Tag Archives: Istiklal Cd.

This Week In Links

And just like that it’s Thursday again. Sorry it’s been so long since we talked. I don’t have a good excuse, I just fell into a fun hole on my birthday that I’m just now pulling myself out of in the harsh fluorescent light of the teachers lounge. Did that make any sense? Probably not. I’m very tired.

Anyhoo, today’s TWiL is brought to you by yesterday’s bit of fun. In the late afternoon I hopped on a boat to Taksim where I tramped  up and down Istiklal Cd looking desperately for a street that I had put on the entirely wrong side on my hand-drawn map. (When friends come to visit they inevitably, within hours of arrival, take charge of navigating our way through a city I’ve now lived in for over a year and a half. This is why.) Along the way I felt a hand brush my bottom, but Istiklal is always, always very crowded, (a million people walk down it every day!) and it’s impossible to get very far without getting jostled, so I paid it no attention until I felt a hand brush not my bottom but really my butt crack, which struck me as odd. I turned around and glared at a tall fella wearing a blue Lacoste shirt. He looked mildly apologetic, so I kept tramping down the street, getting crankier and crankier with my hand drawn map and having to pee more and more urgently and I felt a hand on my bottom again and there was sweat dripping down my back it was so hot, and I turned around and flipped my sunglasses up on my forehead so Mr. Lacoste could really see how very angry I was at him and I said “get the fuck away from me. Now.” He looked apologetic again and held his hands out helplessly. I turned on my heel and stalked down the road, wondering if the name of the road had been changed? I mean, that would be a very Turkish municipal trick, really, to just up and change the street names without warning and THERE was the HAND on my ASS, AGAIN. I whirled around and slapped him and hissed “if I see your face again I will call the Polis? You understand? POLIS.”  He retreated a few feet and waited for me to walk on. I folded my arms and stared him down. He shrugged, like, “What am I to do?” I tapped my foot. He showed no sign of moving on so I pulled out my book in a gesture of, “I can stand here all day, buddy.” He got the message and walked in the opposite direction. I waited til he was well and truly gone and then asked the helpful nearby roasted chestnut vendor where the effing eff this street was, and he set me straight. I’d walked by it three times.

A girl I met later got frottaged on a bus at roughly the same time, so I think summer has officially arrived in Istanbul.

Anyway, once on the proper street, I found the coffee shop easily and went in and introduced myself to some really truly lovely folks. Everyone gave a three-fold introduction- name, twitter i.d., and blog name and we chit-chatted about everything from Turkish culture to childcare to the Happy Mondays and it was one of the pleasanter afternoons I’ve spent. Thanks, all of you, for including me and for being awesome and interesting. And readers, sorry you couldn’t join us but below please find a taste of what you missed.

Meg has lots of thoughts about being knocked up abroad, and travelling with kids. She also has a very very charming kid.

The couple behind Turkey’s For Life are just as warm and lovely as they come across in their blog, and also really, really funny. (No, you cannot trim a cat as you would a bonsai.)

Joy was a delight to talk to. And Baltimore cred alert, she used to work with Cindy Wolf, so read her awesome cooking blog.

Norbert, who does not, for the record, know Jennifer Lopez, is a super smart architecture nerd/world traveller. I learned a bunch from him in half an hour, and I’m really looking forward to reading about his upcoming adventures. Very cool stuff.

Anil was the guy who brought the meetup together, so thanks, bud! I also feel a real kinship with him because I think his sense of direction is almost as good as mine. His blog has lots and lots of very practical solutions for world travellers, so if any of you are thinking about going walkabout, definitely check it out.

Unfortunately, I was never sitting very close to The Wandering Earl, which is a shame because I bet he has tons of good stories. Fortunately, he has a blog, so I get to at least read about some of them.

I also wish I’d gotten to talk more to Jen, who has a really great blog about living in Istanbul that you should check out right now.

If I missed anyone, I am terribly sorry, (or you’re welcome, maybe?) I’m operating on, like, one cylinder today. Holler at me and I’ll correct it. The rest of you, have a great week.




Filed under This Week In Links

40 Days and 40 Nights

Every year in Istanbul, apparently, they have the Istanbul Shopping Fest. It’s billed as “Forty Days and Forty Nights of Shopping!” which has a nicely biblical ring to it, doesn’t it? Stores and malls stay open late and have big sales and promotions. On Istiklal Cd, there are musicians and performers under special Istanbul Shopping Festival tents, to entertain and delight the wandering shoppers. I’m not a big consumer, but I like this holiday. We have it in America, too, but isn’t it refreshingly honest to call it “Shopping Fest” instead of “Christmas”?
Anyway, this is how it’s panning out on Istiklal:

The stores have these placards in their windows.

And then there’s the giant shoe made of shoes by day, (see the ghost of the photographer) and by night.

Istanbul Shopping Fest in lights, all the way past the vanishing point.

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Let’s Take a Walk!

Oh my gosh! It’s you! What a lovely treat to see you on my street! Are you busy? Do you have time? I’m walking to work now, would you like to come along? Please say yes! It’ll be a good way to learn how to get around to a few places in Istanbul, and we can chat. Oh good. We’re going this way

Here’s the square at the top of my street. Keep to the right.

I love this graffiti. About what, dear child? About what?

Now we’ll walk down this street. Tell me more about what’s going on with you!

If I can interrupt, here is a store that sells nothing but bean bag chairs.

Here the street starts to get busier, more commercial, as we get closer to the fish market and the water.

Here is a store that sells nothing but clocks.

I met a girl at a party recently who was doing a photo project on “Mannequins of Istanbul.” I wish I’d thought of it first.

Sometimes down here the stores just haul random pieces of merchandise out into the middle of the street. Do you need a couch or a stove?

Here we turn left and come to the fish market. I buy produce from these guys sometimes.

I hope you aren’t over-tired or hungover or anything because it’s really shovey in the fish market, and loud with all the fish men hollering that they have fish, (oh, really?) and of course it smells like fish. But it’s pretty.

There are meat shops, too, with meat hanging from the walls and ceilings. One has a stuffed calf sitting outside, in case you wanted to be reminded that your balogna is coming from a baby cow. There aren’t any pork products sold here. There’s one store near work that sells “jambon,” and I’ve heard tell of a mythical street of European shops where one can buy bacon, but the truth is I am fed so well at work i don’t really buy many groceries. I keep rice and chickpeas in the house, and yogurt and fruit and maybe a few hard boiled eggs, but there’s no need for me to buy meat.

They do this to poultry in this country. I do not know why. Killing and eating isn’t enough, we must also humiliate?

There are grocery stores, of course, in Turkey. But not only is buying nuts and beans out of barrels and eggs out of baskets more fun, it’s a li’l cheaper.

Here is the square with the Christmas Tree. We’re nearly to the water.

Keep close, now. We need to walk fast.

We need to cross this busy street, now. You need to be aggressive and cautious at the same time. Careful! Run!

…and then we go through a spooky pedestrian walkway with barbed wire…

…and here we emerge at the Iskelesi! And just in time, too, because…

…our ferry is coming in right now!

I know it’s cold, but I really want you to see the trip across the Bosphorus. If we sit here we’ll be a little out of the wind.

There goes the Eminonu ferry. I guess we could have taken that, but it would have added ten minutes of walking, and it is a disgusting day.

Okay and here comes another Eminonu ferry. What’s up, Karakoy ferry? We gonna leave anytime soon? Aren’t those ducks cute? I don’t think we have black ducks in America.

And we’re off. Finally. There’s the sea wall.

And to your left, dear, you’ll see the sea.

Here’s a big old pretty building that caught fire the second week I was here.

Here’s where container ships unload.

Do you see that tower way in the distance? Kind of in the middle? We’re going to see that again.

And off the boat.

We have to turn a couple corners here. God- isn’t it a dreary day?

And down into the tramvay tunnel.

You would think it would be warmer in here, wouldn’t you? Anyway, this tunnel is taking us under a pretty major road. If we were going to take the metro, we’d take a left just up ahead by the Turkcell store. But the metro is crowded and lurchey, and if we walk we’ll get some exercise and fresh air and you can see more of the city.

Here we are on the other side of the tramvay.

Do you happen to need any long-johns, mussels, or pastry?

Here are some stairs we have to climb. They are good for your glutes. They are good for your glutes. They are good for your glutes.

At the top of the stairs there’s a hill.

Here’s a nice, old mosque I pass on my way up.

Turn right and find- more hill.

D’you remember on the ferry when I said we’d see that tower again? Here it is!

Here is the base of it, and all the people lined up to climb up and see the view. At night when I pass by it on my way home from work, and later from the ferry, I can see camera falshes going off irregularly from the top.

More graffiti.

Here is a store which sells nothing but lamps.

Here is a store which appears to sell nothing but lightbulbs.

I know. It feels like we’ve been walking uphill forever. We are almost there, I swear.

See? What did I tell you? There’s the Nostaljik Tramvay! We’re on the Istiklal!

So for some reason, Gloria Jeans, that chain I know best from being in the same wing as Yankee Candle in every mall I have ever been to, is huge in Turkey. Weird, right?

And here we are on the Istiklal Caddesi, or Istiklal St. We still have a ways to go, but from here on out at least it’s flat.

Street musicians in front of what would be a heroin den in Baltimore.

Here’s a charmingly old fashioned, old lady underwear shop. Those are girdles, my friend, not spanx.

And… here are the inevitable hippies.

Round a bend of Istiklal St. and find… more Istiklal street.

Here is some inevitable bad public art.

Sometimes I feel like I will be on Istiklal Street forever.

Isn’t this a nice building? Why don’t people make buildings with, like, people and grapes on them anymore, do you suppose?

I want this dress almost as much as I want somewhere to wear it.

This is right about when I start to feel stabby.

Almost there almost there almost there almost there….

Here’s where the suicide bomber made a botched attempt at blowing up a bunch of people one day a few months ago. Ellyn was standing across the square when it happened.

You can see how some of the windows in the office building across the square that were shattered by shrapnel have yet to be repaired.

Here’s the square. When it rains it’s terrifying to walk across the marble slabs. I like the statue in the middle, how it’s sort of a mishmash of soviet style patriotic statuary, and a triumphal arch with some kind of Ottoman flourish. I also like how every single time I pass it, every single time, there’s a couple taking pictures of each other in front of it.

Here are some tea guys. You can find these guys at pretty much all the parks and plazas. They wander around selling hot cups of tea in paper cups.

If you look to the right, that’s where I might catch the bus tonight. The bus is three times as expensive as a ferry ride and a long walk, but it takes a third of the time to get home. Unless it’s really nasty out, though, or I’ve gone out for a drink after work and missed the last ferry, I walk and boat home.

And here we are! That’s where I work! All I have to do is cross four lanes of angry traffic in a city where traffic laws are really more like traffic suggestions, and I’ll be there. I wonder what Fatma’s made us for lunch?


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