Beyoğlu: After the festival films
Spring is the time for surprises. You wake up one morning and suddenly its spring, the season of festivals! Like spring itself, the International Istanbul Film Festival is suddenly upon us, mingling with the proverbial April showers. But they won’t dampen your spirits in the least, as everything from film and theater to music, even jazz, rains down upon you. Two years short of its 40th anniversary, this year’s festival is bringing 186 films by 187 directors from 45 countries on April 5 through 16. Festival venues include the Atlas Cinema, Beyoğlu Cinema, Pera Museum in Beyoğlu, Cinemaximum City’s in Nişantaşı and Cinemaximum Zorlu in Gayrettepe as well as Kadıköy Rexx Cinema on the Asian side. Beyoğlu’s movie theaters once again are this year’s venues for the 38th Istanbul Film Festival between April 5 and 16.
Here are some great places to stop along İstiklal Avenue when you come out of the festival films.
French Cultural Center
Converted from the former French Hospital, the cultural center is a scene of artistic activity all year round. And the April program for this venue on İstiklal Avenue is jam-packed. The Depo exhibition is offering many pictures of the “Shared Holy Places” between April 19 and July 14.
A historic public bathhouse, where personalities like Dan Brown, John Travolta and Monica Molina were once customers, Galatasaray Hamam is on Turnacıbaşı Street. Dating back to 1481, this “hamam” that once welcomed pashas is famous today for its frothy “pasha massage,” bath attendants’ demos, and bachelor parties for men and women alike. The editor of the book ”History of Galatasaray,” Fethi Isfendiyaroğlu, states that the Galatasaray Hamam had served students during his education. Thus, he says, as a student of Galatasaray High School, “Before, during our times, there was hamam service every morning, the students would gather in their dormitories every morning and would be taken to Galatasaray Hamam, next to the garden of the school. When the students were in the bath, the door of the hamam would be closed and no other customers were let in.”
A Beyoğlu classic
Chocolate is the source of happiness, but have you ever tried the Beyoğlu style? Besides fitting any mood at any time of day, chocolate is also a cornerstone of special occasions. This delicacy, which we discovered rather late as it’s only produced with the seeds from the cocoa tree that grows in tropical climates, spread throughout Ottoman lands when an Italian traveler brought it to İzmir in 1693. Chocolate is a pleasurable food and one piece is never enough. One of the best places in Istanbul to taste it is at the shops of İstiklal Avenue, in the Beyoğlu district, which has been serving chocoholics for more than 50 years. Famous for using an abundance of whole hazelnuts, Beyoğlu chocolates have an intense cocoa flavor that will linger on your tongue.
The variety is mind-boggling at this historic fish market whose stalls abound with the tastiest of the Bosphorus catch: Mussel and pickle stalls, used bookshops, delicatessens, and herbalist shops. You should try the mezze and seafood at the neighboring restaurants which throb with the strains of the Turkish fiddle and drum.
Built by M. Hacar Aleppo in 1885, the passage is one of the most frequented venues visited by guests in Beyoğlu. Visitors can pass through its monumental gate, by a restaurant currently being renovated and into a store with masks and ethnic accessories. These historical passages have been the silent protectors of Beyoğlu’s potential for culture and arts for years. Along with Beyoğlu Cinema, a movie theater, and Ses 1885-Ortaoyuncular Theater, Halep Passage, which carries the Turkish name of the Syrian city of Aleppo, is one of the most popular locations frequented by art enthusiasts.
This apartment building is one of Beyoğlu’s newest venues with its galleries, theaters and restaurants. Built in 1910 in Art Nouveau style, it is now a pedestrian zone. One-time residence and place of death of Turkish poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy, who penned the words to the country’s national anthem, this high-ceilinged apartment is a work of art in its own right.
One of the world’s oldest subways, Tünel, with its entertainment venues that spill over into the neighboring district, has become a recent favorite. Boasting sidewalk bistros and ethnic restaurants, including Persian, Thai and Greek, it also hosts some of Istanbul’s hottest nightspots.