She Captures It

I awoke Sunday morning to news I expected but hoped wouldn’t occur.  With a heavy heart I read various accounts of yet another Saturday night of police action against Turks assembling…in this case to lay carnations in memory of those who lost their lives in the protests of the prior weeks.

I also read one of my favorite blogs.  If you follow the link at the bottom of this post you will be rewarded with an intimate, poignant review of years of life in Istanbul and of steadfast, indefatigable ink drawings of the streets, people  — and in this case, trees — by artist Trici Venola.  Her post Gezi Park: Trees of Istanbul is her loving tribute to a place during challenging and painful times.

Benediction, 2006.  I "borrowed" this from Trici's blog to entice you to link to it at the end of this post!

Benediction, 2006. I “borrowed” this photo from Trici’s blog to entice you to link to it at the end of this post!

I saw it coming. Late Saturday afternoon, a visiting American friend and I were walking on Istiklal Caddesi  towards Taksim Square. We enjoyed the city’s central promenade and hunted for her close friend’s childhood landmarks…two Greek Orthodox churches and a high school. One church and the school are essentially in Taksim Square.

Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church on edge of Taksim Square.  There is a plan to tear down the food stands in the foreground, so the church can face a prospective new mosque in the square.

Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church on edge of Taksim Square. There is a plan to tear down the food stands in the foreground, so the church can face a prospective new mosque in the square.

The red trolley ran down the center of the boulevard,  this time pulling a flatbed with a singing Turkish pop band.  The magnificent Turkish tourism marketing machine was in high gear. After almost a month of abnormality… lower Istiklal felt normal for a Saturday afternoon.

Tourists in the crowd  I love the shadow on the blue shirt!

Tourists in the crowd. I love the shadow on the blue shirt!

As we approached Taksim, the energy abruptly changed. Clapping, chanting and shrill whistles of protest accompanied a suddenly dense crowd, many carrying large white “Taksim Solidarity” flags. The “Taksim Solidarity Platform” is a group of architects, academics, and environmentalists.  Formed to save Gezi Park from development, it presented demands to end the original protest.  I found the  streamers interesting…other than the rainbow banners of LGBT groups,  I saw no established opposition party flags, rather, all marched under Taksim Solidarity.

The weather was warm and shimmering.

The weather was warm and shimmering.

Julia asked what I thought would happen. My worry was not the crowd, but what the police would do when (not if) they began to act. Before the events of the last three weeks, I would have assumed that the tourists in the crowd would be protected. Now I sadly marvel at the force being exerted against what I understand are constitutionally legal rights of democratic assembly.


Julia and I diverted to a small street parallel to Istiklal and found the buildings we were looking for. Turning again toward Taksim Square we met an American couple who said the TOMA (water cannons) and police were there, out of our view.


I took these photos on the edge of the crowd, not willing to move deeper in. It gives a sense of the crowd’s composition.

It was thrilling and I wanted to see what was going on, but I also knew it was time to get out while we could. If the crowd turned, it would funnel into narrow streets. Living in Cihangir in December, I knew the back way to the Bosphorus ferry, so we discarded our plan to reach the metro by wading into the crowd in the square.

For many years, Trici has been documenting what disappears during the massive changes Istanbul has undergone.  In this post she presents drawings of varying vintages to share her story:

Gezi Park, Drawing Trees in Istanbul,  Trici Venola:


Winter Driving Lessons in Beyoḡlu

Lesson 1.  Don’t.


After the snow a few days ago the weather stayed overcast and cold, around 0°C.  In Cihangir’s peaks and valleys, all manner of wheeled vehicles are spinning out, usually when they don’t have enough of a running start to get up the hill.  The sound of spinning tires on icy asphalt is painful.  You know the driver is desperate, and his tires are suffering. Last night, trekking from Bolahenk Sokak to Taksim Square, we had to duck and cover as fish-tailing wheel-spinning cars tried to crest the hill and negotiate a right turn as we entered that intersection.


Looks navigable, but don’t try it.

Yesterday morning for our sunny walk, Lucy and I chose a steep street guaranteed to offer views of the Bosphorus, and gave witness to gnashing of teeth and smoking tires of the long line of cars and drivers trying to scale the terrain.


Shiny Bosphorus after days of gray.

The previous peak, which leads to a valley, out of which these folks were trying to climb, has big construction projects which this morning were coating the cobble-stoned streets with wet clay, clogging the driver’s treads.  The narrow street has a foot-wide sidewalk, so Lucy and I sought protection in a large driveway and noticed that the more skillful drivers maneuvered to the seam between the street pavers and the gutter.   This morning, with an ebbing of traffic a panel truck driver painstakingly, but strategically, backed himself into a spot from which to get a running start, at which point a long line of vehicles impatiently queued behind him.  I felt sorry for him as he pulled out of their way– imagining him entering into a behavioral loop of some duration.


Cihangir from the Catholic church parking lot, where the cranky priest won’t let Lucy play ball.

This being our first winter here, we don’t know if a long swath of cold wet gray days is the norm, but the sunshine, this Christmas Eve is really welcome!


Winter blooms sunbathing.


Cihangir morning.

We are hosting Turkish friends this evening.  Our intention was to cook our traditional Christmas turkey and trimmings.  In my typical impetuous enthusiasm, I invited them, and have agonized over it ever since.  We don’t know where to find the ingredients.  We’ve looked, but can’t find.  Also, we have not cooked in our well-stocked-for-tourists, but not for real cooking, kitchen.  So, days ago I decided we’d bring in paket (take out) for our guests.  Company on Christmas Eve also requires a level of Christmas décor.  We bought two wreaths, one with red metal jingle bells and fake greens, which we hung on the big old front doorknob, and another gold pine cone wreath that we replaced a picture with.  That and the red and green candles on the table, still don’t cut it, so we are taking our 15% off coupons to Tepe Home (where yesterday we bought most of the furniture we will need for our place in Moda) to buy the green glitter raffia trees I’ve been eyeing.  Next year we will have a properly appointed Christmas, Inshallah.


You have to buy early in Turkey too! Tree trimming was picked-over two days before Christmas.

Merry Christmas to All.