The benefits to lingering and loitering: sights such as this 18 meter chandelier. Read on for more on this fascinating building.
A few months ago, the ladies of PAWI (Professional American Women of Istanbul) were lucky enough to have our holiday brunch at the Cachi restaurant at Adahan, a historic hotel in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district.
The restoration of Adahan has been carried out in such a way that it preserves the heart of the original and adds something more, moving the building into the 21st century while retaining its original character and offering simple yet modern amenities for history and ecology minded visitors.
The staff of Cachi went all out for the ladies of PAWI, creating a holiday brunch with North American-style seasonal favorites. In addition to their fantastic Turkish breakfast spread, they made mini-pancakes, chocolate-fig cookies, and gorgeous gingerbread cookies. Their food, from preserves to pancakes, is all organic and made in their own kitchen, and it is delicious.
After a few hours of eating, chatting, catching up, and a particularly chaotic Secret Santa exchange, most of the ladies packed up and headed off for their Saturday errands and excursions, but a lucky few of us hung around to take Lale up on her kind offer to give us a tour of the building.
Lale Hanim, along with her husband, spent years lovingly cleaning and nurturing this building back to life. It now highlights the simplicity and power of its own historical features as well as featuring carefully selected new handmade details. Some are quite whimsical such as the 18 meter paper lamp featured in the photo at top which was created by Lale herself.
Perhaps it is the fact that the building contains no plastic or artificial building materials which gives it such a comfortable and comforting feeling. The mattresses were made to order and are stuffed with cotton and felt. The simple, Shaker-like furnishings were also made to order from natural, solid wood. The rooms are modestly furnished, with wooden floorboards and ceilings. Though simple, the air the rooms project is more one of peace than asceticism.
Where possible, the remaining architectural elements found in the building were used in the renovations. The enormous marble sink in the slideshow above is one of several found that were originally used in the laundry for washing clothes. It has now been repurposed for a hotel bathroom.
One of the most striking features of the building is the fact that it has two large spiral staircases. The stairs have no visible supports as each step is made from one huge block of marble, most of which is embedded in the wall. In the restoration Adahan was careful to use similar Turkish marble for the steps that needed replacing, but allowed the difference between the old worn steps and the newly crafted ones to show: it can be discerned what is original and what is not.
The room pictured below is quite special as its original ceiling remains. The restorers found a woman in her 90s who lived in the building when it was still used as a residence, and who gave birth to three children there. According to her, “of course” all the rooms in the building had these ceilings.
This room retains its ceiling detail. Originally, all the building’s rooms would have looked like this.
After impressing us with the tour of the building and an overview of its history, Lale asked if we’d like to see their cistern. Of course the answer was, “Yes!” So down we went, to our surprise moving from a 19th century structure into one which appears to be much older. The exact history of the structure under Adahan is unknown, but to my admittedly inexpert eyes it looks Byzantine. Well-preserved, the brickwork, arched doorways, windows (?), and the space itself are intact. The space is quite large and impeccably maintained and is sometimes used for events and art shows.
For a final peek into the history of this amazing building, Lale opened the cistern for us so we could see into the well which is still in use today. Adahan collects rainwater which is cleaned and used in the septic system.
From a modern Christmas celebration to its possibly-Byzantine roots, Adahan reminded me of something I’ve learned in Turkey: it is by lingering and loitering and putting yourself in the right place, at the right time, with the right people that you make the most remarkable discoveries.
Link to Adahan’s website gallery: http://www.adahanistanbul.com/index.php/gallery/photo-gallery
Link to Cachi Lokanta Bar: http://www.adahanistanbul.com/index.php/restaurants/cachi-lokanta-bar
History of the family from the Adahan website:
Adahan building used to be in the 19th century the town mansion of Camondo, a famous Jewish family with a tragic destiny. Comte Moïse de Camondo was born in Istanbul in 1860 into a Sepharadic Jewish family that owned one of the largest banks in the Ottoman Empire and established in France since 1869. When World War I broke out, Nissim, the son of Moise was killed in an air battle in 1917. After this tragic loss, he decided to bedqueath his property in France to the “Arts Décoratifs”, in memory of his son. A museum opened in the the year after Moïse de Camondo died, in 1935. During World War II, his daughter, Béatrice, his son-of-law Léon Reinach and their children, Fanny and Bertrand, died in the nazi camps. The Camondo family died out. (Source: Wikipedia)