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The last Greek ‘Rum’ in Istanbul’s traditional patisseries

Ligor was born in 1941 in , a district on the Bosphorus in the Asian site of Istanbul. His family moved to on the other site of the city when Ligor was 8. He went to Zografyon Greek High School but could not continue his study. He started his working life at a very early age by helping his uncle at a famous patisserie of Istanbul, Gloria. He says that it was difficult to reach the cashier for him when he started working. 

Ligor says that in the late and , he had to wait for the last screening of the cinemas in order to finish his work. At the time, cinemas such as the Atlas, the Yeni Melek, and the Emek in Beyoğlu were very popular and people would go to patisseries after the films. It was very difficult to find a cinema ticket, so you had to buy it in advance or last-minute from black market dealers.

Since 1964, Ligor has been working at which is one of the oldest patisseries in Istanbul. Baylan was established in in Beyoğlu by Greek Orthodox immigrants from Albania. Ligor talks about Harry Lenas, the son of Filiip Lenas who started Baylan with his cousin Yorgi Kiriçi. Harry loved his job and often invited master chefs from other countries, like Switzerland and France. Ligor remembers that once they had a Swiss week in the Karaköy Branch and decorated the whole shop with Swiss flags. The chefs prepared Swiss products and sculptures made of sugar. 

Ligor still works at Baylan, but in the Kadıköy branch that opened in 1961. He takes a long journey from Kurtuluş to Kadıköy to get to work very early in the morning. Although it is a long crossing, he enjoys coming to the shop because it is important to him. 

Istanbul’s patisserie shops were famous from the late 19th century. They were mainly run by non- Muslims and the Greek communities of Istanbul were particularly active. Today, because of the diminishing population of this community, many historic patisseries have shut or are run by new Turkish owners who aim to safeguard the original concept and the taste of the products. Baylan has a similar story: Harry did not have children and was old, so he sold Baylan to a large Turkish chocolate company in 2009. The company kept Baylan in its original form and retained its staff, including Ligor. Ligor says that they continue to use the old recipes, but some of them do not sell, because people are not familiar with them today. Also, the names of the products have changed; in the past, French names were more common, but some of these are no longer known.  

Ligor says that Baylan is in good hands. However, he is sad about how the Greek communities of Istanbul are diminished:

now there is no one left. We can no longer bring back the old days. The old is old. It’s done, it’s gone. Those who died, those who remained… Now it’s time for us: we will go too….

Ligor and his daughter are the only remaining members of their family in Istanbul and Ligor is currently the last Greek to work in a historical traditional patisserie of Istanbul. 

Baylan in Kadıköy

Baylan interior

Traditional display in Baylan 

Freshly made macarons

Marrons glacés. Ligor explains that they are traditionally wrapped to limit contact with the air, so that they do not deteriorate. ‘It is air that spoils the product.’