Istanbul’s hidden treasures

Istanbul is a city full of hidden treasures. They don’t present themselves to you unless you go and look for them though. You have to wander the city’s streets – sometimes for days – and hope they will be revealed to you.

We were lucky. American photographer Payam Emrani and I were just walking around Karakoy, on our way to the Kadikoy boat after a Let’stanbul activity, when an old man presented himself behind the window of a ventilation systems workshop. Payam took his picture.

Sometimes taking someone’s picture without permission leads to drama and angry faces. However, for this man, having his picture taken seemed to mean trust. He immediately asked us to come into his workshop and see something very special. Something of which there were only 4 in the entire world, he said.

We were very curious. The building was old and dilapidated. The old man had been working there for 40 years and barely changed anything. The building was centuries old, and still contained many original elements, such as metal doors, stairs and windows. Apparently, it was used as a prison in Ottoman times. The oldest and most spectactular trace of history was even older though. We found it in one of the back rooms.

There, surrounded by old junk, machines and piles of stuff, the man showed us a mural on the ceiling. With a proud, smiling face, he said: “15th century, Byzantium.” We looked up and saw a black and white painting of a scientist who seemed to be pondering the fate of humanity, while looking at a globe placed at its feet. “Only 4 in the world,” our host repeated. “There used to be more of them in this building, but they have all been stolen in the past.”

At that moment we learned something important about Istanbul. Maybe even about life. Some things may get stolen, or they might simply disappear. But others are rediscovered and treated wih great love. This man loved ‘his’ mural. It was his hidden secret, his Istanbul treasure and he wanted to protect it.

We were very happy he shared it with us. It was a special moment. We don’t know when the next secret will be revealed to us. Maybe never. We have to cherish the moments we are given, it seems…

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