Freely’s Istanbul

Istanbul isn’t the city it was — except in the pages of John Freely, who died last month. In the 1960s he explored every street and alley for Strolling Through Istanbul, a scholarly guidebook he wrote with Hilary Sumner-Boyd. Freely himself had learnt much from the work of Evliya Çelebi, the Pepys of the 17th-century city, and in tribute to him later fashioned his own chronicle of chance encounters, Stamboul Sketches (first published in the 1970s and reissued in 2014 by Eland).

I was away at the time of Freely’s death and have only just seen a lovely tribute to him written by David Tonge for Prospect magazine:

“You are the memory of the city,” the painter Ömer Uluc once told him. And for those of us who came to İstanbul in the same period as he did, his descriptions bring back the style and life of those far-gone days, cladding them in the sunlight which we so often give to our memories.

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