La Grand’ Rue
On my first trip to Turkey in 1967, I arrived in Istanbul to find İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), the main shopping street in Beyoğlu, a roaring traffic speedway, the cars and trucks depositing their pall of gritty exhaust on the century-old buildings.
Now it’s a pedestrian mall, and many of the buildings have been cleaned and renovated. The former Grand’ Rue de Péra is now Istanbul’s favorite strolling-and-window-shopping thoroughfare.
Along it are sights such as the large Catholic Church of St Antoine (center of picture) and the huge former embassies (now consulates-general) of France, Holland, Russia and Sweden. Off the street down narrow passageways are surprises such as the Greek Orthodox Church of Panaya İsodyon and the Ashkenazi Synagogue, all still in operation.
İstiklal (eess-teek-LAL) is the place to come for a whiff of 19th-century Ottoman nostalgia.
—by Tom Brosnahan