Nightlife at The old brewery is not the only entertainment in the Bomonti hood of Istanbul. Sunday mornings are worth spending there as well. Istanbul is full of new structures and experiences, but the flea market in the Feriköy district of Bomonti offers a unique time travel through the cultural heritage of the city and the country.
I love to get lost in the antiques, ephemera, or simply the junk of this market. The quiet and calm walks down to the neighbourhood early in the morning always serves as a mental preparation for what stories await me. I turn left just before the brewery and here is the marketplace surrounded by modern looking, tall buildings. Most of them are luxurious residences that were recently built as a result of the gentrification projects going on in the old parts of Istanbul.
There is an old saying in Turkish that might be translated as: “If old things were in fashion, light from heaven would illuminate the flea market” (Eskiye rağbet olsaydı, bit pazarına nur yağardı).
The flea market of Feriköy might be an embodiment of this. But for those who are obsessed with the past, like me as a history student, it is a heaven in itself. It offers a time travel in the recent history of Turkey through the ordinary material culture or simply the junk.
If you want to experience and discover the stories that you cannot find in the books or in the touristic places, this is a definitely a place to visit for you. Once you join the curious crowd wandering around booths, the time travel starts.
The period that the objects belong to could be measured on a large scale. The booths offer funny combinations of objects from the heritage of these lands.
In one I saw a document written in Ottoman Turkish with Arabic script, next to an ad for Ford trucks, a poster of Bülent Ecevit, which quotes his 1977 election campaign motto “For a new Turkey”, and traditional wooden spoons with Arabic inscription. In another booth I noticed black and white photos of ordinary people taken in a certain Nuran Photography House in Divan Yolu (thanks to my weak skills in reading Ottoman inscription) along with different old medals of war veterans.
It is also possible that you find postcards with intimate notes at the back, sent from all around the world. For the junk lovers, there are plenty of second hand clothes, cameras, furniture and other stuff. For collectors, there are more valuable objects such as stamps, old coins, maps, books, magazines, vinyl records with old music, and decorative materials.
The flea market is not only rich in stuff but in people as well. Engaging in small talks with visitors or with the owner of the booth leaves you with more stories about the past. You may get to know a member from a wealthy family of Istanbul, a history professor, an editor from a history magazine or an ordinary resident of the neighbourhood.
If you are lucky you might meet Kağıt Çocuk (Paper Boy) who sells old movie posters and ads from magazines and get lost in his papers. He once told me that he has a separate house for keeping his collection.
I suggest you go see Mihran Amca’s booth whom I met this Sunday. He is an Armenian from Dersim, living two blocks away, and sells books on the Armenian culture published by Aras Publishing House. I bought one called “A Cry for Justice” (Bir Adalet Feryadı) which is about five Armenian feminist writers who were born in the Ottoman lands. If you seem interested enough, it is possible that he will give away his documentary on Armenians from Dersim.
This time travel in the flea market of Bomonti will give you sneezes from the dust. Not only that but also a bag full of “junk” and stories. That’s what is worth a simple walk in the market. There is more to that. If you want to take your time and contemplate on what you have experienced after your visit, there are hipster coffee shops around. But, of course, this will be the topic of another post.
The flea market, Bit Pazarı in Turkish, is open from 9 am to 7 pm.