April 22, 2012

A Historic Quarter of Istanbul Regains Its Place in the Sun


The transformation of Pera in the past 10 years has been extraordinary. When I first started coming to this side of Istanbul, just after the millennium, Pera was old, dirty and unnerving. There were streets off Istiklal Caddesi where, as a tourist, you did not walk. The bar in the Pera Palace Hotel was so dingy I'd swear it had not been painted since Agatha Christie holed up in a room with a rickety brass bedstead. 

Now Pera, the rocky quarter traditionally frequented by Europeans, is bright and buzzing. The International Pera Piano Festival begins on 7 May, followed three days later by the Istanbul Theatre Festival (10 May-5 June), which uses Pera and various neighbourhoods nearby. Then, at the end of May, the Istanbul Music Festival (31 May-29 June) kicks off with two of its venues in Pera and street musicians dotted along the newly affluent Istiklal Caddesi. 

How has this happened? 

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