The victory of a first Turkish football club in EUFA section made us know this name.
But what is it ?
In Turkish, 'SARAY' means castle, and 'GALATA' comes from Galates who were Gallic hirelings in the pay of the Byzantines. The later, to thank them for their good offices in Anatoli, offered to them the time a ground in front of old Stamboul. Today this district has taken the name of GALATA. It has set itself up around an immense building which is GALATASARAY's secondary school, which for 4 centuries, has formed the elite of the Turkish nation. An agreement with Napoleon III allowed this elite to follow the courses partially in the French language. So, for more than a century, a tribe of French professors has been sent every year to educate the Turkish pupils. Real institution, very powerful by its alumni who occupy key posts, the secondary school has little to do with the sporting club today. Besides this club has emigrated, on a floating island of the Bosphorus, some kilometres away from the secondary school.
The foreign embassies had elected place of residence here, because since Byzantine Basileus this part of the city has always sheltered the foreign communities. Turkey, has two headed state, shares its economic and political exercise of power between its former Ottoman capital : Istanbul and its new republican capital: Ankara. Today, embassies now installed in Ankara have become consulates in Istanbul but are still illuminated with their splendors, on days of opening. Galata's district has always been the den of the Levantines and the various Greek, Armenian or Jewish minorities. And 40 years ago, no so-called European Levatine, went out in the street if he had not put on his dress shirt front, his gaiters and top hat, while coming across a porter wearing his traditional clothes.
But this maze of streets, alleys, impassses, of passages and stairs conceals treasures upon which it is necessary to know how look up. The architecture is characteristic, with its bow-Windows, which enable the inhabitants, especially the women, to spy on the street better. As soon as the sun appears patches of washing, drying, transform this Turkish district into a Neapolitan district. It is here, that the French town planner Prost hired in 1935 by Ataturk to redraw the city, planted his first streetcar and Tunel funicular with its trains reminding one of Parisian old-fashioned underground railway.
Galata, is this very long avenue called 'Istikl‚l caddesi', it became pedestrian precinct in 90, it abounds in shops of all kinds and qualities. At the end of week, this avenue is invaded with a dense and cosmopolitan crowd in search of sales, a restaurant, a cafe or simply of a sandwich filled with 'kokorech' (tripes).
Opposite the magnificent portal of the Secondary school, the market hall is a chance of a lifetime for treasures with its magnificent, fresh and dry fruits, caviars stalls and one can even find pork meat there ! Adjoining the market the passage flowers alley 'Cicek passaj' under its glazed dome, is an excellent stop, for a fresh beer. But before leaving this market, a detour by the mirror alley , recently restored, is imperative and if you manage to discover the entrance of the Armenian church, hidden among the heaps of fruits and vegetables : well done ! it is really worth seeing.
From Taksim to TŁnel, the crowd scatters in adjacent streets. This avenue is a spectacle because everything is contrasted : Popular Mac Donald adjoins the smart VAKORAMA shop , the rich trader in currencies always shelters a poor beggar, the mosque is not that far from the pornographic cinema where the fundamentalist raises eyes while coming across the student dressed in miniskirt.
The history of the communities and foreign minorities can be read in this street. Buildings of various Armenian, Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish , Muslims and Sufis brotherhoods line Istikl‚l Caddesi.
This side of Istanbul is unusual and has nothing to do with the district of SULTANAHMET and Holy Sophia, this Istanbul is the one which is alive and kicking.