Balat of Istanbul
Balat is the historic Jewish Quarter: it had been so for a long time, during the Byzantine period as well as during the Ottoman period, this to demonstrate the atmosphere of inter-religious coexistence that has always characterized Istanbul. The Jews began to leave the area only after the strong earthquake of 1894, moving to the neighbourhood of Galata and, partly, emigrating to Israel. After 1960 the remaining wealthy Jewish minority of Balat moved to the district of Şişli and the result was a complete transformation of the neighbourhood. From an extremely rich area it quickly became a zone populated by immigrants of the lowest social classes. As a consequence, Balat had been greatly neglected until just lately when the neighbourhood has eventually been the focus of an ambitious redevelopment project sponsored by UNESCO. The fine line between grandeur and degradation in Balat produces a dazzling contrast. The area, where there are as many as three synagogues (including the beautiful Arhida Synagogue, still functioning and open to visitors prior contact with the rabbi), remains still nowadays a real gem. Arriving then at the top of Balat one will enter a park from where it is possible to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Golden Horn.
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