We live in Kurtuluş, a diverse neighborhood in the heart of the city. It was originally a Greek (and later and Armenian)neighborhood, founded by Greek families that worked in the dockyards of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, most of the wooden houses and shops in the neighborhood were destroyed by a fire in 1842, and later in 1929. In 1929, the area became a symbol of modernity and hope when the new Turkish government invested heavily in rebuilding and modernizing the neighborhood. It was also renamed ‘Kurtuluş’, which means ‘salvation’ or ’emancipation’ in Turkish.
The neighborhood is lively and serves as a home for several of Turkey’s minority populations. While the majority of the Greek population has returned to Greece, the neighborhood remains home to many Jewish and Armenian families, as well as recent Kurdish immigrants. It is also quickly becoming a popular neighborhood for many expats who are living and working in the city as English teachers. There is a famous Armenian school, church and newspaper in the area. The small grocery stores offer Greek and Armenian products that you cannot easily find elsewhere in the city.
As you walk down the streets, you can overhear conversations in numerous languages and various accents. Everyone seems to know each other (this is not uncommon in old Istanbul neighborhoods where 2-3 generations live in the same apartment building), and people are warm and welcoming to foreigners. We were quickly absorbed into the diverse patchwork of the area, and feel very lucky to be a part of this lively community.