Nightmen of Istanbul I

For years I have tried to pass myself off as a morning person. For whatever reason, people take great pride in being early-risers. Those of us who aren’t, are made to feel as if we are less than prudent…after-all, the early bird gets the prize, right? You never hear anyone fudging the facts about getting up too early…in fact it is quite the opposite. But for those whose clocks are not set to “senile”, we avoid the topic of being late risers.
When someone calls and wakes me up at 10am I have to fight the urge to act like I have been up for hours, lots of hours…in fact, maybe I have been up for so long that it is almost time for me to go back to bed. I don’t know who started the trend of “early is better than later”…but I have finally capitulated and freely admit that I am a night person. I like staying up late, I like to walk through the City when all is dark and quiet, there is something magical to me about being able to walk down the wide boulevards and avenues without the masses of traffic that sit in gridlock during the daylight hours.
Nightmen of Istanbul
When I was a kid in San Diego I used to lay awake waiting to hear the sound of the street-sweeping truck as it wound its way through the balmy streets of Southern California. The driver would stop about 3am next to our house and use a fire hydrant to refill his tanker. I would peer out my parents bedroom window and watch him in his big rubber boots and short sleeves and dream about having that job when I grew up.
Those sentiments are still strong, in fact I have a hidden motive that this column will result in an invitation to hang with Kadıköy’s Belediyesi as they troll the streets in the middle of the night, (any takers)?
When streets that see millions upon millions pass by during the day are vacant and still ,  traffic lights are flashing yellow and red, and the only places that are open are a few scattered Tekel shops, gas stations and bakeries…there is an enchantment to this city that is hard to describe. This may sound overly nostalgic, but to be out and about when the City of the World’s Desire sleeps is a chance to  catch a glimpse of what it might have been like to walk the streets of Byzantium…without the apartments, traffic lights and asphalt–Yes, I realize that’s a stretch, but it appeals to my sense of history nonetheless.
Last night while trying to fall asleep at 3am I heard the Belediyesi’s water truck slowly creeping down Minibus Yolu in Kadıköy. A lone city employee sat on the back of the tanker and watered down the parkway with a fire-hose while the driver idled at a snail’s pace down the middle of the road.
An hour later a crew of walking street sweepers finished cleaning up the detritus from our Thursday pazar and loaded into a truck to go home. The shift changed at the gas station and the lights of the early-risers started flickering on in the kitchens of apartments across the street. Once the call to prayer rang out I shut the panjurs and headed to bed…an early-riser might ring me before noon and I certainly wouldn’t want to put a dent in their day by being wide awake.

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Mehmet Moves In

Zonaro's Gate of Constantinople.

I guess 555 years has a way of diluting the history of conquest and defeat. Today, May 29th, marks the anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople, the defeat of the Byzantium Empire and the death of Constantine XI. Yesterday I took a walk along Theo’s famous wall and tried to imagine the difference 5 centuries can make.

In May of 1453 while the death throes were already shuddering through the fading Byzantine Empire and Constantinople’s fate had probably already been sealed…it wasn’t so much the heat of battle that caused the breaching of Theodosius’s famous land wall. It was the simple fact that a gate, possibly obscured by rubble, had been left unlocked. The Kerkoporta Gate on the northern portion of the land wall and not too far from the Golden Horn was soon discovered by the Ottomans to be unsecured. They flooded through the gate and into the streets, Constantinople was overrun and the Ottoman Empire began its amazing rise.

If you want a taste of the history you can take the train from Sirkeci to YediKule station and visit the YediKule Zindanlari Museum…yesterday we had it all to ourselves and from my post on top of the walls I can report to you that for today–all is well.

Summer Comes a-knockin’!

I’ve been back in Istanbul for one week now and god knows how I’ve missed it so.

My first weekend back was spent shopping and since the weather was so gorgeous, we decided to indulge ourselves with a boat tour. If you don’t already know, there are boat tours of the Bosphorus that leave every day from Ortakoy (where we boarded) and Eminonu. The sights are truly magnificent, especially during the warm weathers so it is highly recommended that you drop whatever it is you are currently doing and hop on to a boat to enjoy the Bosphorus like it should be enjoyed.


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The Value of Men

Hanging with the Crew

There’s an old Moorish proverb that says “He who does not travel does not know the value of men”…I can relate to that sentiment. I love this city of Istanbul, its history, its food and beauty…but most of all I love its people. As you have heard me say over the past few years—we have never felt more welcome than living among Turks. While I still butcher the language and stretch the seemingly endless patience of our Çevre, we have fallen into a corner of Asia where I feel content to just sit and live…with some exceptions.
We have crisscrossed Turkey more than a dozen times the last few years and no matter what town, village or nomadic encampment we have visited and imposed upon, we find a thread of Turkish complexion that runs clear through from border to border…Turks are simply people of quality. They love to talk, laugh, eat and visit; they just like hanging out and getting into the details of each other’s lives.

The Master and her protege
Our doorbell rings all day long with neighbors and friends dropping in to chat and the food never seems to stop. Whenever one of the older women in our neighborhood cook special Turkish dishes they call Ann to come and learn…every week plates of food flow back and forth from their kitchens to ours and vice versa…tough life, I know.
While I am pretty well set with my balcony view of Minibus Yolu and the comings and goings of our friends, neighbors and food, I simply long to wander…which leads me, finally, to the point of today’s thoughts.
The expedition season is upon us and my gypsy juices started flowing this week as we began our plans for our summer wanderings across Asia Minor. In a few weeks we will head to Taurus Range to weave our way into the mountain villages and see if we can catch up with the locals. Next, Konya will be our base as we explore the ancient seat of the Great Seljuk Turkish Empire. The area is home to scores of ancient caravansaries, Mosques and Churches and some of the world’s oldest settlements.
All of which brings me back to the words of a forgotten Moor—whether in Istanbul or the rugged outback of Turkey, we have learned the value of the people of Turkey…they are simply Priceless.

For a great insight into nomadic hospitality check this from Today’s Zaman

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Snuffing Out a Bit of Culture

May 19th is a big deal in Turkey commemorating the start of the War for Independence. I find that ironic, because today is another “May 19th” that is going to be remembered for a long time…this one for restricting a freedom that many Turks have enjoyed without restraint.  That of lighting up a smoke whenever and wherever the mood hit.

Starting today public smoking is being frowned upon in this great nation of nicotine loving Turks.  Already banned in airports and large offices today the ban sweeps into its purview the small shops, parks, entertainment venues and extends even to the ferries and taxis that troll throughout the metropolis. An estimated 15 million packs of cigarettes (300 million smokes) are  inhaled each day in Turkey.

Being a non-smoker it took some time to get used to the second hand smoke I was inhaling when we first landed here a few years ago.  Now when returning to Istanbul from abroad there is nothing that makes me feel more  “at home”  than the smell of cigarettes as soon as we step out of the airport.

I know…its bad for me, bad for you,  bad for all of us. I get it. I am not advocating smoking. However, when I see things that have been culturally endeared to me pass away there is an element of grief I experience. I cannot count the times that a Fiat-wielding taxi driver has held out a pack of smokes to me as he weaved and dodged through Istanbul”s infamous traffic, before lighting up himself. The scent of tobacco has become synonymous with the Turkish hospitality that has courted and overwhelmed us during our time in Asia Minor.

No doubt we will all be much healthier and able to worry about whatever great health risk becomes popular in the future. For now though I am not too worried, once I see the ashtrays on the treadmills at the local sports salon go…I will know that the restrictions are here to stay.

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It is time for "Çizgili Günler"

Grrr, I missed the first day, but still there is much to see! Event’s website is here


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GepGenç in a week!

The non-profit festival for youth NGOs, GePGeNc (Youthful) FeSTiVaL will be held the second time between April, 11-16th 2008 in santralistanbul. Theme for GePGeNc, is “being neighbours”. The festival that will wellcome international participants will involve many many activities,Workshops initiated by young peopleCultural activities and art performances Best Practice Conference on youth work Youth Organizations fair
Forum for youth organizations,and more…

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Bombing attempt in Kadikoy

A bomb was placed infront of a McDonalds in Kadikoy near Kazasker but didn’t detonate. It seems that there was a problem with the wiring and the cellphone it was attached to.
I wonder when we’ll be allowed to feel safe again.

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Short relocation

I have unfortunately been in Berlin for the past two months which makes me appreciate my home town so much more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure to some, Berlin is a great place to be. But there is no sun. There is no Bosphorus. There is no warmth. Istanbul is so addictive that I’m having  massive withdrawls. I can’t wait to go back. Hopefully I should be back home sooner than later.

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Enjoy the spring days!

Istanbul is having some wonderful spring days. I have to work on my paper, and i just have to watch the good day from my office window, but if you can, go out and have fun!

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Welcome to Istanbul studies conferences!

There will be five conferences on Istanbul in Istanbul Bilgi University. If you are interested in urban sociology, then, you are welcome. I haven’t translated the material as these will take place in Turkish- I assume.

İ s t a n b u l A r a ş t ı r m a l a r ı

Kent Çalışmaları Bahar Dönemi Sohbet Programı

santralistanbul kampüsü

12 Mart — (14.00 – 15.30 / E4 – 305) Erol Balkan (Hamilton College, NY/Sabancı Üniv.) “Sınıfın yeniden üretimi: İstanbul’da neoliberal politikalar, eğitim ve orta sınıf”

2 Nisan — (17.00 – 18.30 / E2 – 303) Murat Güvenç/Eda Yücesoy, “1990 ve 2000 nüfus sayımlarına göre İstanbul’a göç, İstanbul’dan göç”

16 Nisan – (17.00 – 18.30 / E2 – 303) Mimarlık Programı, “İstanbul Karanfilköy için kentsel dönüşüm senaryoları”

14 Mayıs – (17.00 – 18.30 / E2 – 303) Murat Güvenç/Eda Yücesoy- “20. yüzyılın başında Pera’nın sosyal coğrafyası”

28 Mayıs – (17.00 – 18.30 / E2 – 303) Sosyoloji Bölümü (F.Kentel/A. Duben) – “İşçi sınıfından kültürel cemaatlere: 1960-2008, Eyüp’ten Kağıthane’ye”

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Enjoy the new, don’t forget the old.

Have you noticed?

You must’ve.

I mean, it’s so pretty and obvious..

We’ve been painted over and now sport a funky new Metblogs Istanbul site!

Please register through the link on the side bar if you wish to comment, it only takes a couple of seconds and will make me so happy. Really.

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Monopoly game and Istanbul

Monopoly Word Edition is collecting votes to decide which cities will be listed in the new edition. Istanbul could not make it to top 20 yet:)

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Check out the neighbours


We’re momentarily blessed with beautiful weather so like the good Istanbulite that I am, as soon as I saw the sun this morning I set out to walk to Kurucesme for grocery shopping.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I got there because of the travel ads for Greece that were plastered all over the walls.
Don’t believe everything you hear, even though there is a supposed hatred between the two countries, I think it’s time for everyone to grow up, get over it and embrace each other before it’s too late.
Hopefully the ads won’t be defaced.


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Turkish Cabs

Cab fares in this country are becoming incredible. Yesterday, I was charged 60 YTL for a trip from work back home. I nearly hacked the driver’s head off.In a city where traffic is so hectic you could spend four hours to get from point A to point B, they should at least make cabs cheaper so that people would use them as an alternative to taking their cars out every day.
I hate you Mr Cab Driver.

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