Pasajı (Flower Passage)
Caddesi at Galatasaray
filled with restaurants.
Each evening the tables are filled
with Turks and foreigners who come
to talk, eat, laugh and linger over
dozens of plates of meze, succulent kebaps,
seafood, sweet desserts, and glass
after glass of milky Turkish rakı, beer or wine.
The Pasaj is a shrine to Turks' love
of long, congenial group dinners,
but...the Pasaj has no flowers.
So why the name?
The Çiçek Pasajı is
the L-shaped courtyard of a building
named Cité de Péra, one
of the first European-style buildings
constructed during the Ottoman
Empire's late-19th-century effort
In its 19th- and early 20th-century
heyday the Cité de
housed posh shops on its ground floor
in the Pasaj, and offices on the floors
By the time I arrived in 1968, the
Pasaj had become a bunch of workmen's meyhanes (tavernas)
serving cheap but good food and strong
The shops were by then all simple
restaurants. Beer barrels were rolled
out into the Pasaj, square slabs of
marble placed atop them, low three-legged
stools set around, and Istanbul's taxi
drivers, craftsmen and minor merchants
came to eat, talk, shout, sing, and
sometimes drink a bit too much.
It was a jolly place,
with itinerant musicians, vendors,
pimps and catamites circulating freely—and
getting lots of business.
Then, in the late 1980s, about a century
after it was built, part of the Cité de
The building was closed.
When Turkey's tourism boom
arrived in the 1980s and 1990s,
the building was restored, renovated
and re-opened as a more upscale eating-and-drinking
locale for a somewhat richer class
of patrons. The patchwork of tarps
sheltering the courtyard from the
elements was replaced with a modern
A dinner at one of the restaurants
in the Çiçek
Pasajı is now noticeably more sedate,
refined and expensive than
when I first dined there over four
Where did all the rowdies
Around the corner and up the street (Sahne
Sokak) past the Armenian Church
of the Three Altars (Üç Horan
Kilisesi) to Nevizade
Sokak, a narrow street lined
with little restaurants.
In good weather Nevizade
Sokak is filled with
tables, chairs, waiters and diners.
The jolly atmosphere of the old Çiçek
Pasajı reigns, with several
updates: women are most definitely
welcome and included, and there are
fewer pimps and catamites.
But wait a minute—what about
When I first saw it, the Pasaj had
no flower shops, but neighboring Sahne
Sokak had several. But according
to a TTP user
who served as a Marine
guard at the American Consulate-General
in the Palazzo Corpi nearby
on Meşrutiyet Caddesi, in the late
1950s most of the shops in the Pasaj
sold flowers, and only a few were restaurants.
"It's good to know you were able
to dine off a slab of marble," he
wrote. "All we were offered
was a square of plywood."
Even more surprising is this: "I
visited it [in 2002] and even
met a waiter who befriended us Yanks
way back then and actually
remembered me from 1958."
—by Tom Brosnahan