View along the Galata Bridge
We had decided to spend today wandering around Istanbul on our own, mainly because that is our favorite way to explore a city (once you’ve seen the major tourist sites) and also because I was on a mission to discover something about the city where my great-grandmother was born in 1840. Her father had been the Captain of Sultan Abdul Mejid’s yacht ‘The Precursor’ for seven years and she was born during that period. Her parents were both English and her father had spent most of his life as a London importer and marine merchant. How he became a Captain for the Sultan is a mystery to me. Anyway, my genealogical search for details about life for an English merchant in Istanbul in 1840 had led me to the one Episcopalian (Anglican) church from that time.
Tour boat for hire
The Church’s birth, marriage and death records were kept in Christ Church. Christ Church had been built in 1858 for the “British Levantine merchant colony centered in Beyoglu” and was the closest link I could find. I found an address “Serdar Ikrem Sokal 82” and hoped for the best. The fact that I don’t speak or read Turkish and had only the vaguest directions for finding the church were seen as minor hindrances.
It was overcast in the morning when we set out to walk across the Galata Bridge into the Eminonu district but the two-level bridge was covered by fisherman on the sidewalks on the top level and by closed restaurants on the lower level. Watching the fishermen for awhile we discovered they were fishing for anchovies – those little fish that end up salted in small tins.
The Spice Market in the Eminonu district
It seemed like a lot of effort to cast a line two stories down to the water and then reel in such a tiny fish but maybe fishing wasn’t the reason for being there. The guys (no women around other that tourists like me walking across the bridge) were obviously out of the house for the day, talking to their friends and doing nothing in particular. It probably was something to do until the soccer matches came on TV.
We continued across the bridge and walked along the waterfront before wandering through the Spice Market. The weather got even more overcast and it was time to go back across the bridge to the Galata and the Beyoglu districts and try to find Great-Grandma. We walked up the hill toward Galata Tower
dodging traffic and raindrops as we went.
This must be what they were fishing for on the bridge.
There is a nice little café at the base of Galata Tower so we had coffee before continuing up to the main pedestrian shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi. A great bookstore with a good selection of English translations of Turkish writers was on the shopping street. I got one book by Kemal and two by the Nobel Prize winning author Pamuk. These have added greatly to my understanding of Turkish viewpoints and getting books by local authors has now become part of my standard travel book purchases. Dunno why it took me so long to think of this.
The directions to Great-Grandma’s church were “at the end of Istikal Caddesi, go left down the side of the Swedish Embassy. At the foot of the hill, turn left and right.
Christ Church was behind a stone wall. Now what?
” We did that and ended up on a dirt road next to a closed iron gate and a tall wall with church spires visible behind the wall. No answer at the gate and nobody around. The area didn’t look too prosperous. Disappointed we left and walked all around the wall, hoping for a small pedestrian entry. Nothing. A man nearby was entering the door of his house and I walked over and asked about the church. He obviously didn’t speak English but, using my Turkish dictionary for assistance, he told me that he would call a friend who did speak English. I spoke to the friend who then drove over and met us at the church to help us get in. All in all, four Turkish men took time out of their day to help two total strangers get introduced into an Anglican church.
and this is the street to the church. It's a wonder we ever found it, let alone got in.
This kind of graciousness and hospitality to strangers was typical of all the Turkish people we met on this trip. Turks may be fearsome enemies but they are unbelievably kind hosts.
Seeing the church and the baptismal font where Great-Grandma may have been baptized almost made up for the fact that I couldn’t see the old records. However, just finding the church and getting inside were major accomplishments so I was happy all the way back to the ship. We sailed out of Istanbul at 6 p.m. on our way to Black Sea
It had been a great day and I was ready for dinner. Cathy was hosting a special Indonesian dinner in the Pinnacle Grill so I cleaned up, added a fresh festive band aid to my lip and went to dinner.