When you're familiar with Tarabya’s candidness, noisy seagulls, centuries-old trees, and you listen to the stories of its magnificent historical buildings, you realize that life is still beautiful. Even a daily trip to this district guarantees greater energy and peace of mind.
If you wish to cleanse your soul, mind, and body in a place where green meets blue, you should definitely go for Tarabya! As I head to one of the oldest districts on the Bosphorus, the surrounding plazas in Maslak are slowly replaced by trees which bear witness to life’s everyday moments. Pines, giant planes, cypresses, European beeches, willows, and many others lead the way as if curtsying. Walking closer to the deep-blue Bosphorus, I can smell the refreshing scent of iodine infusing the surrounding greenery. This is how Tarabya, the pearl of Istanbul, welcomes me.
Upon arriving at Tarabya Square, I see a giant plane tree standing gloriously before the sea. I want to give this tree a hug, but it’s impossible -its trunk is so big that. I would need at least two more people! Someone, a local sitting in the park, acknowledges my surprise by saying “Good morning.” Up ahead, someone tells me that the tree is 285 years old. A passerby overhears our conversation and tells us that the district has many trees over the age of 200 and that this is a district with one of Istanbul’s richest floras before gently bidding us farewell. I am happy to see trees sparking a conversation between strangers.I see the colorful old houses and mansions lining the slopes -they are vivid examples of the district’s hospitality and neighborly atmosphere.I follow the coast and start a stroll along Tarabya Cove, which has one of the best walking trails in Istanbul. I am accompanied by people working out by the sea or walking their dogs; children playing with stray cats; old couples reminiscing about the past; tourists taking pictures of the spectacular view; seagulls, the true owners of the Bosphorus; cormorants diving in and out of the sea; and the hurrying small shearwaters, which, according to legend, centuries ago, accidently lost a letter the sultan wrote to his lover on the other side of the city and are still looking for it.I am lured towards the land by the delicious smell of fish. Fish restaurants line the cove, side by side, as if inviting me to visit them after my walk. It’s a great happiness to sit on their terrace in summer, especially under the full moon! Tarabya Cove has always been famous for its fish. A place frequented by Ottoman sultans to eat fish, Tarabya is still one of the first places that come to mind when locals wish to enjoy delicious fish.
I continue my stroll along the cove. As I leave the scent of fish behind, I fill my lungs with the blend of the Black Sea’s northeaster and the Marmara’s southwester which work like a detox for my soul. That’s when I come to realize the story behind the district’s name deriving from therapeia (place for therapy). The story goes that, in the fifth century during the Byzantine period, Atticus, patriarch of Constantinople, came to the district and named it “Therapeia” for its fresh air and healing waters. Another story tells how Ottoman Sultan Selim II, who could not forget the flavor of the fish he ate here, had a palace built and named it “Tarabiya” (pleasure).
Stretching towards Büyükdere on one end and towards Yeniköy on the other, Tarabya Cove is filled with adjacent, centuries-old houses that seem to compete with each other in elegance. Some have colorful stories while others have mysterious or dramatic backgrounds. The German Consulate’s beautiful German Embassy Summer Residence, and Huber Mansion, which mesmerizes with its magnificence and nature, take me to the Ottoman period while Kalender Mansion, said to have been named after a dervish lodge, displays the intricacies of Ottoman architecture. While the Grand Tarabya, one of the district's symbols, whispers to us the lesser-known aspects of Istanbul’s colorful and tolerant social life since the 1900s, the old Italian Consulate’s summer mansion tells us how it was presented as a wedding gift to Montenegro Princess Elena. The summer residence of the French Consulate continues to bring salutations from Napoléon Bonaparte. I take a break from my seaside stroll for a cup of coffee at the Grand Tarabya, one of the most stylish hotels in Istanbul. Under the bright sun on the terrace, I am sipping delicious Turkish coffee and watching others enjoy their Sunday breakfasts. I gaze at the humble marina of Tarabya Cove that stretches before me and is filled with boats of all sizes swaying in the wind as if they are dancing to the hotel's music. Their dance and reflections on the water look like a work of marbling, a painting! My eyes fixed on this artistic festival of boats, I delve into the depths of history and think about the story of the hotel. Known as Tarabya Tokatlıyan Hotel in the early 1900s, it was severely damaged by a fire in 1954. Back then, while designing the Grand Tarabya Hotel could architect Kadri Erdoğan imagine that this hotel and its terrace would one day become one of the most pleasant locations in Istanbul or that it would preserve its global reputation for so long? My inner voice tells me this must be the meaning of timeless heritage that touches everyone’s hearts. I sip my coffee and check the full moon dates on my mobile phone because watching the moonlight’s dance with the waves in Tarabya as it is rising from the hills of Beykoz on the Anatolian side is an experience not to be missed in Istanbul.
After finishing my coffee, I head for the slopes of Tarabya. I pass by the small teahouses under a canopy of trees and gardens that host weddings to visit a very special place -Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum. At the heart of Ataman’s passion for cars, which encouraged him to open this museum between 1920 and 1970, lie his childhood days when he sat in the driver’s seat of his father’s car. The highlight of the museum is arguably the family’s first car, a 1937 model. Examining these vintage cars and the collection of toy cars remind me of my own childhood. It’s time to bid farewell to the collection and the district. I feel Tarabya, one of the loveliest districts in Istanbul, puts a sweet kiss on my cheek as I leave.