Çukurcuma: a garden of antique delights.

  • December 11th, 2011

    ASLAN IS HERE, BUT THIS ISN’T QUITE NARNIA.

    If you want to pore over relics from the near and distant past for inspiration, amusement or serious resale, there’s a treasure trove right in the middle of Istanbul.

    ISTANBUL’S ANTIQUE DISTRICT IS FULL OF HIDDEN GEMS, INCLUDING THE BUILDINGS.

    Yet despite its charm, I’ve pointedly circumnavigated Çukurcuma (Chu-kur-juma) until recently. My first proper rental lease in the city was located in the neighborhood, and I thought I’d done well by paying six months rent in advance — and thus reducing my monthly fee — to my landlords, a couple hard at work restoring the semi detached building right next door. It was an up-and-coming district. Certain things about it were marginal. Still, Çukurcuma was well placed only a couple minutes down the hill from Galatasaray,

    The youngish, attractive couple turned out to be somewhat less than stable and balanced. Shortly after I’d occupied the upper two-floor flat, raised voices woke me in the middle of the night.  A couple of weeks later, a scene of domestic violence culminated with smoke curling under my apartment door. The husband had decided to commit suicide by burning the house down while I was still in it! A week later iron gates were installed on the outside front door, which could only be opened from the inside to keep out the volatile husband, but also meaning I had to seek permission to enter my own flat. Then the water was cut for almost two months. Despite my sizable rental advance, one half of the couple had decided to funnel all liquidity into the next door renovations instead of paying for such necessities such as running water and electricity. Showering with 5-litre water bottles in November and December is certainly refreshing.

    Not surprisingly, when I decided I would not be paying the next six months rent and would instead move to a more hospitable In a heart-warming reunion of spirit and purpose, reconciled husband and battered wife decided to sue me for breaching the one-year lease agreement. But I digress.

    That was more than six years ago. Time to get over it, right? Exactly. So I went on a rummage to seek out some relics from forgotten eras, mystical artifacts, you know, stocking-stuffers. Here’s what I found, and fortunately the only smoke I smelled was from the coal firing the local hamams …

    SADLY, THAT’S NOT A STRADIVARIUS.

    NO DJINN IN THESE BOTTLES.

    1400 EUROS!? PONY HEAD OR NOT, THAT’S AN OFFER I CAN REFUSE.

    BARBAROSSA? YES. THE BARBAROSSA? I THINK NOT.

    GAZE IN THE WINDOWS, BUT DON’T BE SURPRISED WHEN SOMETHING GAZES BACK.

    ONE MAN’S ANTIQUES ARE ANOTHER’S KINDLING.

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