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Cornucopia’s travel guide

Fener and Balat

A quarter of the Ottoman city popular with the Rum (Ottoman Greeks) and base of the Orthodox Patriarch, who Mehmet II designated spiritual leader of all the Orthodox faiths in the Ottoman empire immediately following the conquest of Constantinople. The neighbouring districts of Fener and Balat are full of delightful lanes.

What you will see

The lower districts, along the shoreline of the Golden Horn, Fener and Balat, are home to a receding community of Phanariot families who trace their origin back to Byzantium. Time was when they, like their Muslim neighbours, would never even dream of crossing the Golden Horn to the fleshpots of Beyoglu. Two landmarks are the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and a gothic church cast in iron, signed Wagner of Vienna, which the Bulgarians floated down the Danube. One happy story is the conversion of the Cibali Cigarette Factory into Kadir Has University. However, even that is now overshadowed by the hijacking of its restoration of the delightful lanes and alleyways between the university and the land walls. So horrific are the plans as to be hard to credit. For more than a decade, exactly the right sort of people have poured their money and good taste into a slow but rewarding restoration of the quarter. Now even these are to be confiscated, torn down and replaced by sham modern old buildings – a truly ghastly affair. Oh dear. Go quick before the bulldozers get there.

Getting around

The most pleasant way to travel is by ferry. They leave every hour from Uskudar on the hour stopping at Karakoy and continuing up the Golden Horn.

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