Balat – international history and unpretentious splashes of creativity

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Balat – international history and unpretentious splashes of creativity

Balat is different. It's not just another neighborhood among many. It tells you about life in a way that may confuse and astonish you. Balat wildly exposes the whole crazy spectrum of life. At first, perhaps crudely, but then with such genuine power of art and emotion that it ignites a great flame of love in your soul. Balat justifies these flames of creativity with its perspective. It knows... because it truly exudes world history.

Free and wild Balat

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

Balat hasn’t let me off easy. It presented me with both a cultural and personal mirror that I initially tried to avoid facing. But fortunately, in the end, my courage prevailed.

My homeland’s culture is now becoming international, young, and clinically rule-bound Finland, where you’ll always find an “expert” blinded by rules ready to tell you how you should live, feel, and think. Even art and creativity are imprisoned in institutions maintained with tax money, where a monthly salaried “expert” eagerly tells you the rules on how you should experience art.

Balat is precisely the opposite of all this!

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

Balat is free, a community powered by its old history, international, embracing various life philosophies, where art and creativity overflow for all senses to experience – wildly without borders or rules. So, welcome to taste the colors of life!

Yes, Balat may confuse you and even throw you a challenge, but I recommend embracing it. Then you might find your deep inner freedom, which will exhilarate your inspiration towards life’s wonderful wonders and joys.

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

Where? And how do you get there?

Balat is located in the Fatih district on the European side of Istanbul, on the western shore of the Golden Horn (Haliç), between Fener and Ayvansaray. Transportation is good by buses or, for example, from Eminönü by tram T5.

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is full of steep hills, so you’ll need your best and most comfortable walking shoes for your Balat excursion.

During our last visit, one of us arrived by motorcycle, but since at least this granny isn’t particularly attracted to motorcycles combined with Istanbul’s chaotic traffic, the rest of us arrived by water. So, from the direction of Beyoğlu, from Kasımpaşa across the Golden Horn by ferry, which was a nice option. It was interesting to experience Istanbul from the Golden Horn’s direction for a change, although the ferry ride was too short, lasting only a few minutes.

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

This is Balat:

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Freely translated: ”Let the sky not be ours, let us be the sky. Let’s be birds. Let’s be clouds.” -Ali Lidar
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
How would your morning coffee taste from this curvaceous mug?
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
In Balat, you’ll find many skilled craftsmen and artists.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

Two nice cafés

Balat is, in addition to everything else, an oasis of both beautiful and quirky cafes, not to mention vintage. Below, I’ll tell you with photos and little videos about two delightful cafes that I highly recommend.

1. Cafe Naftalin K. – vintage café

Cafe Naftalin K. is a vintage cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Cafe Naftalin K. is a vintage cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Cafe Naftalin K. is a vintage cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
The menu, accompanied by an individual poem, melted our hearts.
Cafe Naftalin K. is a vintage cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
Can you spot the restroom in the photo? Because we’re in Balat, the restroom door is, of course, the low orange door in the background, resembling a refrigerator door…

2. İlters Coffee – terrace café

İlters Coffee is a terrace cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
İlters Coffee is a terrace cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
In this café, you climb through increasingly charming floors towards the rooftop terrace.
İlters Coffee is a terrace cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
İlters Coffee is a terrace cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
A café’s view can’t get much better than this: one direction opens up to the bay of the Golden Horn, and from the other direction, you catch a glimpse of the famous historic Greek school (Özel Fener Rum Ortaokulu ve Lisesi), founded already in 1454.
Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
İlters Coffee is a terrace cafe in Balat. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.
The café’s rooftop terrace’s fun specialty is the giant coffee cup and tea glass, with which you can take funny photos if you wish. Plus, the service is exceptionally friendly.

Historical and multicultural Balat

In 1985, Balat was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List as one of Istanbul’s historical areas.

Both Istanbul as a whole and also Balat are literally bursting with world history. For example, the ruins of the sea walls from the time of Constantinople separate Balat from the Golden Horn. On the bay side wall, there is a plaque marking the spot where Sultan Mehmet II’s troops climbed over the walls on April 23, 1453, during the battle culminating in the conquest of Constantinople (i.e., the Ottoman Empire conquered the then capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople).

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

Initially, Balat became a large residential area for Jews and Muslims in the late 1400s. Throughout history, many ethnic groups, cultures, and religions have lived and thrived in Balat; in addition to Jews and Muslims, there have been Armenians and Greek Orthodox, among others. Therefore, the area is home to sacred buildings of many different religions, such as synagogues, churches, and mosques. In my opinion, this now affects Balat’s energy and atmosphere in an uplifting way, although the past has not been entirely free from problems.

Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

On the shore of the Golden Horn rises the famous and particularly beautiful Bulgarian Orthodox Church, completed in 1898, Bulgarian St. Stephen Church, also known as the Bulgarian Iron Church (Sveti Stefan Kilisesi). It truly is, as its name suggests, largely built from prefabricated cast iron elements. Architecturally, the church combines neo-Gothic and neo-Baroque influences.

On the shores of the Golden Horn, in Istanbul's Balat, stands the famous and particularly beautiful Bulgarian Orthodox Church, St. Stephen's Church of Bulgaria, also known as the Iron Church of Bulgaria (Sveti Stefan Kilisesi), completed in 1898. Balat is a historic, colorful, wild and creative neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, Turkey.

With the uplifting tones of this beautiful church, I warmly welcome you to experience the unique Balat.

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