Last week we were completely thrilled to welcome a group of guests to stay at Petraki Place III Apartment whose Levantine Istanbul family used to live in the very same building over 120 years ago.
Angela Fry, who now lives in the UK, was travelling with her international cousins researching their ancestry. So far they’ve traced fascinating stories back to Malta and the Ottoman Empire and they’re still making discoveries. We’ve been in touch with Angela over the last couple of years, as Galata possibilities developed to certainty. The Petraki Han building that her turn-of-the-century family was so fond of, is one and the same as our Petraki Place.
These guests unsurprisingly had a very full and adventurous stay. You can read Angela’s brief review of it here on Tripadvisor.
A lot of the evidence came from a memoir written in the 1960s by Francis Xavier Calleja, Angela’s grandfather’s first cousin, as an elderly gentleman in West London. From around 1894, at the age of 2, to the early 1930s (with a gap of exile during WWI) Frank had lived with his extended family in what was then a newly built apartment building with fabulous roof terrace views over the Golden Horn and Bosphorus.
The following are a selection of extracts, translated from French, of that memoir. He was a romantic! A complete account can be found on Angela’s own website, From Lancs to the Levant.
“These two words, one Greek, the other Turkish, would make no sense to those who do not belong to this region where races and languages eternally dance their ludicrous saraband, these words, which are indifferent to those who read them, yet so soft upon my ear, so full of charm for me and so rich with memories, these are the names of the house where we lived for more than forty years. We, who are we? We! were my maternal grandparents, my parents, four aunts, my three dear sisters and myself. A matriarchal family one would say.”
“Petraki Han witnessed my first steps, my first words, my first tears. Petraki Han! Magic words to the memories, which you see, awakened in my soul, are magic words to the gentle ghosts of the past and which inhabit my solitude. Be blessed!”
The occupants of No. 4 Petraki Han c.1905.
L-R back row standing: Emily, Josephine, Hortense Callus, Frank Calleja.
L-R middle sitting: Therése Callus, Elise, Marie and Joseph Calleja.
Front L-R: Irma, Lydia and Elvira Calleja.
“Entering into our house at No 4 you found yourself in a little rectangular hallway which was quite dark in high summer but practically black in winter. The little light that there was came from two tiny windows one from the living room on the left and one from the dining room opposite, one being completely covered in the winter by heavy door hangings made from wool from Smyrna which father had a penchant for; he had them in all the bedrooms. In summer we took them all down because of the heat and fear of mites.
“All curtains and rugs were put in a large trunk with naptholine. At the end of October and the beginning of November we began to decorate the apartment again. Everything needed to be ready by the 19th, this being a big name day for our good mother. Curtains, carpets, trinkets and all other fripperies had to be put back in place for the little ones, and I believe for the big ones as well, an event we always looked forward to! When everything was ready we used to come into the living room on tip toes, proud of our carpet from Brussels, of our beautiful piano, of our large Glace de St Gobain mirror, which nearly took up all the height of the room, our Louis XIV furniture which came from our grandfather, and an assortment of goblets and liqueur glasses which at this time were the joy of the whole family. In fact this living room had the air of a museum within which you couldn’t circulate very easily.”
Additional memories of Levantine Istanbul
Frank goes on to describe other rooms in the apartment, his family members, parties and celebrations in the building. Also his first romance – kindled on the roof terrace.
Intrigued? Discover more over on Angela’s own website From Lancs to the Levant, where you’ll be able to follow her future discoveries too if you subscribe.
Do you have questions?
If you’re curious about how this building looks and feels a over a century later, we might be able to help! Four of our holiday rental apartments are in Petraki Han. Our names for them are Petraki Place Apartments I, II, III and IV. Do have a look at them on our website and feel free to ask us anything below.
Would you like to book one for yourself? Of course we’d be thrilled. Enquire here.