changes daily but always features the Çerkez staple fıccın, a flat pastry meat pie. If I’m lucky Çerkez tavuğu is on the menu, chicken cooked in a spicy walnut sauce. Before heading home I like to window shop to see what’s new before popping in to one of the numerous retro fashion stores and bookshops in the area. If I’m there at night I eat at Fıccın, another establishment serving Circassian food, with a good wine list.

Come and eat what they're cookng in Erra Goppa restaurant.Taksim never sleeps and at night the area is a vibrant mix of bars and clubs, gypsies and roving musicians. I love dancing and my favourite place to go is called Babylon. Even though it’s no longer located in an old Byzantine cellar it’s a great place to dance into the early hours under the spinning silver disco ball. On the way home I might stop for coffee and baklava before heading home to sleep as the sun comes up. Despite the passing of time, the Bohemian air the White Russians brought to the city of Istanbul is still very much in evidence.


If you enjoyed this post, check out my category “Discover Istanbul” (see drop down Categories menu on the right hand side towards the top of this page). I’m sure it’ll inspire to you to go exploring!

Share Button

About Goreme1990

I’m Lisa Morrow, the person behind www.insideoutinistanbul.com. I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up a leafy middle class North Shore suburb. After finishing high school I went to Sydney University but failed to find my niche. After working as a public servant, cleaner, sales assistant, waitress, bar maid and car counter, I went overseas. Once there I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. My three months stay in the small central Anatolian village of Göreme changed my life. On my return to Australia I earned a BA Honours Degree in Sociology from Macquarie University. An academic career beckoned but the call to travel was louder. After several false starts I moved to Turkey and lived there for ten years. In 2017 I moved to Lisbon, Portugal, but continue to travel regularly to Istanbul. In addition to my blog I've written a travel narrative memoir called "Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul" and two collections of essays, "Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City" and "Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries". I have a regular segment on San Francisco Turkish radio and in early 2017 I released an audio walking tour called "Stepping back through Chalcedon: Kadikoy Walk", through VoiceMap. In addition I write for various international and Australian magazines and websites, as well as for this blog. A full list of my published articles, with links, can be found on the Writing on Turkey and Writing Beyond Turkey pages.
This entry was posted in Discover Istanbul and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Taksim backstreets – Dreaming in Russian, talking in Turkish

  1. Goreme1990 says:

    True, but I can always visit!

  2. BacktoBodrum says:

    You are going to miss all this if you move South.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *