Tuesday, June 5, 2012


There are two sides to Istanbul.

Literally, the city sprawls across two continents - Europe and Asia.

But it's also a place where you can see fancy Ottoman mansions located along the Bosphorus and urban shopping malls as well as the occasional chicken running across the street in Vefa or Arnavutköy.

You don't have to go far to see signs of rural life in the city.

Located near the ruins of Yedikule Hisarı and following the Byzantine-era stone walls are small vegetable gardens and well organized fields of green onions, spinach, lettuce and more.
A man tends to his field of spinach near the Byzantine walls in Istanbul.
These gardens flourish between the city's crumbling land walls and the modern paved road on the other side. From what I understand, the gardens were once some of the main agricultural fields of Old Istanbul and established after the Ottomans filled in the former defense ditches and cisterns with soil.

Now, the locals rent these narrow fertile strips of land from the government and have established what looks like gecekondular (ramshackle houses built overnight without permits). Families, even with small children, live and farm here.
Well organized plots, plus a small nursery growing trees.
This was one of the more extensive vegetable stands set up near the walls.
As you walk by the walls, you'll notice men and women tending to the gardens as well as small market stands set up on the sidewalks selling their beautiful produce. I have to assume they sell the vegetables to make a little money and use the rest for their own consumption.
I mean just look at the veggies here! Several people even had plastic cold frames set up to start their vegetable seedlings when the weather was still cold.
I don't even like radishes, but these looked so colorful and tempting. 
Istanbul is full of paradoxes....And this is one of the best places to see the ancient walls of Istanbul and traditional farming techniques at the same time.

How to get there:
Just take the suburban train from Sirkeci to Yedikule and in about 20 minutes, you'll find yourself walking amongst this different world.
Traditional Turkish women harvesting radishes by the armfuls.

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14 comments:

Moe said...

I live 5 minutes from there and had no idea! Thank you and now I know make sure to visit!

Julia said...

Will have to hunt this place down next time we're in Istanbul. Don't you just love that city! :)

Tina Maxima said...

Great post :)

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i wish i was close to something like this. are you back in turkey?

Livin' Istanbul said...

Great post! Istanbul always leaves me mystified and wanting more!

Joy said...

@Moe, well worth exploring. You can walk all the way from Yedikule to the Halic Koprosu. Well, we did, most of it by walking. ;-)

@Julia, yes I love Istanbul! Had to visit my favorite section today in Eminonu to stock up on my pastry supplies.

@Tina, Thanks!

Joy said...

@Joyce, I love having history that is hundreds, even thousands of years old here to explore. It puts American history to shame!

Got back late Thursday night....been dealing with major jetlag since then. But back to baking for the cafe and resuming life as usual. My aunt is now helping take care of my dad back in Nebraska.

Jenn D said...

Great post! Istanbul is indeed fascinating and mystical.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

it was so nice that you went back and helped your family. i am sure they all appreciated it. i always suffer jet lag worse on my return trips.

Deniz Bevan said...

Lovely photos, thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

Hoşgeldiniz! Your father was so lucky to have your TLC. Beautiful post.

Erica (Irene) said...

Great photos....I know what you mean leave the city and in about 20 minutes it's another world.
Hope all is well with your Father.

Joy said...

Hoş bulduk!

Dad is doing well. Thanks for all the kind words and thoughts during this time.

One of things I love most about living in Istanbul is that you never know what you might encounter/discover/see when you turn a corner.

mrs. bobbins said...

HiJoy We've just returned from mainland Turkey Kalkan .I couldn't believe the wealth of veg. farming going on in the region, a vast range of beautiful food grown on small scale and large, put our puny and drenched allottment to shame! You are so lucky to live and cook there .I'm quite jealous!

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