Tidpits from the article
Abdul Hamid II
(Sultan from 1876 to 1909)
"So long as he remained on the throne there was not an electric light in the town, for instance, or a telephone or a trolley car. They were expressly forbidden by the Sultan, who firmly believed that a dynamo had something to do with dynamite- that arch enemy of thrones. For an equally good reason he prohibited the use of rubber tires for street cabs. The official inquiry into an attempt upon his life revealed- whether correctly or not- the pregnant fact that the bomb had been thrown from a carriage so fitted out, and he made up his mind that there must be an immediate and necessary relation between bombs and rubber tires
Carts so exist, drawn generally by water buffalo- slow, black, hairy creatures, with great
outcurving horns- that can pull twice as heavy a load as oxen
You will receive a new light on the complicated subject of porters if during your sojourn in Constantinople you have occasion to move. No experience in other countries will be of the slightest service to you here. Do not imagine that you can get any one to do it for you, packing your furniture into padded vans and setting it up in your new house ready for use. Still less imagine that you can do it yourself, even though you have carts and porters of your own.
If your own men start to take your own furniture out of your own door to your own cart whey will be stopped- by the firemen of the quarter, if you please. These are a race of beings well-nigh as formidable as the custom-house hamals and the lightermen. They do not happen to be of any one race. Some of them are Turks, some of them are Greeks, some of them are even Armenians or Jews. It depends on the district they come from. I suppose they have gained a common character form the fact that they are young and not too fastidious members of society, whose true element is tumult and disaster.
Just what firemen have to do with moving may seem highly problematical to the householder anxious to transfer his lares and penates. He will find to his cost, however, that they have a good deal to do with it. They move furniture when there is a fire. Since, therefore, there are unhappily not fires enough to give them constant employment, they claim the right to move furniture when ever furniture is to be moved; and they obtain the right.
But mark that each quarter does it only in his own quarter. If you move into a district ruled by a second set of firemen they insist on unloading you furniture and carrying it into your new house- while, perhaps, your own men stand by with folded hands. If they use their hands it all becomes a question of fists; and the police have no redress to offer you. The matter, you see, is one into which custom enters- that adet which is all powerful in Turkey
Calender and Time
…there would still remain any number of other points that make life characteristic and colored in a city that religiously follows four calendars, that prefers to regard 12 o'clock as falling at sunset, and that has so far happily succeeded in remaining superior to the proverbial relations between time and money.
People usually imagine Constantinople to possess that vague advantage known as a Mediterranean climate.
They forget that it has the Black Sea at its back, and behind that the steppes of Russia. Winter in Constantinople is long and disagreeable, not because of its darkness and penetrating dampness. There may be a late Indian summer and there may be spring days in February; but you cannot count on sun between October and April. Those six months are really a rainy season, only less rainy than in tropical countries.
And summer is correspondingly dry, when showers are rarities and hillsides scorch brown. The summers are not hot, however, in our American sense; the Black Sea looks to that.
Elevators and electric light are rarities beyond the reach of any modest purse. Steam heat is
only less rare. Baths are new enough for house-owners to make a point of them, while hot
water is not to be obtained for the asking. If you prefer the pleasant seaside suburbs to the
heart of town, you may be happy if any water at all is laid on to the house. The good old way,
by no means extinct, was to hire a saka to bring you water from the nearest street fountain.
As for the kitchen arrangements, they would fill the western housewife' heart with despair, were
it not that a Constantinople cook is lost before a proper cooking range. What he prefers is a
sort of raised fireplace under a hood. In this high stone platform are a number of hollows surmounted by gridirons on legs. In the hollows he builds little bon-fires of charcoal and cooks each dish separately on its gridiron.
Almost all butchers are Greeks from Epirus or the Ionian Islands. Many market gardeners are also Greeks, though many others are southern Albanians, and not a few are Bulgars from Macedonia, while much of the street peddling characteristic of Constantinople is done by Turks. They are not Constantinople Turks, however.