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CANKURTARAN

cankur1"The Life-Saver"

Market: Wednesday (beside Sphendone)

Many of the hotels which are labelled as being in Sultanahmet are technically in the neighbourhood called Cankurtaran which runs down from behind Ayasofya Meydanı to the shores of the Sea of Marmara. Its throbbing heart is the street called Akbıyık Caddesi (White Moustache St) which is lined with hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants and shops aimed at tourists. It used to have a rather ramshackle atmosphere that might have put some world travellers in mind of Thailand's famous Khao San Road but these days it - like the rest of the area - is moving relentlessly upmarket.

While gentrification is ripping through the area there are still many back streets where old wooden houses are still just about hanging on. 

Around Cankurtaran

This is an air of minor monuments rather than great treasures although they are none the less worth seeing for all that. Right on Aybıyık Caddesi, for example, the İşhakpasa Cami, stuck on a busy corner behind a high wall and missed by most visitors in their rush to reach Topkapı Sarayı, was built in 1482, making it one of the oldest mosques in the city. 

A relic of the Byzantine Great Palace can be viewed by diners at the Paladium Restaurant in Kutlugün Sokak and the Albura Kathisma Restaurant in Akbıyık Caddesi. This mysterious stretch of domed halls and corridors is believed to have served as a covered corridor inside the palace. Its excavation was a labour of love undertaken by the owner of what was until recently the Başdoğan Asia Minor carpet shop and is now the Paladium.

The wooden Dede Efendi Evi is used for whirling dervish shows that receive rather mixed reviews.cankur2

If you walk down from Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi to Kennedy Caddesi (the main sea road) you will come to the remains of the Byzantine Propontine Sea Walls that ran all the way from the Marble Tower (Mermer Kule) at Yedikule in the west to Ayvansaray in the east. Despite the heavy traffic along this road, you can walk from either of the old city gates, Ahırkapı (Stable Gate) or Çatladıkapı (Cracked Gate), to Sarayburnu in half an hour, passing two important but often overlooked landmarks as you go.

The first is the support wall that is all that remains of the marble İncili Köşk (Pearl Pavilion), built into the perimeter wall of Topkapı Palace in 1591 by the grand vizier Sinan Paşa and once one of four such kiosks (only the Sepetçiler Pavilion still survives intact). It was designed by architect Davud Ağa and named after the pearls decorating its dome.

At the end of his life Sultan Murad III (r. 1574-95) is said to have been listening to music while gazing out to sea from this pavilion when the passing navy fired their guns in his honour. This set off vibrations that caused part of the ceiling to fall down on him. The Pearl Pavilion was also the last known resting place of a famous organ sent as a gift to Sultan Mehmed III by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Restored in the reign of Sultan Mahmut II, the kiosk was abandoned in 1856.

Just past the pavilion patterns in the brickwork of the wall and the shapes of arches and windows are all that remain of the 12th-century Church of Savior Philanthropos (Jesus the Charitable). This used to be popular with medieval Russian pilgrims who reported a miracle-working statue there. Greek pilgrims visited the ayazma (sacred spring) of Hagios Sotiros beneath the İnçili Köşk until well into the 19th century.

Eating

The glory days when it was patronized by the likes of flamboyant singer Zeki Muren may be behind it, but it's been in the meyhane business since 1938 so Karışma Sen (which means “don’t get involved”) must be doing something right. The location, right on the busy coast road, probably explains why it’s better known to locals than visitors. Tel: 0212-458 0081, www.karismasen.com

camkur4Sleeping

Armada Hotel

Best Western Citadel Hotel. Tel: 0212-516 2313

Dersaadet Hotel. Tel: 0212-458 0768

Emine Sultan Hotel. Tel: 0212-458 4666

Erten Konak. Tel: 0212-458 5000

Kalyon Hotel. Tel: 0212-517 4400

Orient Hostel. Tel: 0212-517 9493

Sultan Hostel. Tel: 0212-516 9260

Tashkonak. Tel: 0212-518 2882

cankur3Transport info

Cankurtaran is within easy walking distance of Sultanahmet tram stop. Unfortunately the old suburban railway station is no more. There is a suggestion that the old train tracks may eventually be replaced by a tramline. 

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