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Arnavutköy: The Strawberry Fields of Istanbul

Map of Arnavutköy

The Holy spring of Prophet Elias of Mega Revma (today Arnavutköy) Source: Travelogues Travellers' Views

Located on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait, sits the neighborhood of Arnavutköy. Though originally called Hestai at the time, it was founded by Megaran colonists in the fourth century. Its current name, Arnavutköy, means “Albanian Village,” referring to a relocation program of Albanians to the neighborhood by Mehmet II following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.

French postcard of Arnavutköy (Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)

While at the time a distinct cultural group, many of these Albanians began to assimilate into the larger Greek populace; they Hellenized their names and intermarried with the Greeks. In the following centuries, Greek culture flourished in Arnavutköy, which the Greeks would call “Μέγα Ρεύμα'' or the “Great Current.”

Greek culture persisted in the architecture of the neighborhood with the popularity of the yalı, a style of seaside estate. Each yalı had its own unique design - its balconies and porticos displaying the wealth and power of the Phanariots, the Greek Orthodox elite of the Ottoman Empire. These yalı were mostly inhabited by the upper echelons of the neighborhood, many of whom were connected to the Jerusalem Patriarchate and served as state officials, merchants, and bankers.

(Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)

While in the early 20th century brighter pastoral colors became popular, before this period in order to avoid drawing the ire of their Turkish neighbors Greek residents painted their yalıs dark tones of brown and gray to give off a low profile impression. However, despite their somber facades, the inside of each yalı was ornately decorated. The complexity of this architectural stratagem exemplified the complexity of social tensions between the Greeks and the Turks.

Stawberry Field Workers (Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)

For the majority of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the economic makeup of the neighborhood mostly consisted of shopkeepers, small business owners, and strawberry farmers. Arnavutköy was characterized by its greenery from fragrant strawberry fields to woods and orchards to the flowering gardens of homes and shops alike.

The gardens of Arnavutköy (Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)

The neighborhood took great pride in the Ottoman Strawberry, which was grown there. This crop brought one of the first fruit canning factories in Turkey. So important was the strawberry that it had its own festival, celebrated to call in a bountiful harvest. Beyond the strawberry fields, Arnavutköy was still a very green neighborhood with gardens and parks associated with Persian aesthetics and cultures of “pleasure and picnics.” Storekeepers allowed ivy to grow on the facades of their buildings to a more welcoming aesthetic.

Modern day Arnavutköy (Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)


(Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)


(Source: Kultur Envanteri 2023)

Though the church is still in use, the original structure of Taksiarhis Church was destroyed before the conquest of the Byzantine Empire due to the skirmishes surrounding the city. Over its long duree as a landmark of the neighborhood, the church had to be repaired multiple times: being lit aflame two times throughout the 18th century and destroyed in an earthquake in 1894.

Inside of Takisiarhis Church (Source:,

The Profiti Ilias Church rests on a hill surrounded by trees. Inside it holds the Ilias Ayazma, a water known for great healing properties. The name is very common for Greek Orthodox churches built atop hills. Ilias refers to the prophet Elijah; when Christianity became the main religion, these temples to the Prophet Elijah were often built on the same place as temples to Apollo due to a cultural connection with Elias and Apollo.

The gate, main entrance, and interior of the The Profiti Ilias Church (Source:






“The American Colleges For Girls | History of Istanbul.” n.d. Büyük İstanbul Tarihi. Accessed


Arslan, Faruk. n.d. “Robert College.” Wikipedia. Accessed 2023.

English High School'lular Derneği. 2023. English High School Alumni: Home.

“Home Page.” n.d. Robert College. Accessed 2023.


Mills, Mary. n.d. “American College for Girls records, 1880s-1979 | Rare Book & Manuscript

Library | Columbia University Libraries Finding Aids.” Columbia University Finding Aids.

Accessed 2023.

“The Oral History of Arnavutkoy-Arnavutköy.” 2021. Megma Revma Biography.

Ortodokslar Toplulugu. 2014. “Arnavutköy Taksiarhis Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi.” Ortodokslar



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