Seckin Dindar is a passionate human, best father, beloved husband, reliable friend, occasional dentist, cool professor, life time traveler, common politician, football fanatic, and definitely a man carrying every aspect of an Istanbolian. He fell in love with Balat couple of years ago thanks to an inspiring friend. After a visit accompanied by a non-stop storytelling, Seckin decides to take his wife, Aygun, to a weekend tour to Balat.
At her first trip to Balat, Aygun, whose family is an immigrant from Greece, felt an indescribable connection to her ancestors. When she finally rested herself to one of the wooden seats at Aya Yorgi, under the dim lighting, and amazing smell of wood and kerosene lamps, she rebound with Istanbul. Soon she has become a Balat enthusiast and participated in celebrating its endurance at every occasion she can find from being 24*7*365 pediatric cardiologist.
At my fist visit to Balat, exhausted with nostalgia, I seated myself to one of the wood chairs in St. George. The aura of this church — the magnificent beauty, hidden within rows of three story attached homes with their typical bay windows — was slowly taking over me: the sound of serenity, the smell coming from censers just used for a recent ceremony, the rays of sunlight diffusing from hundreds of colorful stained glasses, dancing on the icons, giving them an expression as if they wanted to speak to me.
Lost in time while staring to the icons, I was thinking the stories about the Christian, Jewish, Muslim residents of Constantinople’s Palation and Istanbul’s Balat, who had lived here for centuries in peace and harmony, leaving behind all this liveliness. Wondering what might have happened to the owners of all those deserted homes, my childhood memories flashed back in my mind. All of a sudden, I was a little girl again, flying over the narrow streets of Balat, waving my hand to the kids playing on the streets as if I knew them all.
I came across the century old trees which have witnessed the history and still standing tall to spread the beautiful memories. Surprisingly, under one of the branches, I saw my grandmother, Hanife, who died before her time. With sharp lines on her face, shaped with the struggles of survival, Hanife’s image reminded me of her forgotten story: at the age of eighteen, being forced to move to the unknown at twilight, leaving everything behind at the other shore of the sea with her husband.
At my first visit to Balat, I took an unexpected, imaginary turn to my childhood. At each corner of the labyrinthine streets of Balat, I was getting closer to my lost roots. Somehow, I was familiar with the tales of these streets. Constantinople’s Palation and Istanbul’s Balat was the same, like the destinies their habitants shared.
Until today, Seckin and Aygun have invested in restorations of five homes; a burned down building rebuild as a guest house with a restaurant next to Anemas Dungeons, a 160 year old run down home now converted to a three story home café, another collapsing home rebuild as a guest house, and two homes currently under construction.
In addition to development projects, Seckin has organized countless tours with private clubs, tour organizations, student groups, and individuals. He led group of students to write and publish a book about streets of Balat and Fener which were used to shoot movies. He works closely with students, non-profit organizations, and local government to generate projects to add value to Balat’s historic fabric and local businesses.