If Prof. Dr. Seçkin Dindar, owner of the venue Balat Cafe Istanbul, had a magic wand, he would resurrect 18 idle fountains in Balat. “Wherever water is, life begins. In no time at all, everywhere would be filled with joy, fountain side chats would begin and of course they would be playgrounds for children,” he says.
He wakes up at wee hours of the morning and attends to his seven doctorate students, has lunch with his wife, a professor like him, everyday, and completes his duties at the rectorate in the afternoon until end of the business day. After that, he goes to Balat Cafe Istanbul at Balat, which he opened two ears ago, chats with his neighbors, plays backgammon, reads a book, right until his wife gets out of her private practice...
He's a dentist. He performs dental treatment on his neighbors in Balat, in return for only a chat, a smiling face and a greeting... He loves Balat so much that he gives tours of the district to his students, dentist colleagues and Erasmus students. He does this because he's a fan of Balat, because he wants everyone to see what he saw...
I'm talking about Prof. Dr. Seçkin Dindar. He's the Rector's Consultant at Istanbul University, and the Director of Social Responsibility Practice and Research Center.
He's one of those people who are jack of all trades and time can't catch up with. The reason we're interested in him is that he's created a shrine for himself in Balat. He's one of the figures of Balat you should get acquainted with.
- What does Balat mean to you?
Balat is the essence of Istanbul. To be in Balat is to rediscover Istanbul. Mosque, synagogues, churches share a wall here. You understand the identity of Istanbul when you gaze on Balat. Balat is love for me...
- When did you first discover Balat?
- It was late. I took notice of this wonder three years ago, and now I'm trying to put down my roots in the district in order to appreciate it. When we came here to take a tour on a Sunday, we both felt that we belonged here. We purchased this building, and named it Balat Cafe Istanbul.
- Why this building?
It's an old Balat building, a historical artifact. We bought this building from a family from Kastamonu. Over time, an 80-year-old Jewish lady came here with her daughter and son-in-law.
- Former owners of the house?
The lady came to this house as a bride, and left it when she was 22 years old. She visited the house and spent time here... She'll also bring old photographs. I want to make a documentary out of her life.
- What did you learn while discovering Balat?
You know what they always say: Balat houses are 30 to 40 square-meter houses. About 1800 Balat houses burned down in the great fire in the 1850s. The houses had gardens back then... After the fire proper stone houses with bay windows were built. These houses had fractional areas. 30 square-meter houses were actually 29 square-meters, and 40 square-meter houses were actually 39 square-meters. They built them one square-meter less to deduct from tax. I had laughed a lot when I found out about this.
- What comes to your mind first when you think of Istanbul?
The walls of Istanbul. Their construction began in the fifth century. Just think about it! From Sarayburnu, along the Golden Horn shore to Ayvansaray, from there along Marmara shore to Yedikule, from Yedikule by Topkapı to Ayvansaray again... 22-kilometer long walls... I think even touching them makes you feel that you live in this city.
- If you had a magic want, and could improve Balat in one respect?
Fountains... There are 18 fountains in Balat, but none of them is used. I'd restore all of them and make them usable again. Wherever water is, life begins. In no time at all, everywhere would be filled with joy, fountain side chats would begin and of course they would be playgrounds for children. I'd love to do that...
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