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The Secret Passages In İstanbul

With all the ancient wonders and mesmerizing history Istanbul offers, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that it is a city with a lot of varying and interesting sides to it. All these different sides provide the city lots of secrets, or we might as well say secret passages.

Secret passages or tunnels are mostly situated underground and were once used for communication. The presence of the tunnels were proven to be true however most of their entrances are closed with cement due to golddiggers. Because there are so many passages it wouldn’t be possible to close all of them down.

Like all historical wonders, some are more popular than others, primarily the ones in Beyoğlu. The most well-known passage in Beyoğlu is called “Köpek Öldüren Kanalı” or if translated literally “Dog Killer Passage”. According to some rumors this passage starts from an unknown place in Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) and ends in a monastery at Kınalıada. It has been claimed that the passage goes north from the Basilica, goes underwater, heads in a straight line from the Üsküdar - Kadıköy beach, reaches down Marmara and finally ends up at a monastery in Kınalıada. This tunnel was built in 1895 and historians were eager to discover it as they have been trying for decades. The passage was finally revealed as a result of the restoration which was carried out in 2023.

We are all familiar with the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) and according to other various myths there are lots of secret passages located under it and that their structure resembles a molehill since there are so many tunnels all over the place. Many of these passages were used during the Roman period and one of them starts from Sultanahmet which is also the city’s center and goes all the way to Aksaray.

The tunnels have writings written on the walls in unknown languages. They are usually made up of bricks and although the average size isn’t precise, consist of a size an average human can pass through. You may have to kneel down in some tunnels when in others you have a huge space to walk in. Thousands of corridors in the tunnels correspond and this paves the way for lots of legends to be born. One of these legends say that a man sneaked into the castle’s grounds by the underground passages and kidnapped the king’s daughter. Afterwards they escaped through the same tunnels to the other side of the Bosphorus, the region where the king does not rule, and get married there. Another myth claims that some statesmen attended the secret meetings by passing through these passages to not be seen by the citizens. In fact booklets were handed out to soldiers on how they could use the secret passages to their advantage in case of an attack or emergency.

Now if we leave the myths and legends aside we can observe how the tunnels were actually useful and relevantly necessary at certain periods. Researchers found that the tunnels were firstly made to be used as water passages and have been created during the Roman Empire. They have also observed that these water passages have been developed and used during the conquest of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately none of these researchers could bring all the facts about the secret passages to surface, meaning they still remain mysterious and a secret.

Works Cited

Yasemin, İstanbul’un Bilinmeyen Gizli Geçitleri, Accessed 23 Jan. 2024

Aydınlık, İstanbul’da Kimsenin Bilmediği O Tüneller, Accessed 24 Jan. 2024

Journalist, İstanbul’un Altındaki Esrarengiz Geçitler, Accessed 24 Jan. 2024

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