meet the sweet face of tatavla: ÜSTÜN PALMİE

Tatavla (Greek: Ταταύλα) is one of the refined neighborhoods of Istanbul, where the ethnic and religious communities such as Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and Jews are located. Despite the turbulance that occured due to several wars, this region has continued to retain the majority of its Greek residents with modest income until 1955. As part of Tatavla’s unique culture, Üstün Palmie Patisserie keeps standing both as a representative of old traditions and a gathering point for special occasions such as Easter period.

We took a trip down memory lane of Tatavla with two brilliant women, Banu Yıldıran Genç and Hülya Yıldıran. Currently, both of them are in charge of the family business in collaboration with the founder and head chef of Üstün Palmie Patisserie (Fehmi Yıldıran).


When he moved to Istanbul in 1952, he began living with her friends. As a young guy who came from a village, he was willing to educate himself on his own. He and his friends were used to see plays together in their off days. Since 1960s, when being sophisticated was considered above all other things, he has been improving himself by reading books and newspapers.

Fehmi Usta
Visual Credits: Banu Yıldıran Genç


When Fehmi Usta arrived in Istanbul, his brothers were already settled there. While one of his brothers were a chief, the other one was mastering in pastry. During his first years as an apprentice for several places such as Lozan Patisserie, Dezire Patisserie and Rönesans Patisserie, he was trained by Rum, Jewish and Armenian chefs. Afterwards, he had joined the army to perform the military service for two years and worked there as a chef as well. When he was back in town, he took over the business from his friend Yorgo. Although they were manufacturing in Beyoğlu, he was always dreaming on having his own patisserie one day.

“Both Turkish and Rum people were used to live together in Tarlabaşı so that both Ramadan and Easter holidays were being celebrated by locals. Unlike today, there was absolutely no discrimination between ethnic and religious communities. For instance, my father and his close friend Yorgo went to the pastry fair in Germany together and had fun during their staying.”

-Banu Yıldıran Genç and Hülya Yıldıran

“What happened in 1964 was truly a disaster”, Fehmi Usta adds. When he got married with his wife in 1969, they had still a considerable number of Rum neighbors in Tarlabaşı. Following the Cyprus crisis that happened in 1974, those residence left their homes as well. His wife still reminisces the days she spent with her Rum neighbours.

Eventually, he and his brothers set up Palmie Patisserie in Kalyoncukulluk Street of Beyoğlu in 1970. Even if they were in this together, Fehmi Usta was the one who had a deep passion for pastry.


Our patisserie had located in Beyoğlu from 1970 to 1995. The majority of Yeşilçam (Turkish cinema) artists were our customers. Some of our close friends were the famous Turkish theatre artists Cevat-Meral Kurtuluş, the well-known accordion player and the symbol of Çiçek Pasajı (Cité de Péra) -Anahit Kuyrig and the first singer of the taverns in Istanbul -Yorgo Vapuridis. 

Madam Anahit (Anahit Kuyrig) at Çiçek Pasajı, İstanbul.
Visual Credits: Agos

Today in Kurtuluş, we are mostly familiar with the journalists and gourmets such as Tuba Şatana, Levon Bağış, Estukyan family, Sinan Hamamsarılar (Tat Dedektifi), İpek Kuşçu and Tanem Sivar. 

Nowadays, Tatavla somehow enjoys the preserved traditional neighborhood culture although there had been major changes in time. We didn’t grow up here but from what we heard, everyone was used to know and trust each other in this region. Even today, people keep entrusting their stuff to us. We still have those traditional butchers, groceries, appetizer places and phyllo dough stores except for the modern supermarkets.


People go shopping, they choose chocolates for their neighbors and households a few days before the Easter. While they get their home Easter-ready, hairdressers run for 24/7. On the day that Jesus was crucified, household dye eggs. Christians prefer to eating fish on the Good Friday before Easter Sunday so that fish stores get crowded on that day. People spend the Holy Saturday night at church and attend ceremonies by igniting candles. In the next morning, they dress up nicely and go to the church again. Afterwards, everyone greet each other and exchange Easter cakes. Well-dressed people fulfill the streets all the way down.

Fehmi Usta, his daughter and his grandchildren.
Visual Credits: Banu Yıldıran Genç


We have been through financially tough times. Our customer, Grand Bazaar is temporarily closed and distributors cannot work. Locals are not able to visit each other. Plus, since their offices are closed as well they had no reason to buy Easter cakes for their co-workers and households. We could not feel like we had holiday, it was depressing both for us and our customers. It could be pleasant and fun as it was used to be but instead, all of us had pandemic anxiety. 

Also, it was challenging and exhausting for us to use gloves, masks and disinfectants in the patisserie. However, even under these extreme circumstances, we have never used low-quality products. We keep using our traditional pastry recipes, which do not include any additives or sweeteners.

Anyways, despite everything, we hope to see it ends.

Master’s Programme ın athens: Southeast European Studıes

Are you one of those undergraduate students who is willing to promote mutual understanding and good neighbourly relations in Southeast European regions? This exclusive MA programme is made for you then!


The MA in Southeast European Studies: Politics, History, Economics is an intense one-year graduate programme, offered by the Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

This English taught programme primarily addresses to graduates that major in the social sciences and humanities, preferably in politics, sociology, economics, social anthropology, political and social history, Balkan studies, Modern Greek Studies, journalism.  Based on its interdisciplinary nature, it aims to provide a thorough understanding of the key historical, social, political, economic, and cultural issues of Southeastern Europe.

The programme has an excellent student-teacher ratio, and a strong international character, actively encouraging the participation of students from around the world. In addition to its academic goals, it also offers a unique opportunity for students with different backgrounds and experiences to spend an academic year in Athens, learning about Southeastern Europe with and from each other.

Being created in 1999 as part of the Royaumont Process, the MA programme was supported by the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe in its first years. It focuses on facilitating cross-border academic and scientific cooperation, bringing together students from all over the region and beyond and promoting mutual understanding and good neighbourly relations. 


Students are required to select three courses for each semester, making a total of six over the academic year, which are listed below:

European Union Enlargement to South Eastern Europe.

Interconnected Histories:  The Balkans and The Black Sea from the Eighteenth to  the Twentieth Century. 

Political Change, Democracy and Crisis in Southeast Europe.

Greece: Political Economy, Crisis and Change

Nationalism in Southeastern Europe.

International Law and Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes in Southeast Europe

Contemporary Turkey: Domestic and Foreign Policy

Economic Transition Pathways in Southeastern Europe: Disruptions, Challenges, Prospects

Migration and asylum governance in South-eastern Europe

International Relations of Southeast Europe


Click on this link to see the official application call by the department.

Click on this link to check the application form.

How does Italy deal wIth COVID-19?

I am a 22-years-old Italian girl living in the extreme south part of the country. I have completed a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages and Literature last October at the University of Palermo (Sicily) and I will be attending a second master’s degree in digital marketing starting from the end of April.

It has been now a month since this monster has started changing our lives. At the very beginning, it seemed affecting only the Northern regions – Lombardy in particular with its main cities Milan and Bergamo which is still at the heart of the coronavirus crisis. But in the end, it spread over all the regions, in particular, due to the fact people kept going moving from one area to the other.

Credits: Ahram Online

At the beginning, we all undervalued the severity of this epidemy, starting from the governments and the leading authorities. The message received at the first stages was: “It’s just flu. It only affects old people with preconditions”. But it’s not like this, and we had to face sooner than expected with the seriousness of it.

And how have we realized that? Exactly at the moment when a doctor stated on TV news that they begun to have to decide who lives and who dies when the patients show up in the emergency room, like what happens in a war . “This will only get worse!” he added. Right at this moment, our Prime Minister announced that the entire country, meaning almost 60 million people, would go for lockdown because there was no more time. What he meant is that if the numbers of contagion did not start to go down, the Italian system would collapse.

The first step was shutting down the schools. Afterwards, all the flights from and to Italy were cancelled. Since the 9th of March, all the commercial activities have been suspended except groceries, pharmacies and banks. Besides parties, matches, celebration of any kind were forbidden. Even these were not enough, because especially young people did not understand the power of that epidemic and kept going with gathering around and chatting away in parks and outdoor areas. The next step was to ban every kind of open-air sports and reduces as much as possible all the movements not necessary from one place to another and, if so, they need to be justified by a self-declaration: who falsely states risks a fine or, in the worst cases, three months in jail.

Credits: Ahram Online

How do we get affected by all those? Can you imagine the psychological side effects of this strict quarantine? Our streets are empty, lots of pigeon instead of people, you cannot see anymore not even the lonely elders sit on the benches: police monitor every movement and it feels like living in a ghost town. But even in the darkness, we haven’t lost our positivity; this quietness has never been as loud as now. We sing from our balconies every day to feel closer even if apart, to keep up our mood and lift our spirits, while all the kids painted and stitched on the doors of their homes a banner portraying a rainbow embracing a small meaningful sentence: “andrà tutto bene” – everything will be fine. 

In my point of view, the only way to stop this virus is to limit contagion. And the only way to do it is for everyone to change their behaviour. I do not believe the first measures of the prevention they took were enough. The issue was no longer the exposition of the country to the risk of infection from the outside; the most problematic condition occurring was the contagion Italian-to-Italian. But if this is relatively easy to say, the hard part is to accept and do it concretely. We all needed our time to process the new containment measures.

If we are facing now, the worst crisis occurred after the Second World War, it is also because Europe abandoned us in this moment of necessity. Even if we asked for medical supplies and health items such as masks, sanitizers and medical respirators, we have not received anything if it was not for China and now Russia and Cuba, who have also sent us a team of volunteers ready to help and fight with us in the first line.

Italy has now superated China for numbers of deaths: to date, among the infected, victims and healed persons, we register 63,927 total cases. The daily growth scares Italy, and it does just while China seems to be winning its battle. China’s courageous approach to contain the rapid spread of this virus has changed the course of a quick rising and deadly epidemy. This is the reason why we needed to watch with interest in the method adopted by the Chinese governments.

For sure many mistakes have been made. For instance, at the beginning the masks were compulsory only for infected patients and for medical staff. On the contrary, in China, they have been obligatory since the beginning for everyone; but I believe that the most significant difference between us and the Asian approach stays in the idea of quarantine itself. Car use has been banned, and only one person for a family was allowed to leave the house every three days (mask on) to buy food and supplies. In Italy, measures similar to a total lockdown, have been applied after an initial phase in which it was planned only for Lombardy and some provinces. But even so, data and numbers of the last three days are proving that we are, slowly, following the right way.

To conclude, our life has totally changed during the last month. We are living a scenario that only a month ago we would have considered lunar: Queues at supermarkets, police on the streets to check who leaves home, schools closed, riots and deaths in prisons, trains that don’t leave, the impossibility to visit our beloved ones. After all, it is useless to give ourselves a time limit for the return to normality. For sure, it will not be ended on the 3rd of April (date initially indicated as the end of the Italian quarantine). We must put ourselves in the perspective of a new way of life that will involve many sectors. We will probably have to get used in the next few years to distrust metro, bars, pubs too crowded or gyms could start putting more money into online courses. The cinemas, the tea rooms, the shopping centres could install armchairs at least one metre apart from each other, benches where you can sit only one at a time and so on.

It makes no sense to delude ourselves that the stop we are obliged to, will be a short-term one. Surely what is going to happen to us in the next months is unprecedented, and it will lead us into an unknown land. Any important program we had planned during this time (marriage, children, travel, change of job, etc.) we have to take into account will be surely postponed. Even schools could remain closed, in the West, with effects on children never seen before. I have been myself reconsidering my future projects, and I am aware they will inevitably change due to the course of events. For this reason, as I was supposed to move to Milan for my studies, I will be waiting for better times and start attending classes online.

The tragedy Italy is experiencing has to be a warning to other European countries and to the United States, where the virus has started spreading at the same speed.
I have learned from my boyfriend who leaves in Thessaloniki, that the Greek government has started taking as same measures as the Italian ones, by limiting all the unnecessaries exits and movements unless they are proved and justified by strong motivations. Moreover, every greek citizen has to send a message to the municipality texting from where to where he\she is moving, and if it turns out to be a lie, he\she has to pay 1 thousand euro.

But, even if your government is still indecisive whether if closing or not offices, schools and non-core activities, or adopting these strict measures, you have to learn from our experience and mistakes: stay home! There’s no vaccine or drug able to fight this virus, and only our behaviour can stop it!

The only positive aspect of all this is that, even if we don’t know when exactly, the cruellest part of the conflict will end as long as we follow the rules imposed by the governments and the ones dictated by our common sense and civil responsibility.

“Each of you, today, not the government, not the mayor, each cıtızen has the chance, today, to take actıons that wıll prevent the sıtuatıon of ıtaly from becomıng your own country’s realıty. You have an opportunıty to make a dıfference and stop the spread ın your country. Work at home ıf you can, cancel bırthday partıes and other gatherıngs. Do anythıng you can. Practıce socıal dıstancıng and stay home as much as possıble because ıt saves lıves. AND THIS IS MIND: a LITTLE DISTANCE now WILL save and UNITE us all later!”

Emergency Bulgaria: What’s next?

“EU solidarity has been broken into million pieces. There is no such thing right now. This is war.”

Prime Minster Boyko Borissov

Bulgaria hasn’t been in a state of emergency since World War Two. Nobody could have guessed that the parliament will vote by unanimity the first state of emergency in the democratic history of Bulgaria on the 13th of March 2020, just 10 days after celebrating 142 years of freedom.

The novel Coronavirus has put thousands of people in lockdown, unable to leave their cities, except for work duties, seeking urgent medical assistance or returning from a journey. Those who are put under obligatory quarantine, disobey the orders and leave their homes for any trivial reason (7,000 people), face up to 5 years in jail and 50,000 leva fine (25,000 Euros). Hundreds of flights are cancelled, foreign nationals are sent back to their country of origin with charter flights, as soon as possible. Bulgarians studying abroad are coming back to the country, uncertain when they will resume their education overseas. Thousands of people are left jobless; the government has told students they don’t know the date they will go back to class.

Only 10 days were needed to completely transform the life we’ve known for decades. People are scared they will go bankrupt, being incapable to pay their monthly bills and rents, even though Sofia has promised it will compensate 60% of the salaries of the most affected ones. An unforeseen and most definitely unprecedented economic crisis will be detrimental for a country, whose economy has just started to grow in positive figures. But for now, the economy has been put at the back rows. Hopes for capital injections from the EU are wrapped in ambiguity, as PM Borissov said today, there is ‘no EU Coronavirus money’.

Around 190 Bulgarians have been tested positive for COVID-19 so far. 3 of them have passed away, 30 are in close medical observation in hospitals. Most of the patients are registered in the capital Sofia, one of the most famous ski resorts on the Balkan Peninsula – Bansko, is locked down in a complete quarantine, nobody is allowed in or out. Many other major cities – Plovdiv, Bourgas, Stara Zagora, Varna, have recently reported their first cases. People commuting to work outside of their cities or towns are required a signed declaration from their employers, otherwise, they will be refused to re-entry their homes.  Everyone who enters Bulgaria now will be placed into mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of nationality.


Bulgarian parliament, 20th of March

The first COVID-19 case was reported on the 8th of March. So far, the most affected age group in Bulgaria are the people between 40 and 42 years old (29%), followed by those between 20 and 29, and 50 – 59 years of age (both account for 16%). The 3 people who have unfortunately passed away are all elderly and with underlying health conditions, apart from contracting the Coronavirus. What seems to be the biggest problem for Bulgaria is the fact that more than 2 million of the whole population of 7 million people are pensioners, who, according to health officials, are the most vulnerable group. Elderly citizens are strictly advised not to leave their homes and they have been given special hours to visit the supermarkets, from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM each day.

The current state of emergency is aimed to last until mid-April, but the government is warning that it could be prolonged, as the peak of the virus is expected in 2-3 weeks. The only open places are pharmacies, banks, grocery stores, insurance companies, and governmental entities. One of the biggest concert arenas in the country are currently being converted into on-the-go hospitals, in case the situation escalates uncontrollably and there are no more beds for patients in state medical institutions. Although many Bulgarians, especially younger ones, are meeting the measures with a great amount of resistance, the country is ready to do anything to prevent an Italy-wise situation.


Arena Armeets, Sofia

In the middle of this health, social & economic crisis, a further dispute is taking place between Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and President Rumen Radev, who just imposed a partial veto on the new emergency state law. Furthermore, in a media briefing today, PM Borissov said Bulgaria is taking no money from the EU to fight Coronavirus, even though just a couple of days ago news emerged that over a billion Euros will be given to the country. PM explained that “Bulgaria and the EU will just redistribute EU funds, initially allocated to other sectors”.

Borissov didn’t save his emotional temper either: “Everybody is speaking for solidarity these days. This European solidarity has burst into pieces. Don’t you see what’s going on? Borders closing everywhere, not letting even European citizens cross over, everybody is saving themselves first. This is a war we are fighting; I’m on the phone all the time with my colleagues.”

The battle with the Coronavirus has been compared to the WW2 mayhem and Europe hasn’t faced such a threat for more than half a century. The global economy is slowly relapsing, many lives are taken, supermarkets are left empty, struggling to provide basic necessities to all panicked customers. Many tourists are stranded in airports, the transport sector is fundamentally damaged, people in the United States are equipping themselves with guns and ammunition. Is this really a war going on?

It is insane to witness how the lives of all of us can change so rapidly and be turned upside down for seconds. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected, scared and feeling uncertain about the future. One is for sure – the world we knew will never exist in the same way it did. Once more, humankind will have to adapt to a new pace of life. Let’s hope it will be for good.

Images: Facebook: Boyko Borissov, Bulgarian National Television

Students Agaınst COVID have a message for you

Once you decide to make a change, you rock the boat!

A pandemic is a once in a century phenomenon. While physicians, researchers, authorities and stakeholders are doing their part in facing this crisis, people across the globe are stepping up to empower local communities.

Students want to support the healthcare system and frontline providers. From those risking lives as volunteers lacking protective gear, to those initiating online events in spreading awareness and tackling this “infodemic”, each of us has the potential to leave a mark in this fight.

Together we are strong and that is why a movement spear-headed on Twitter is on it’s way to bridge all existing efforts and the ones to come. 

On March 17 Marina, a med/public health graduate from Michigan US inquired what students all over the globe are doing in their fight against COVID19. This lead to a global response with a series of innovative discussions online, to create the hashtag (#Students_Against_COVID) catching attention worldwide. Christos, a medical student from Greece, came up with the idea to extrapolate the hashtag across Social Media platforms as a virtual meeting point bringing together students and allies to share ideas & brainstorm together in a responsible and efficient manner. 

Ahsan, a public health scientist at John Hopkins, USA, Faisal, a medical student in the United Arab Emirates, and Ana Sofia, a medical student from Portugal joined hands in leading this movement, thereby spreading the right word and coordinating at a global level.

With #Students_Against_COVID, we hope to create a medium to facilitate productive and professional means for students and allies to elevate their voices, share and amplify their existing work, brainstorm through multi-centered perspectives, and harness the power of impactful collaborations. 

Our aim is neither to take credit for anyone’s work— nor assume liability of this work . Our motto, originating from Greek mythology, is once you decide to make a change, you rock the boat!

If interested, we would love to have you & your peers on board this movement in either shape or form. We need many more volunteers from America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia speaking up during these challenging times as our collective voices need to be the strongest on the table. 

Marina Haque

Ana Sofia Mota

Faisal Nawaz

Christos Tsagkaris

Ahsan Zil E Ali

Feel free to follow our updates on Twitter and #Students_Against_COVID



Baklava Mag: Recently, everyone is talking about how the Canada-based gold mining company “Alamos Gold” destroying the northwest of Turkey. Tell us what’s on at Mount Ida and around.

Büşra​: Apart from the Canada-based “Alamos Gold”, there are two German companies and a Turkish one which destroy the natural resources and put the region in danger. The number of the trees that have been permitted by the “Environmental Impact Assessment Report (ÇED)” was 45.000; however, the number has increased to 195.000 today in a sudden. We are all aware of the fact that it is not going to be the end. The project is designed to run for six more years, which also represents the number of the years that we have to deal with the spreaded acid, cyanide, radiation and arsenic on air. The members of the government who are in charge of the current actions should have immediately face with the facts and take action.

Baklava Mag: Have you been in the protests against the devastation? What do you think about the ongoing “The Great Water and Conscience Meeting”?

Büşra: Yes. We had already planned a camping trip to Çanakkale before all those protests happened. When we heard about about the protest, we made a call for the protesters in order to give them ride to the region; but I would like to emphasize that being exist in the region is not the only way to raise your voice. There is no way for us to ignore the effort and support of all those people who deals with tough conditions in Turkey. Most people are not able to be there since they are struggling with various challenges including financial issues. Anyway, we didn’t spend the night there.

Baklava Mag: How about the locals in the region? What do they think about those actions and protests?

Büşra: They are extremely sad. I felt like I lost my mind when I walked by an old man who cries in front of the destroyed trees. Unfortunately, being sad does not bring the trees that has been cut down. We have to raise our voice all around the country. The locals are immensely angry and confused. They are willing to take action collectively so that they can survive; that is the main reason for them to support the protesters.

Baklava Mag: Collective awareness platforms are full of campaign regarding to that issue. Do you think they will result in a way that is desired by the protesters?

Büşra: Today, it is impossible for us to deny the power of social media. The greatest example of its power was the Gezi Park protests in 2013; however, it is a must to discuss the sustainability of those campaigns and platforms. I mean, what we have changed so far by signing a campaign on digital platforms? I literally think that it is not more than an easy way for hiding ourselves in our comfort zone. What I strongly believe is that the collective movement is the answer for a continuous solution.

Baklava Mag: There is an undeniable polarization between those people who run against of the destructions as well. What do you think about that?

Büşra: This is something that has to happen. First and foremost, we all have to accept that every single thing that we do and don’t do is political. There is no need for us to stay away from the political stage and to develop some kind of a phobia. What happened in Mound Ida is not the first political action as well. There is going to be more of that since the exploitation culture is permanent and an unbreakable part of the politics. Even the existence or non-existence of those trees are the results of politics. Being apolitical is not the option in this case. We should always keep in mind that one of our most fundamental rights is the freedom of political struggle. If today is not the day, then when is the day for us to raise our voice? We should keep resisting.

Baklava Mag: Do you have one last thing to say for our followers?

Büşra: Keep resisting for the victory of hope over darkness. We are the ones who has the opportunity to save the nature, the humanity and the universe. Au revoir!✨