Monday, July 27, 2015

The Arnavutköy valley

The city of Istanbul grew from an ancient settlement. Recent archeological finds have shown that the oldest settlement is even older than previously thought. In November 2005, workers on the Bosphorus Tunnel Project discovered the silted-up remains of the Harbor of Theodosius which was one of the ports of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, located beneath the modern Yenikapı neighborhood of Istanbul. In addition, the excavations uncovered artifacts dating back to 6000 BC.

Living in one of the older neighborhoods of Istanbul is an adventure onto itself. Each day brings up something new to discover about the past.

I was born in Istanbul and later I went to university and lived in Istanbul for many years. Only in 2008 did I become an Arnavutköylü (meaning from or living in Arnavutköy as in Istanbulite, New Yorker, Parisian, etc.)

                                       The Arnavutköy valley viewed from the opposite shore of the Bosphorus

Arnavutköy is one of the historic neighborhoods of Istanbul, one of the villages on the Bosphorus and the name means Albanian village. Greek speaking Albenians were brought here in the second half of the 15th century by Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror. One source indicates that he brought them over to use as stone masons in his new capital. During centuries this was a major Greek village under different names. The last Greek name for the village was Mega Revma alluding to the strong current on the sea along the shore of the village. Gradually the name Arnavutköy caught on. As recent as 1912 the population comprised of close to 6000 Rum (Anatolian Greeks) and around 1500 others of different ethnic backgrounds.

One thing everybody knows is that the Arnavutköy valley was a very fertile piece of land. There were strawberry fields, vineyards, orchards, woods, gardens and farm land here from the top of the hill down to the sea. And, of course, there were fishermen. During my walks taking in the flora of this lovely place I still come across many different plants and trees.

At the last count I could name various pines, cypresses, elm, elaeagnus, can erik, acacia, poplar, walnut, peach, plane, fig, mulberry, persimmon, magnolia, chestnut, horse chestnut, orange, lemon, willow, oleander, ficus benjamina, nettle, loquat, linden and many others.

I choose linden to represent the rich biodiversity of this place for it is one of the species native to Turkey. Hot linden tea keeps one warm in the winter months and later in the year, for a few weeks the strong fragrance of the linden flowers fills the air with the promise of spring.

I am compelled to mention that while looking things up about the linden tree, some of the North American sites I visited mentioned the smell of the tree resembling the smell of semen. The smell was described as repugnant coming from a tree and the trees were described as messy. I shudder at the thought of it. Perhaps the American linden trees have this smell, I do not know. In Turkey the fragrance of the linden tree is nothing like that and the smell of linden flowers is considered pleasant.

Linden is the common name for some of the flowering trees of the genus Tilia in the family Malvaceae. Four of these are:
Tilia Americana, common name American linden. 
Tilia platyphyllos, common name Large leaved linden. 
Tilia cordata, common name Little leaf linden. 
Tilia tomentosa, common name Silver linden.

The Latin word tilia comes from a Proto-Indo-European word ‘ptel-ei̯ā’ with a meaning of ‘broad’, perhaps ‘broad-leaved’.

I don’t know the American linden. The three others are native to Europe.

Tilia platyphyllos is a deciduous tree, native to much of Europe. The specific epitheth platyphyllos means ‘with broad leaves’. T. platyphyllos tea can be used medicinally.

                                                                      Linden buds and leaf in the spring

The leaves of all the Tilia species are heart-shaped and most are asymmetrical, and the tiny fruit, looking like peas, always hang attached to a ribbon-like, greenish-yellow bract, whose use seems to be to launch the ripened seed-clusters just a little beyond the parent tree (

Tilia tomentosa is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Hungary and the Balkans east to western Turkey. It is widely grown as an ornamental tree in parks in Europe. Tomentosum refers to downy or hairy leaves. Most medicinal research has been done on Tilia cordata, although other species are also used medicinally and somewhat interchangeably.

                                                                      Linden tree in the fall

Tilia cordata is a species of Tilia native to much of Europe from England, through central Scandinavia, to central Russia, and south to central Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, the Caucasus, and western Asia. In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe dried linden leaves and flowers are traditionally made into an herbal tea (tilleul) which is considered to be an anti-inflammatory herbal remedy for a range of respiratory problems: colds, fever, flu, sore throat, bronchitis, and cough. Linden tea is also considered good for aiding indigestion, vomiting, and palpitations. The leaf buds and young leaves are also edible raw.

Usually, the double-flowered species of linden are used to make perfume.

                                                              Scenes from Arnavutköy, 2014



  1. Hi Beste - love the history of the place and reading about those periods. Then the trees - great variety ... and the linden tree is well spread ... cheers Hilary

  2. Hello Hilary. Yes, I miss the place immensely when I'm not there.

  3. I love Arnavutkoy!
    Also love linden trees, for their association with Tolkien. "Light as leaf of linden tree..." is a line I always remember.

  4. It's a good feeling to be able to say that I am from Arnavutköy.