Cinematic Route: From Yedikule to Samatya

Written by Selim İleri

Samatya and its surroundings is like a natural movie plateau carrying the pieces of the spirit of old Istanbul. I can never exchange it with any other suburb of Istanbul today.

I was a child when I had met Samatya. My grandmother’s close friend was from Samatya. We used to visit them quite often. The streets of the suburb were our playgrounds. In fact, I discovered this suburb quite late. It was during the early 1980s when we had started to shoot the movie Afife Jale that I had written the script for. The movie, which starred Müjde Ar, was a story of Istanbul in the 1920s. For some of the scenes, we needed locations that still had the fabric of old Istanbul. With the advice of a close friend, we went to Yedikule. The suburb was perfect for the spirit of the movie. We mostly worked on Ilyas Bey Street close to the Yedikule Fortress. After shooting some scenes, we
would sit down in the area to have a chat. It was an enjoyable project. I had found the suburb quite interesting back then but because of the intensive working tempo, I did not have the chance to take a closer look. After the movie was finished, we had returned back to Yedikule. It was the summer of 1983. During that time, there were some small cinema theatres in the area. The train station, the surroundings of the Gazhane Building and the historical touch of the streets all affected me. That is when I fell in love with Yedikule. The Fineness of Old Istanbul We shooted another movie called No Night during the 1990s. Hülya Koçyiğit was leading actress in the movie and it took place in Yedikule, Samatya and Cerrahpaşa. A few years later, we made a television series called Mihriban of Yedikule for a private television station. The series was about a woman from Yedikule leaving Istanbul during the 1950s. For four months, I went to Yedikule every day. It was after those day that I felt closer to Yedikule, Samatya and its residents. I fell in love with that region. I never forget those days when we had just recently began shooting the series. It was a hot summer.
I had asked for some water from the homeowners whose house we were using. Suddenly, there was such a fuss about water in the house. After a short while, they brought me a cold glass of water with a hidden elegant lacework coaster beneath the glass. This polite behaviour that I had often come across during my childhood never left my mind again. Nowadays, it is unfortunate that we hardly come across such small grace that is the extension of our traditional life. It is still possible to find such elegant lifestyles as this in the suburbs of Yedikule and Samatya today. Inner Peace The suburb has a multilayered facade from the Byzantine to the Ottoman and from the Ottoman to the Republican eras. You will come across many structures proving how many cultures lived together and in complete solidarity with one another for many centuries. The mosques and churches are side by side. This multi
layered cultural wealth is in fact one way to enjoy it all. For instance, the old Byzantine church in Yedikule that has survived up until today is a perfect example. This beautiful neighbourhood that is peculiarly more stunning in spring and autumn never makes me feel bored. I love this whole region including the back sides of Koca Mustafapaşa and Cerrahpaşa. I feel like I belong to the spiritual topography of
these suburbs. The Turkey that I grew up in was established on modest lifestyles. The humble commercial world peculiar to
old Istanbul still continues to live on in Samatya and Yedikule. When you stroll down its streets, you can still come across small stores, coiffeurs, shops and grocery stores. Once you take a step outside from the fortress walls, you will come across the final orchards of Istanbul.
Once upon a time, the fresh vegetables that were harvested here would be sold on the stands leaned up against the fortress walls.
Today, although it is rare, you may still see portable sellers. The streets in Samatya lead to one another. In this sense, Samatya gives me an inner peace.
The Semavor Times I was born in Kadiköy. I lived in Cihangir and Şişli for a long time. Today, there isn’t much left in the suburbs that I was born and raised in. However, there are still gleams of the old Istanbul in Yedikule. I have even considered moving to Yedikule. Its streets lead to one another. The tired wooden and stone houses of old Istanbul whisper the traces of the past. My favourite parts are the streets beside the Yedikule Fortress. The Imrahor suburb is beautiful. The Constantinus Eleni Church located on Samatya Road is elegant. The church that was built by the Greek artisans and still exists today is impressive with its pinnacle, interior ornaments and icons. Once upon a time, I used to go to the cafes on the Samatya shores. Drinking tea from a semavor during sunset is so delightful there…

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Selim İleri

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