|> return to HOME|
One week before the arrival of the battleship, Istanbul got down to work. The government decided to put on a sumptuous programme to satisfy the guests, and this task was assigned to the mayor and the police superintendent.
One of the mayor's initiatives was to instruct large stores to display 'Welcome Victory' signs in shop windows. Then, he got two banquet halls ready, one on the Istanbul side and one in Beyoğlu, and also he attempted to take the necessary steps to clean up the city. Sweepers with massive brooms in their hands swept the pavements from morning to night, raising clouds of dust from the ground into the air, but somehow they were incapable of cleaning the pavements; if it had been in his power the mayor would have banned people from coming out onto the streets. He didn't actually go that far but he did send his watchmen from door to door every two or three nights with the instruction to warn people not to throw anything into the streets. Urinating at the foot of walls was strictly prohibited, signs reading 'Toilet for donkeys' were attached to such walls and those prepared to be classified as donkeys were fined. Even if a rule was introduced requiring a bag to be hung beneath animals' tails to avoid fouling the roads, no way was found of preventing them from urinating in the middle of the road. The stray dogs that filled the streets in packs were exiled to Hayırsız Island. Street urchins and beggars were rounded up. Until Victory had arrived and departed, they were imprisoned in a mosque in the back of beyond over in the Üsküdar area.
At a meeting held at the Ministry of Internal Affairs attended by the mayor and police superintendent the matter of how the guests' relaxation, entertainment and pleasure needs could be fully satisfied was discussed and moving from one topic to another the discussion turned to brothels. It was decided that in this respect matters of cleanliness and comfort were to be the concern of the mayor, while matters of law and order were to be the concern of the police superintendent.
The following day, this task was attended to with the greatest of speed. Under the supervision of officials dispatched by him, the mayor had all brothels whitewashed from top to bottom, their windows cleaned and any broken windows replaced so that they wouldn't let the cold in, the beds taken completely apart and removed of bedbugs, and he got fires burning under the laundry cauldrons so that the bed covers, pillowcases and sheets could be washed and ironed. While the mayor was busy with all this, the police superintendent placed plain-clothes policemen on duty at both ends of the street and prohibited people from entering until the guests had come and gone; likewise he prohibited those inside from leaving. The police superintendent thought that for the guests' satisfaction it was necessary for the ladies to rest and fuel their desires. A department official went from door to door handing out boxes containing a variety of spices, telling them to apply these liberally to their food.
Mayors were in fact very busy men. This only became apparent on a day such as this. Our fellow had taken care of the cleaning work, had got the banquet halls ready and produced 'Welcome Victory' signs to be hung out in shops and was feeling pleased with himself that everything was on track when out of the blue he was struck by the thought of what the ladies of pleasure were to wear. That day he immediately sent special officials to the brothel street with instructions for all the ladies to wear new silk dresses for the duration of the guests' stay in Istanbul. These officials established the names of the ladies who did not possess silk dresses and on the very same day two brothels were emptied and turned into dressmaking workshops.
On the day preceding the arrival of the battleship, the women were escorted by plain-clothes policemen in groups of thirty to Beyoğlu baths. Each of them was presented with a bar of scented soap. On the self same day the mayor conducted some research into British tastes in perfume and upon learning that they had a particular inclination towards Parisian scents he bought up all the well-know makes like Soir de Paris, Fleur d'Amour and Bal-Ami he could lay his hands on and had each lady presented with a bottle in the name of the municipality.