I just heard that the venerable Inci Pastanesi, the bakery and cafe that opened by Luka Zigoris in 1944 and was a destination for generations seeking Turkey’s best profiterole, has been evicted from its premises on Istiklal Boulevard. They had fought the eviction in court and lost, but before the court decision even reached them, the constabulary arrived this morning without notice and told them to get out. There was an argument between the officials and the manager and Inci supporters on the street, with the police arriving to calm things down. Then the cafe furniture was loaded onto trucks and the last profiteroles handed out free to supporters. The manager Musa Ateş says Inci will not reopen elsewhere.
The 1924 Emek (formerly Melek) Sinema next door shared Inci’s fate, closed down in 2010 despite protests as part of the redevelopment of the Taksim area. Inci was one of the few shops remaining that had any link with Turkey’s history.
Two decades ago Istiklal was lined with local shops and cafes, like Café Lebon and Café Marquise with its French art deco tile panels (now a gray chain cafe), and small eateries that made special products and had distinct atmospheres that expressed generations of artisinal expertise and reflected the cosmopolitan heritage of Pera. Baylan was a lovely cafe in the stone building right by the Galata Bridge, but now only exists in Kadikoy. One by one, such places have been closed down and replaced by chain stores, chain cafes serving abominable coffee and blowing AC into the streets through wide-open storefronts, and more recently a monstrous hulking mall that is in such bad taste that the spit dried in my mouth when I saw it.
The building that housed Inci and Emek Cinema is a 136-year-old Baroque- and Rococo-style building, constructed in 1884 by the well-known French-Turkish architect Alexandre Vallaury, whose father was a renowned pastry cook. The shops were asked to vacate the building because it will be — sit down for this — turned into a mall.
It’s not just Istanbul that is under the knife of unconscious and illiterate developers. Residents of Cappadocia are desperately fighting developers who plan to build concrete and glass boxes in the conservation area of Uchisar, once one of the prettiest towns in the area, destroying the very landscape that attracts tourism to the region. The surrounding towns and villages have joined together to try and stop this construction, which they assume is illegal and based on bribes. Here’s the petition (English towards the end; Adi = name. Soyadi = surname. Sehri = town. Imzala at = click to sign.)
AKP’s slogan is piety and profit. If only that also included culture.