Beyazit State Library

Beyazit State Library: Free Soup & Bone-Shivering Cold

There is no doubt regarding Istanbul’s rich, historical background. You’d expect to see flashbacks of history throughout the city. Today we explore one of these historical destinations as its role to Istanbul, Turkey slightly changed — Beyazit State Library. Beyazit State Library, also known as Ottoman Public Library, is the first national library of Ottoman. For what used to be a national library is now a Turkish depository and digital library. It’s located just beside the Grand Bazaar, another landmark with rich history. 

As an international student, your friend suggested you should visit Beyazit State Library. Last weekend you studied at SALT Galata, and this weekend you’re studying at Beyazit State Library. 

Entering Beyazit State Library 

Snugged between the Grand Bazaar and Istanbul University, Beyazit State Library is a basic-looking building. You push the heavy main doors and you’re welcomed by two metal detectors on your right side. After exploring many touristic destinations, they come to no surprise to you.  

You pass through them and reached the main lobby. Directly in front of you are dozens of small lockers similar to the one you’d find at the gym. On your left side there are two metal gates, and further down, a main desk with two security guards wearing their uniform. 

As you wait behind a student, you wonder the process of entrance. They exchange conversation in Turkish, leaving you to listen to them with your eyes. The student handed the security personnel something, in return, the security personnel handed the student a key with a card. 

“Teşekkürler,” the student says. He walked aside, to the right near the lockers. 

It’s finally you’re turn, and you step in front of the counter. With the limited Turkish words in your language toolbox, and the security personnel’s limited English words, you two speak your own languages without understanding each other.  

“He wants to know your reason of visit,” the student says. 

You turn to your right and find him unpacking books and a laptop from his backpack onto a  table in front of the lockers. 

“I’m here to study,” you reply. 

The student says something in Turkish, and then turns to you. 

“Beyazit State Library requires your identification for a key.” 

“Thank you,” you tell the kid and then you turn to the security personnel. 

You pull out your passport and hand it to him. He, in return, gives you a key with a card. A number is written on the card, searching for the lock matching the number, you unlock the locker. You pull out your laptop and books and then place your backpack inside the locker, locking it with the key. Walking to the gates, you tap the card on a scanner and it opens the gate for you, giving you access to Beyazit State Library. 

Beyazit State Library First Floor

A quiet atmosphere is built within the stone walls of Beyazit State Library. It’s late winter when you visit the library, so you can feel the cold weather seeping in through the walls. The heaters are barely warming themselves up, forget keeping the insides of Beyazit State Library warm. You walk slowly, away from the gates, and deeper inside. On your left side there are a few lounge chairs — sofas and coffee tables. There’s a man and woman reading a newspaper and a couple enjoying each other’s company. 

You turn your attention to the right side, a set of stairs lead to the second floor and an elevator just beside it. A meter or two beyond the elevator lies a large, copper jug. You walk up to the table. On the table near the copper jug, there is a box filled bread. Beside the box of bread, there are dozens of plastic bowls. A strong, tasty smell surrounds you. 

There must be soup inside, you think. 

Moving away from the area, you turn your attention back to the left side. There, you find ancient wooden tables with more mid-aged visitors. Many of them are looking through large, old books. You think they might be the reason many visitors come to Beyazit State Library — access to some sort of ancient texts. 

A man has his glasses lowered to his nose, his finger guiding his eyes as he reads the text from a large text. As many books are large, they have bookstands scattered throughout the rectangular tables. You make a quick decision to check upstairs before you enter Beyazit State Library main study section. 

Second & Third Floors of Beyazit State Library 

Walking up the stairs, you’re greeted with incredible paintings. They’re quiet beautiful to be in a library. You admire them as you absently make your way up the stairs — a small treat of walking up the dozens of steps. After the second set of stairs, you’re at the second level. The first thing that comes to mind: It’s very quiet compared to downstairs, and feels as though no one is here. 

On the second floor, you arrive at a wide corridor. On the right side, you notice a large, glass room. Inside, two ladies with uniforms and hats are sitting on a small table. The wall adjacent to the stairs, there’s a restroom with the women’s sign. Your arrival attracts the women’s attention, but their eyes shift away immediately, as does yours. 

A lonely grand piano sits against the wall across from you. Piano? That’s something I’d never expect to see at a library. Pushing your attention away from the piano, you notice another set of stairs on your left side. You move toward them, realizing there isn’t much more to see on the second floor. 

The stairs separating the second and third floors are deserted of any paintings. After climbing the first set of stairs, you find the men’s restroom. As you take a step closer to the second set of stairs, you suddenly stop. The third floor looks much more deserted than the second, and much darker. You decide to not proceed further and you walk back down the stairs. Wall heaters are against the stair walls — keeping themselves warm. You place your hand on one, feeling the warmth. 

The Study Room of Beyazit State Library 

Your hands begin to feel bits of fatigue from carrying your laptop and study books. Upon reaching the bottom of the steps, you take a right, passed the scent of soup. A small wall is between the table with the soup and another hallway. The hallway has five steps that you take down a meter or two below the first floor. You continue forward, glass boxes are on either side containing cool artifacts. You’re not distracted by them for long as you’re ready for the reason you came here —  the study room of Beyazit State Library. 

Two students pass by you, their perfume leaving a trail, both keeping their whispers low. As you turn your attention away from them, and pass through the doors, you find yourself smiling at Beyazit State Library’s study room. 

Beyazit State Library

Beautiful architecture covers the ceiling. A quiet atmosphere surrounds everything inside, not a single person is talking or whispering. You feel much colder — as if the coldness is eating through your jacket, flesh and into your bones. After a long pause, you make your way closer to the white tables. 

Students are spread throughout the half dozen tables. Each rectangular table has over a dozen seats on each side. As you move closer to a nearby table, and about to sit down, you notice a number against the box where small light comes from. It’s the number assigned on my key card. Your number is twenty-one. 

Finding your number, you pull the white chair. As you do, a large squeak fills the room attracting a few eyes. Oops. You sit down, placing your books and laptop on the table. There are small LED lights and charging port in front, with another set of tables facing towards you. 

You have another look around. A student sits beside you with a laptop and a wireless mouse. Across from you, there’s a girl with a notebook and different types of pencils and erasers. She’s sketching some sort of building. Most likely an architectural student. On the ends of the tables, there are a couple heaters but they barely give out any heat. They’re not enough to warm up the large room made of stone. Even the floor is made of smooth stone. 

An hour passes by, and you really feel the cold inside your bones. A security personnel enters the large room, calling out something in Turkish. You don’t understand what he says, but notice a few students getting up to leave the room. Minutes later, the same students return and they’re carrying the same plastic bowls you saw earlier. Focusing on one student, their plastic bowl has vapor leaving the top. New, hot soup is here. 

You enjoyed studying at Beyazit State Library, but you wonder if SALT Galata is slightly better. They’re both great for their reasons, but the cold in Beyazit State Library is something that might have you choose SALT Galata for the winter months. 

If you enjoyed reading this 2nd person travel post, check out other posts from Europe. 

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