Map of Constantinople, Stambool, 1844. From Maps of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. 1. Downloaded from http://www.davidrumsey.com.
Until about the late 19th century, Istanbul proper was the walled city occupying the peninsula in the 1844 map above. To the north, across the Golden Horn (Haliç), was Galata, once a Genoese colony. Surrounding the city were numerous köys (villages). For example, Karaköy (Black Village) across the Golden Horn and Arnavutköy (Albanian Village) along the Bosphorus. The villages were separated from each other by more or less degraded, but nevertheless uninhabited and undeveloped land that included agricultural fields, orchards and cemeteries.
Since then Istanbul has absorbed all of the former villages and turned into one megacity. Its population in 1927 was about 800,000; by 2000 it had grown to 10 million. Istanbul is an overgrown, overpopulated city. That basically sums it up.
Contrast the 1844 map above with the satellite picture from 2000.
ASTER image of Istanbul taken on 16 June 2000. Vegetation appears red, urban areas blue-green. Picture is from NASA.
Surprisingly, there are still some wildlife refuges left, at least for land snails, in and around Istanbul. But they are disappearing fast. Every time I visit Istanbul since 2000 I try to collect snails in every suitable location that I come across in the city and in its neighborhoods. Such places have included ruins of ancient buildings, steep wooded slopes on either side of the Bosphorus and old cemeteries.
In the summer of 2004 we carried out a snail survey at a highly threatened unique limestone district just outside the city. That will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.