Notes on 19th Century Istanbul-Workers

Joined Feb 3, 2010
All of the excerpts below tell his own times, from the eyes of an old baker named, Hagop Mintzuri. I recommend you to read throughly the book of this Ottoman, who aspired to be a writer and wrote his own book one day. It lays before our eyes the late Ottoman Empire downtown culture, commons perception, and the streets; you almost feel as if you get in the scene there...

Source :
Istanbul Memories (1897-1940)
Hagop Mintzuri
History Foundation of Turkey - Yurt Publications
Tarih Vakfý

" ... Magnificent Sinan Pasha Mosque was dominating to the square with its gigantic cave-like entry without a door. From the first beams of morning to the darkness of the night, the place before it along was teeming with a crowd. All on feet, shoulder to shoulder. They were idly looking at the main street stretching from Besiktas to Ortakoy, the grand police station of Hasan Pasha, and its flanking fountains... The one downward had a tap, the one falling to the leftside didn’t, and it was flowing day an night constantly. Tramways were passing every ten to fifteen minutes, cautious about the weeds, honking all the time for fear that there may be a man on the rails buried among weeds, and to make the people give way.

Most of the people in the crowd were Kurds. The Kurds of Erzurum, Bitlis, Van cities. They were authentic with their colourful, baggy trousers, and again colourful, short jackets. There was virtually no one in new cloths among them. All the trousers and jackets were patched with patches in every colour. They were all waiting to be called for a job. No matter what it would be.

Old Hand Rado was sitting on an empty petrol barrel right before the wall of the mosque. He was a Kosovar Albanian. With his cap and clothes, he was reminding our tray carriers [who deliver stuff with a tray on their heads]. He had a big head and a round face. His was such a wide face that seemed weird to me. Imagine the mustach, mouth and nose on that face yourself... His tripod stand was standing right before him, and he was keeping the breads on it. And in a tin container, fried beef liver, chopped onion, and parsley. Besides he had such an Albanian halva [kind of a dessert made of sesame paste and sugar, and may be eaten with bread] that, it was neither of Old Hand Memis’s nor Imam’s kind. It was a thing in red beet colour, in a rather big container. The costermes were the Kurds and woodyard workers.

One would buy half or quarter-a-loaf bread and open it, and the Old Hand Rado would put in, howmuchever wanted, ten paras’[then a currency], twenty paras’ worth of fried beef liver and halva, or only liver or halva, with some onion. At the entry of the mosque, near the walls, they were sitting and eating. The puppies of downtown were coming, standing on the alert, and waiting for a piece for them impatiently... "

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