Istanbul Gone


We spent most of 2015 deciding where to move and then doing it. We chose between Berlin and Barcelona, making our first reconnaissance trip to Barcelona in early January and to Berlin in mid February. The weather did not factor into our decision, but the fact that walking in Barcelona we found the neighborhood we wanted to live in, and we couldn’t find its counterpart in Berlin sealed the deal.

For an American, without an EU passport, getting a visa to apply for the residence permit is challenging. Especially when gathering all of the information from two countries while in one with poor mail delivery – even express mail (Turkey, it’s complicated.)

We travel heavy, and pets add complexity…the pets needed titer tests, a four month procedure, which I didn’t start until June…having missed that little detail earlier. So, though we’d found and rented our apartment beginning in June in Barcelona, we stayed in Moda until October 28. Meanwhile we had some painting and other minor renovation done in Spain.

We’ve been here in Spain almost two months now.  It is Christmas Day and we will be cooking dinner for new friends, who are also fairly new expats in Barcelona.

I know I’ve abandoned you, my readers.  And for bloggers that’s the ultimate offense.  I quit writing this blog because as things developed in Turkey, I found it inadvisable to publish what I really wanted to say, and that killed the joy of the process for me.  I’m sad about Turkey and its situation. Living there was an adventure of my lifetime. I took to it immediately and thrived. I miss a lot about it, and certainly my dear friends.

Here is a (very amateur) video I made in May in advance of our leaving.


I was asked often what I would miss about Turkey.  It was impossible to know the whole answer to that question before going, but I did know it would be the creatures.  As I rewatched the video I was filled with such nostalgia and longing.  The whole street animal thing combined with the city’s integration with the sea is special and unique in the world I think.

Yes, it was a wonderful experience.  We lived there nearly three years, and I am so glad we did.

I will migrate this blog in some fashion…to another name at least…but for now I’m limited to an ipad as my single device and camera, and so will publish here for the near future.

Happy Holidays!




Soot Suits

Over 3 months have passed since I last posted here… busyness due to stretching to absorb new activities.  We have an active amateur photo group here in Istanbul with volunteers who plan excellent photo treks all over.  Between joining those treks and participating in various workshops over the last few months…I’ve amassed a lot of photos, at the expense of maintaining this blog.

As the novelty of living here has worn off, so has the novelty of writing about beginners’ impressions.

Shifting direction, I’ll show the Turkey I am experiencing more through images than words.  One of my regrets in art school is not poking my nose into the photo/video area.  I used digital images extensively for reference shots and serigraphy. Now, I’m learning to move out of my camera’s auto mode.  Seeing this place I love through the lens, and the camaraderie of the international group of mostly women who participate in the group is great fun. After Jeroen from Holland left, Jim became the sole male member…hopefully we’ll pick up more men soon.

A recent trek was was to the area near Çatalca where charcoal is classically and manually made from wood. Their market is home-grillers and restaurants in Istanbul. This is laborious and dirty work, probably not very healthy, but picturesque.

In Istanbul Province, between the Marmara and Black Seas, on the European Thrace.

In Istanbul Province, between the Marmara and Black Seas, on the European Thrace.

After cutting the wood, it takes a week to build the pyre, which will burn for another week.


_DSC8156cropsmWorkers live in little huts next to the burning site, tending pyres 24/7.

_DSC8188smOnce built, they cover the wood pyre with soil and combustible material, like hay.

The sacks contain combustible material that is added during the burning process as necessary.

The sacks contain combustible material that is added during the burning process as necessary.

Once burning is complete, they dissemble the burned down stacks and stack the charcoal.


This guy's been at it a long time.  We were told he is in his 70s.

This guy’s been at it a long time. We were told he is in his 70s.

This process is traditional and manual and somewhat hazardous, components of the Turkish life that can be very charming.  You can see a few more photos of Çatalca here:

Road Trip, Part 1. Çanakkale and Gelibolu Yarımadası

Fishing boats in Çanakkale Limanı.

Fishing boats in Çanakkale Limanı.

For our first solo road trip outside of Istanbul we chose the Dardanelles Straits and the Aegean Coast. We drove from Istanbul along the European coast, crossing to Çanakkale on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles Straits to visit the battle grounds of Gelibolu Yarımadası (Gallipoli Peninsula).  We love little local hotels, and stayed on the Çanakkale harbor in the Limanı (Port) Hotel. The Limanı is not a family hotel and actually has a sister hotel on the island of Bozcaada (also recommended as a wonderful place to visit).  We had a comfortable, attractive, though small, room facing the harbor. Kahvaltı (breakfast) is always included, and Turks make a big deal of that meal.

Limanı Oteli is the grey and red building overlooking the working harbor.

Limanı Oteli is the grey and red building overlooking the working harbor.

Even in the most modest of travelers’ hotels, breakfasts typically include freshly cut cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, assortments of breads and cakes and so on. There are rarely packaged foods, maybe only jellies and butter. The kahvaltı at the Limanı was special, including large assortments of each category of foods, nothing packaged, special items like eggplant jam, eggs to order and filter coffee, not Nescafe. Here, Turkey trumped its own renowned hospitality.  The pièce de résistance of the Limanı kahvaltı was arriving at my seat with my plate of food our second morning, to find my kahve and warm milk, prepared just as I had requested the day before, awaiting me.  The little Limanı Hotel on the Dardanelles, in off-season.


Çanakkale’s population is a bit more than 100,000. It is a colorful town with a small tourist core.  Locals directed us to the proper path, from which we intentionally strayed…allowing us to discover the city’s charm.



When Mama spied my interest in her kitten and its bed she stalked over, got into position and glared at me.

When Mama spied my interest in her kitten and its bed, she stalked over, got into position and glared at me.

It was originally the Ottoman fortress of Kale-i Sultaniye, which later became known for its pottery.  Çanak kalesi  “pot fortress”,  became Çanakkale.  The area also has distinctive rug motifs.  We have a rug from mid-20th C. Çanakkale (although it doesn’t follow the motifs I see in my book on tribal village rugs), and some Çanakkale-style pottery.

Top is 19th or 20th C. in a private collection in Athens Greece.  Bottom is Adil Can's interpretation, which we purchased from his shop in Iznik.  Jim is partial to seals...

Top: 19th or 20th C., in a private collection in Athens Greece. Bottom: Adil Can’s interpretation of the style, which we purchased from his shop in Iznik.  Jim is partial to seals…

Our mid last century rug woven in Çanakkale.

Our mid-last-century rug woven in Çanakkale.

We booked a tour to visit the battlegrounds of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Çanakkale gets tourists from Australia and New Zealand who are visiting the graves of the fallen ANZAC (Australian/New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers during World War I.

Cold and grey Aegean Sea,  but gorgeous.

Cold and grey Aegean Sea, but gorgeous.

The Ottoman Empire, considered the “sick man of Europe” prior to the war, commissioned and paid for two battleships from Great Britain.  At the onset of the war, Britain requisitioned those ships for their own use, so the Germans stepped in and provided two cruisers.  The Ottomans allowing those ships to pass through the Dardanelles violated international law as a neutral party, and the Ottoman Empire became allied with Germany.

In Black Sea “exercises” with the new ships, the Ottomans attacked Russian ports. The British and French seeking a route to Russia and to attack the Ottoman capital of Constantinople fought the Ottomans on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Early in the war, a month before the Battle of Gallipoli, the Allied sea campaign to sail up the Dardanelles failed.

We asked Australians on our tour why Australians and New Zealanders would be fighting at Gallipoli?  They said the young kids volunteered for the adventure and to see the world.

Basically, the peninsula was a slaughter ground for the ANZAC and the Turks.  ANZAC held the high ground for just two days, before the founder of modern Turkey, a young, smart General Mustafa Kemal, later called Atatürk (Father of Turkey) defeated them.

Cemetery at Anzac Cove

Cemetery at Anzac Cove

The tour stopped at ANZAC Cove first.  It is a beautiful knoll overlooking the sea, with colorful flowers among the gravestones.  Understanding that the soldiers were there voluntarily, I was dismayed at the sentiments on the markers.  Of course, the families choosing them had to live with the reality, and I viewed the day through the filter of my politics.  I hate war.  I believe it largely unnecessary, but it is the obvious and often profitable route to gaining power and dealing with differences.  I also dislike the multi-leveled rationalization that inevitably goes along with it.  Unfortunately, I also don’t think it will end, certainly not in my lifetime.  I am afraid war might be integral to the human species, its weak link.


These boys from faraway VOLUNTEERED. Such a waste of young life.

At Johnston’s Jolly, named for Australian Brigadier General George Johnston, fighting occurred in April and May, and then again in August.  The no-man’s land was narrow, the space between opposing trenches was close.  When not fighting, soldiers from both sides shared food and provisions by tossing them back and forth between the trenches.

There was another story of cooperation, at the same location.  On May 24 2015,  there were so many rotting corpses on the battlefield from previous days’ fighting, that a truce of  9-1/2 hours was called, to bury the dead.

This is Johnston's Jolly.  The trench in the foreground is Turkish, the 2 lane paved road was no-man's land, right at the end of the road began the Allied trenches.

This is Johnston’s Jolly. The trench in the foreground is Turkish, the 2 lane paved road was no-man’s land.  Allied trenches began at the edge of the road on the other side.

Words from those who were there…

“This whole operation was a strange experience – here we were, mixing with our enemies, exchanging smiles and cigarettes, when the day before we had been tearing each other to pieces. Apart from the noise of the grave-diggers and the padres reading the burial services, it was mostly silent. There was no shelling, no rifle-fire. Everything seemed so quiet and strange. Away to our left there were high table-topped hills and on these were what looked like thousands of people. Turkish civilians had taken advantage of the cease-fire to come out and watch the burial. Although they were several miles from us they could be clearly seen.

The burial job was over by mid-afternoon and we retired back to our trenches. Then, sometime between four and five o’clock, rifle-fire started again and then the shelling. We were at it once more.”  [Albert Facey, A Fortunate Life, Ringwood, 1984, p.268]


“The time was taken up by making friends with the Turks, who do not seem to be a very bad sort of chap after all. After today most of our opinions on the Turks were changed …”[De Vine, quoted in Bill Gammage, The Broken Years, Ringwood, 1990, P 104]  

Climbing back on the bus at Johnston’s Jolly, disgusted at the idiocy, violence, waste and irony of it all, I said  “aptal savaş” (stupid war).  Heads nodded.


A strangely protruding cast of Atatürk’s head affixed to the memorial at Anzac Cove.   His 1934 statement:                                                                                                                                                         THOSE HEROES THAT SHED THEIR BLOOD, AND LOST THEIR LIVES …
…is inscribed on the large stone monument that sprouts this head.

All over the peninsula are memorials built and exquisitely maintained by the international Commonwealth War Graves Commission.   Our guide, Bulent, went into great detail about each.  For me, though, one memorial looked like the next.  The weather was grey and, despite my new coat, cold.  The scenery of the peninsula and the Dardanelles is beautiful, but at the stops that didn’t promise different pictures,  I stayed on the warm bus and practiced my Turkish with the driver. He was a good teacher, who told me that since I’d been here for a year, my Turkish wasn’t good enough and I should get a new Turkish teacher.  I told him it wasn’t Elif’s fault, that I didn’t do enough studying. (The driver did not speak English.  So, clearly my Tarzan Turkish is somewhat serviceable).

Another ironical memorial to the inhumanity of two sides who developed a fondness for each other, but kept doing their job of war anyway...This Turkish memorial of the Unknown Soldier refers to an incident where in a lull in fighting, a Turk carried an injured British soldier over to the Allied trench, and then returned to his own.

Another ironic memorial to the absurdity of enemies who had developed a fondness for each other, but kept doing their dirty job of war anyway…This Turkish memorial of the Unknown Soldier refers to an incident where in a lull in fighting, a Turk carried an injured British soldier from the Turkish trench, across the battlefield to the Allied trench, gave him to his compadres, and then returned to his own.

Çanakkale is at the narrowest point of the strait and the tour involved short ferry rides across the Dardanelles between it and Eceabat. Once back in town we had a truly excellent seafood dinner at Yalova Restaurant and got up the next morning to drive to Assos.

This scenery comforted me in the midst of battlefield stories.

This scenery comforted me in the midst of battlefield stories.

Traveling in Turkey is very easy to arrange.  There are highly suitable hotels everywhere. Driving in Turkey is challenging because many roads are under construction, directional signage is poor and maps, including GPS and Google, are inadequate.  Plus, Turkish drivers have their own way of doing things…sort of like those in Boston, and one has to stay alert. In the future we will seek to combine drivers and guides, all readily available and of reasonable price, as we seek to explore this fascinating country with its deep history of humanity.

Turkey is delightfully Eastern and exotic, yet very familiar and comfortable too.  It reminds me in many ways of the US.  There is a great variety of terrain and culture, some of it very dramatic, a lot of it just gorgeous and interesting.  I’ve seen amber waves (not on this trip), purple majestic mountains and spacious skies.

I will describe the rest of this road trip in another post.

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What Will Sell Today?

DSC_1398adjsm I love Istanbul more each day.  Not every minute of course, but it is a comfortable, normal sort of place to live, and yet it is SO different!  Many times it feels like an earlier time in America.  The goods at the Sunday antique flea market conveys that.  I felt similarly visiting novelist Orhan Pamuk’s collection of obsessive effects in the Museum of Innocence (both a book, and a place in Istanbul), where he cataloged the 1970s Istanbul life of his lover.  That assemblage evoked in me the 1950s in the US


I wish I had inquired about the globe on the left…but I sure don’t need more stuff.

This morning we met to “walk” with friends and cameras through the Feriköy Antika Pazarı.  It was a foggy, chilly day and when we finally reconvened for çay we needed its warmth.


Naturally, there are many things one would rarely, if ever, see in a US flea market!

Hamam slippers.

Hamam slippers.

Cascading tespih (prayer beads).

Cascading tespih (prayer beads).

Jim and I have joined the Istanbul Photography Club, a multi-national group of mostly expats.  We are also taking photo seminars, and tons of photos.  (I’ve yet to pick up a paint brush here…because painting takes chunks of quiet time, which I haven’t found).  I want, actually need, to paint, so must manage how much time I spend with the camera…it is seductive, but yet another thing which will keep me in front of the computer and away from the canvas.

The never empty tea pot...glasses will fill the tray to his left and will be delivered to the cold and weary sellers.

The never empty tea pot…glasses will fill the trays to his left and will be delivered to the cold and weary sellers.

No matter where one is in Istanbul, fresh food and drink is at hand.  Çayçılar (tea makers/runners) are ubiquitous, pouring and delivering to shopkeepers and vendors continuously.  This market also had two gözleme makers, rolling out yufka-like dough to make the Turkish version of crepes (using dough, not batter) filled with meat and vegetables.

I love gözleme...but we saved ourselves for lunch today, and didn't indulge.

I love gözleme…but we saved ourselves for lunch today, and didn’t indulge.

This market appropriates a weekday parking lot…surrounded by a gentrifying neighborhood of huge residential high rises.  Many of the sellers tables sit under a dark and, this morning, damp concrete structure. DSC_1362smAs usual, my forward motion was slowed by the inquiries and kindnesses of the people…AND my very slow, halting Turkish.  Always “where are you from”, and I’m happy to say, “Kadıköy’de, or Moda’da”, then I tell them I came here a year ago from US, or California.  Then we always get into a “conversation”, where I nod enthusiastically, apologize for my zayıf Türkçe (weak Turkish) and do my best to understand– “yavaş, tekrar” (slowly, again) and reply somewhat relevantly.  My 3D puzzle that is learning the Turkish language is still stuck on 1D.
DSC_1404shpnsm I didn’t succumb to impulse purchases, but there were many cool old things I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Over our çay we shared our treasures.  Linda bought a fabric print block which she expected would be more than she was willing to pay, and Nancy bought some children’s books. “For me!” she said, when I asked if they were for her grand-kids. That was a great idea, and I rushed over to buy some myself, paying 2 ½ TL ($1.25) for five, while having an engaging conversation in “Turklish” about making ceramic sculpture.  Now I have to learn to read those little books.



What a place! DSC_1370shpnsmDSC_1377shpnsmI can see myself going back periodically just for the color and pattern of it all.  Some of the sellers do a wonderful job of displaying their wares…and it is fun to revel in the nostalgia of the things.

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Lucy Speaks

Mom loves living in Istanbul. Me, not so much.  Mom says my stress is her stress.

The day Rita's and my life changed. The long car ride to the longer plane ride.  Rita and I were comforting each other.

The day Rita’s and my life changed. The long car ride to the longer plane ride. Rita and I were comforting each other.

When we moved here we lived in a hilly part of town.  I loved all the cats on the street.  They are different from California cats – not afraid of me.  They just stand and spit…I like it when they run and I can chase them.  Mom made me leave them alone.  Now people laugh at me…there was a kitty and it blocked the stairway we were on.  I left it alone as I was supposed to, I gave it wide berth, so there wasn’t room for us to walk on the stairs…people watching thought I was afraid of the cat….can you imagine?  I do chase a cat when I can…

Recovering from jetlag.

Recovering from jetlag.

In California, most people said nice things to me, or ignored me.  Being ignored is fine…I’m not worried about other people or dogs, I just follow Mom and Dad and the toy they are holding.

Istanbul is different.  People and other dogs sometimes are not too nice.  Mom doesn’t always see the mean street dog sleeping under a car, and is surprised when I try to get away.  I have to, because those dogs bark a lot and bite some.  Mom’s learned to hang onto my leash, to protect me from cars, in case I have to dart away from the street dog.  I am glad Mom and Dad respect my need to avoid the street dogs.  Sometimes there are so many on one street that we need to go a totally different way to get somewhere.  Mom and Dad pay attention to my needs, and I am relieved.

My old life.  In Carmel CA.  I used to draw a crowd on the beach...they called me "ballerina"

My old life. In Carmel CA. I used to draw a crowd on the beach…they called me “ballerina”

At least Istanbul has water.  We live in Moda because of this spot.

At least Istanbul has water. We live in Moda because of this spot.

It is hard to make friends here.  Many people act very afraid of me.  They make unfriendly faces and run away.  Some kids think it looks like fun to throw the ball into the water for me, but are afraid of me when I bring it back to them.  Some people want me to come to them, but not too close.  What is wrong with them?

This kid couldn't resist my game :-)

This kid couldn’t resist my game 🙂

Some people are very mean.  This morning there was a friendly dog with a halter but no leash…his mom was nearby waiting for him to come inside.  We played, peed on the same curb, and sniffed each other.  He then went inside.  But, a friendly (surprise!) street dog wanted to join the game, and came to sniff me.  I knew we were in the middle of the street, Mom was calling to me and a car was coming.  We didn’t get out of the street in time, so he just hit us.  His fender was plastic, he wasn’t going fast, it was really just a nudge out of the way…but Mom was really mad!  Dad said, “Good thing I wasn’t there”.

I draw a crowd here too!

I draw a crowd here too!

I like the big park across the street, and I like to swim in the sea.  The park, the sea, the weather are all similar to home, but here I am trapped inside, with no gate that gets left open, so I can’t escape and go roaming by myself.  Sometimes kids in the park like me.  Dad always invites them to pet me, and get to know me.  Sometimes people understand that I am a sweet, obedient girl…mostly though; they don’t even give me a chance.

Dogs with families and homes aren’t always that nice either.  They steal my ball in the park, and their parents don’t stop them.  They get away with things.   Like, they pull their people all over the place, and they bark at me.  Mom and Dad won’t let me do that.  Their parents don’t always pick up after them either.  Mom is so fanatic, if I happen to poop on the steep slope in the park, she climbs after me to clean it up.  I don’t know why she bothers; no one else would do that.

We live in an apartment now.  In our California house I could bark as much as I wanted, although the parents always wanted me to stop.  Here they have some machine that bothers me when I bark.  I limit it now to the things I must bark about, like when the doorbell rings.  When they are gone they close all the curtains so I can’t see dogs outside to bark at.  Pretty boring.  I used to bark my head off at Dolores and the vacuum cleaner.  Wouldn’t you?  I hate that machine, it scares me.  Mom and Dad have been doing the vacuuming, so it’s not fun to bark at them.  Today they have someone else doing the vacuuming…but I’m not barking.  Maybe I’ve outgrown that.

Getting my exercise.

Getting my exercise.

There are some things I love, but I can’t tell you why…the simitici, for example.  He is a man who carries simitlar (Turkish “bagels”) on his head, and walks the neighborhood calling, selling to people who send baskets down on string.  He takes the cash, loads the bread and they haul it up for breakfast or afternoon snack.  That call really touches something deep and primal in me.  When I hear it I can’t help but throw my head back and join in with a howl.  It makes the folks laugh every time.  They call him “my boy”.  Sometimes when we are walking Mom will say “Lucy, there’s your boy”.  I don’t know what she’s talking about…”my boy” is only a sound.  Another thing I love, there are a lot of snacks on the street.  Mom always yells at me to “drop it”, but she’s not fast enough.  I won’t tell you what they are, but they are good.

They call him "my boy".  I don't know who that guy is!

They call him “my boy”. I don’t know who that guy is!

The streets are interesting too.  One day there was a wooden slat box lined in plastic on the street.  I sniffed it and was so shocked at what I smelled that I had to jump back.  I can’t describe what it was, but I did a double take.  Mom looked at it and didn’t see anything.  I could walk for hours just sniffing and peeing.  So many have been by the same place, there is so much to notice.

Mom and I go for long walks all over town in the evenings when Dad’s at the gym.  I like that – so many new streets and places to see. Mom tells me what a good friend I am, and how happy she is I am here with them.  Also, we go watch the boats out on the breakwater.  Sometime she ties me to a post and shops for things.  Being tied up used to make me nervous, but I’m a city dog now.

Mom and Dad are happy.  Rita is doing OK, and they protect me from the street dogs. It isn’t as good as my old life, but it is good.

A Fly on the Wall

In this land spice traders have moved goods by ship, camel, and foot for centuries.  I simply take an easy 15 minute downhill seaside walk, turn my face to the breeze on a 20 minute ferry ride and saunter from the quay for 10 minutes into the 17th Century Mısır Çarşısı (known as Egyptian Bazaar and Spice Bazaar), where I’m transported into a modern day spice souk.  Arriving at Number 51,  Ucuzcular Baharat  (Ucuzcular Spices) I am happy to hear myself described as yabancı değil (not a stranger)…therefore, with a momentary lull in customer traffic, they quickly mop the floor.

Henna, bought for wedding henna nights, hair color,and medicinal uses.

Henna, bought for wedding henna nights, hair color,and medicinal uses.

Bilge Kadıoğlu’s heartfelt professional dream is that her customers feel eksik–an absence and wanting–without her spices.  She’s achieved that with us.  When we run out of her custom Janissary blend, we are right back on the ferry to see her.  When our dinner guests ask what we put on our lamb, we send them to #51.  I visit her shop about once a month, and each time I stock up on my staples of  nar (pomegranate) sour sauce; dried blueberries, mangoes and keten tohumu (flaxseed) for my morning oatmeal; whatever other spices we need; and a box each of Jim’s and my favorite Turkish Delight made with honey.

From this wall comes my cereal additives.  Over time, Bilge shows me new things like zereşk (L. berberis,or barberry).  I've never known this fruit, and brought it home to put in salads.

From this wall comes my cereal additives. Over time, Bilge shows me new things like zereşk ( berberis,or barberry). I didn’t think I knew this fruit, but I recognize my Persian friends have cooked with it. I brought some home.

I love to hang out in the back corner in the shop and watch the world pass through sampling spice blends.  Pressed into family service six years ago to manage the shop after her father’s death she was 25, and overwhelmed.  Spice bazaar merchants have their way of doing things…which pre-Bilge (“Beel-guh”) did not include working and competing with a Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology-educated young woman. I know what she means.  As a young ambitious female with work to do, I also needed to be taken seriously to accomplish it.  In different countries and eras, both Bilge and I were, at best, patronized, and at worst, ignored.  Bilge says suppliers would walk into the shop and not speak to her.

This cabinet is from grand opening of this shop. Bugs stay away, and spice aromas do not transfer or mingle.

This cabinet is from the shop’s grand opening. Bugs stay away, and spice aromas do not transfer or mingle.

Cash flow required Bilge to buy just-in-time inventory.  There were two benefits to this.  Ucuzcular ground all their spices fresh every week – a habit they continue.  With today’s volume, sometimes spices are ground every day.  Also, unlike the rest of the bazaar, where retailers bought on consignment, paying their suppliers once they sold the goods, Bilge paid on delivery, in cash.  That talked.  Today, they don’t look past or ignore her any longer.

Bilge, an industrial designer, didn’t dream of being a “real Spice Girl”, but when the fifth generation needed to step up, she did, all the way.  Understanding the concept of differentiation, Bilge discovered her grandfather’s recipe book of 500-year-old Ottoman recipes.  Agreeing with the Ottoman belief that all meals were a feast, and it is important to cook well, she and her mother proceeded to develop a group of traditionally inspired proprietary spice mixes.  Our Janissary favorite is one of these.  (A Janissary was a soldier in an elite Ottoman corps.)

The wall of special Ucuzcular spice blends.

The wall of special Ucuzcular spice blends. This palette is in my kitchen, I also have the fantasy of taking it into my art studio…not just the color, the actual spices.

Obviously, “proprietary” is hard to control in the Spice Market, but Bilge and her younger brother Ahmet who has joined her since he returned with his MBA from Ohio State, source carefully and Turkish. Ahmet is a good balance to Bilge and equally passionate about their mission.  You will meet him in a later post. They grow special peppers for their blends, carefully cut their spices  to preserve aroma, and use more costly ingredients than many of their neighbors.  In spite of the shop name, they aim not to be the cheapest, but offer the highest value.  As a team, Ahmet is high tech, Bilge high touch.

I like to sit in the corner and watch Bilge or Ahmet pull on a plastic glove, hand a coffee stirrer to each guest and proceed to scoop a smidgen of spice mix onto the tip for each person to taste.  Spice tastings!  Genius. Besides Janissary, they’ve got blends for salads, fish, traditional Turkish köfte (meatballs), chips (French fries), and eggs and so on.  If you feel lazy and don’t want to deal with fresh garlic, use Anatolia Spice.  If you need to “save” a dish you screwed up, add Smoke Spice–guaranteed to make a bad dish good.  Imagine your head spinning with these exotic flavors, and how to keep track of it all?  Don’t worry, you are provided a scorecard.  We keep ours in the spice cabinet, to remember why we bought each blend.

We always pull this card out when we plan a meal.

We always pull this card out when we plan a meal. Notice that Dolma Spice can be used in pumpkin pie. I’ll give it a try on Thanksgiving. I trust Bilge.

Ucuzcular means “the guys who sell cheaply” — wholesalers.  While trading as a family business goes way back, the genesis of the current store flows from Bilge and Ahmet’s grandfather, Dursun Ucuzcu and his business in Malatya, about 2/3 of the way across Turkey to the east.

In Malatya, Dursun Bey (Mr. Dursun), ran a shop equivalent to a contemporary supermarket named Ucuzcu.  Needing to communicate a move to a new location, he stepped in a bucket of blue paint and walked between the old and new stores. Bilge has her grandfather’s flair for PR, which landed her on Refika’s TV show.  Refika is a Turkish Rachel Ray with a cookbook called Refika’nin Mutfagı, Cooking New Istanbul Style (Refika’s kitchen).  Bilge said, “I feel a little bit famous now”.

The first six letters of the shop sign came from the store in Malatya. The color blue is the same as the paint their Dede (grandfather) stuck his shoes in to walk between his stores.

The first six letters of the shop sign came from the store in Malatya. The color blue is the same as the paint their Dede (grandfather) stuck his shoes in to walk between his stores.

Ucuzcular is not limited to gastronomy.  In Turkey, spices are used in the Eastern manner as health agents.  Saffron tea and rose water are good for the mood.  Bilge is certified in aromatherapy and Ucuzcular has a whole colorful wall of essential oils, which may be used to improve one’s body, home or soul. I have a recipe for homemade mosquito repellent that includes lavender oil.  Bilge and Ahmet have given many of the nontraditional oils fun names…the one I bought for my home is called Amor.  They don’t mess with the traditional names, the glass vials or the boxes they insert it them in…Türks are particular about their traditions and aren’t keen on “improvements”.

Essential oils.

Essential oils.

Getting to know people like Bilge and Ahmet is the Turkey I am most interested in.  They are smart, educated and creatively applying their talents to advance the challenging business they inherited.  I feel privileged to hide out in the corner and watch their shop hum.


PS.  To my non-native English speaking friends, the title of this post does not mean Ucuzcular is full of flies, rather,it is an American phrase which means ‘invisible observer’.

Lessons Being Learned

I have many half-written posts for this blog.  Some will eventually make it to these pages…this time, though, I’m borrowing from another blogger…

Ten Important Life Lessons You Learn From Living Abroad ( got me thinking.  I love living away from my country and wish I’d done it a long time ago. Here is my experience from the perspective of Whitney Cox’s 10 important life lessons…

1.  How to get used to almost anything.  Whitney mentions cultural littering in Vietnam…also a habit here.  There is a big seaside park across the street and three stories of steps below our apartment. It is a mess of trash each evening, with the municipal workers out each morning cleaning up.  The trash pickup does employ people.  And, in fairness, there are few trash receptacles available.

Despite the scofflaws in the US, picking up after one’s dog is understood to be required. Not here.  Jim and I are religious about it, just to set the example.  Maybe because of the Olympics bid, parks are being refurbished, including numerous trash bins.  I’ve also noticed many smaller new trash cans on the streets – they come in handy when I am setting my good example. Being unable to read newspapers, I may be unaware of a scolding campaign in action.

The lesson’s point is about stretching one’s comfort zone.  It is not a stretch living in Moda, life is easy for us here. Less so for Lucy who is traumatized by the mean street dogs. We’ve also had a very mild comfortable summer weather-wise.  Moda is like a non-yuppie Carmel, California.  People stream in during the weekends and evenings to dine, saunter and slurp ice cream cones.  Lucy and I get in our 10,000+ steps in the evenings just wandering around Moda and Kadıköy.  Shops are open late, restaurants later, and the streets are full.

Gözde Şarküteri -- the name means favorite delicatessen...and it is.

Gözde Şarküteri — the name means favorite delicatessen…it is ours.

2.  How to cook.  We miss having an outdoor grill, but we’ve adapted.  This summer our go-to meal is meze…little plates of appetizers that fish restaurants (and others) present on a huge tray for you to choose from.  We’ve found our favorite “deli” in the Kadıköy Çarşısı for meze to take home. We know what we like to order… Sos Hamsı–pickled fresh anchovies in an olive oil tomato sauce, and Patlıcan Salatası–smoky, roasted mashed eggplants. We have a few other favorites, and then we are always handed forks of something new to try.  I wasn’t too keen on the chunk of cooked liver I popped in my mouth the other day.

We are of a different mind than Whitney Cox.  We aren’t trying to recreate foods we miss; we are trying to use the ingredients we have here to make foods we like.  I’ve cheerfully substituted my favorite California summer lunch of Insalata Caprese for Çoban Salatası (Shepherd’s Salad).  Çoban Salatası is ubiquitous, consisting of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet green peppers (not bell), and sometimes onions and parsley. Mine includes the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, plus fresh basil and mint from my window garden.  I’m very happy using Nar Ekşili Sos instead of balsamic vinegar, although Italian balsamic is available and in my pantry.  Nar Sos is a sweet/sour pomegranate sauce…SO good in salad dressing.

The food category zeytinyağlılar — cooked vegetables like green beans, eggplant, artichoke hearts, zucchini, in various combinations and mixed with olive oil served room temperature — is our other summer staple. There are many local places that prepare them beautifully, so we take out. We love to cook, but don’t have to here.  Our kitchen is hot in the summer too.

Our samovar and cezve.  We are prepared to serve tea to a group for hours, and make Turkish coffee.

Our samovar and cezve. We are prepared to serve tea to a group for hours, and make Turkish coffee.

3.  The importance of sharing a meal.  Yes.  Given that there are 6, maybe 12, restaurants per block, sharing meals is what we do.  I am looking forward to creating a Thanksgiving meal…it won’t taste quite the same as it does at home, and that will be the fun of it!

4.  How to ask for help.  This is one of the most humbling (in a good way) parts of living in culture where I don’t speak the language.  Turks will often see a perplexed look on our faces and step right in and help us in English.  Frequently, no English is spoken.  Jim, somehow, gets what he needs by plunging in with English, even to non-English speakers.  His stubbornness, however, has also had him bring home margarine instead of butter – literally and figuratively.

I am lucky not to have Ms. Cox’s problem of too-big feet. Turkish shoes are beautiful, and I love buying them.  Unfortunately, some of my American guests size-out.  It is hard to find larger than a Turkish 40, a US 9-10.

Our Turkish isn’t good enough to solve problems by phone, so we found our window screen guy, for example, by walking by his shop and seeing that he offered what we needed.  I’m in need of a glass table top, and watch for a cam (glass) shop in my travels.

There are really good expat networks here, especially for women.  I’ve made friends, and can pose questions on the listservs.

Acquiring stuff, see #6.  This kitsch belongs in Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence.  I couldn't help myself.

Acquiring stuff, see #6. This “antique” kitsch belongs in Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence.  It was a moment of weakness.  If Jim had been with me, it wouldn’t be on our shelf now.

5.  How to question the status quo.  Ms. Cox says all is culturally relative.  True.  Some of what we’ve had to get used to is delightful.  Like, why do all of the waiters DISAPPEAR when it is time to bring the check?  If you’re an American in a hurry it can be annoying…but I always found being pressured by an establishment trying to turn tables way more unpleasant.  Here, one can nurse a glass of çay all night if they want to. There are too many goodies on the menus to stop at çay.

Another amazing thing…if you don’t want to just split a check…the waiter will patiently walk to each person with the overall bill and total up an individual amount.  Imagine!  I’m always cool with splitting the check, but often a large group doesn’t want to do that.

Another thing I like…kuruş means cents…little change.  If the total is 10.12 TL, the shop doesn’t collect the 12 kuruş.  For 51.25 TL, the shop may not collect the 1.25, especially if they know you.  If the total is 9.93TL, they keep the 7 kuruş.  I remember noticing in New York when the bill was $x.98 and a restaurant automatically rounded up on my credit card.  It seemed sneaky to me, and it never went the other way.

There are the it’ll-be-funny-later humiliations…we visited a new friend in a lovely apartment with a large marble foyer.  She met us at the door, casually but fashionably dressed from head to toe.  It wasn’t until I crossed that foyer ¾ of the way through our visit that I realized Jim and I HADN’T TAKEN OFF OUR SHOES!  It dawned on me when I saw shoes of other guests (we had arrived first), and a basket of little blue shoe baggies sitting near the door.  Aargh.  I apologized profusely, and I hope we get invited back.  Our hostess’ shoes matched her outfit, and were indoor-only shoes.  This city is very dirty and dusty…I’m sure the homes stay cleaner leaving street shoes at the door.

A problem with taking off shoes is wearing the slippers you are offered. That night, rectifying my faux pas, I stepped out of my cute little beaded sandals into big black chunky mules.  The look was a “Glamour Don’t”.

It’s also humorous…our Turkish guests know we don’t remove our shoes…so when they come we tell them they can if they want but don’t have to.  One of them laughed and said she wasn’t prepared to, because she knew she wouldn’t have to…holes in socks maybe, or maintaining the integrity of her outfit? Or maybe they think our floors are so dirty they don’t want their feet on them?  I laugh.

There is  a laundry list of un-good things; particularly done by the cuckoo leaders which prompts questioning the status quo as well. I automatically compare what I see (but maybe don’t understand) to practices in my country.

Standing back and taking the long view of the US is illuminating.  I think what I see here wouldn’t occur in the US until I see a crazy example, like the Californian who may receive a JAIL sentence for vandalizing the sidewalk in front of B of A in protest…with chalk!?

6.  How to have fun anywhere.  Istanbul is a capital of fun.  However, Cox’s point is when no longer on vacation, we have to look for fun in a new place…because being unmoored from our home culture and friends; it often doesn’t come to us.  Jim and I stayed busy studying 3 months of intensive Turkish and setting up our home.  We had to shop a lot.  We worked at making friends, but were distracted by our to-do lists.  Then we had about 8 weeks of non-stop US visitors.  Then Ramazan and summer arrived and people, including some of our new friends, left Istanbul.  Our apartment building is very quiet – ½ of the families have gone to their summer homes.  So here we are, on our own, finding new things to do.  It is pretty easy and fun, and we look forward to when people return to town.

The results of our "nesting" adds up to stuff, unfortunately.

The results of our “nesting” adds up to stuff, unfortunately. The ornament on the top of this lamp represents a stylized Ottoman lale (tulip).

7.  How to throw stuff away.  Uh oh.  See #6 above.  We didn’t do a good job of tossing things in California…except into storage.  Our 8 initial suitcases and stuff we shipped wasn’t enough.  Furniture, dishes, lamps, and rugs from the Caucasus and Çanakkale…We love indigenous ceramics from Palestine, from Iznik in Seljuk and Çanakkale styles. We have Suzanis from Uzbekistan, pillow covers from Palestine — we have done it again! Turkish homes we see of people our age tend to have formal European style furnishings.  Our younger friends like more unadorned neutrals, or IKEA contemporary. We love the faux Ottoman inspired colorful lights and inlaid tables.  I’m dismayed at how American-ly acquisitive I am.  Now I have a house AND an apartment of stuff!  Help me.

Stuff: rugs (this one from Çanakkale), ceramics, and those colored mosaic lights found in the tourist shops in the bazaars…yabancı (outsider) decor. The big coffee table is our landlord’s. Tape on the sofa is protection from Rita, see #8.

I’m not thinking about leaving, but do like the author’s idea of giving things away as “something to remember me by”.

8.  How to talk to strangers.  This is the most fun of being an expat.  And, I’m counting on a lack of understanding of cultural references in my blog, so if I am being watched for comments critical of you know who, here and on Facebook, it will be lost in translation. (sounds paranoid, but locals are being jailed for what they write on social media)  Turks often act like we are a novelty — Americans living in Kadıköy– and love to engage with us, and we feel the same.  While all may not be understood, that both sides leave smiling is enough for us.

Our kedi (cat) got out, and the kapıcı (doorman) rang our apartment one night asking if the gray cat that flew out the main building door was ours.  Rita is outrageously shy and spent 24 hours hiding outside.  We found her 3 buildings away crouched behind a prickly hedge, only because she answered Jim’s call.  The day we were looking for her I saw Doḡan on the street and said “kedi yok” (no kitty).  Today I saw Doḡan and updated him, “kedi var, kedi mutlu” (we have the cat, the cat is happy).  He laughed and called the good news in to his wife.  It is the little things.

An original rooster pitcher by Adil Can Nursan of Iznik, based on Seljuk designs. I want to return and buy the hen pitcher.

9.  How to handle peer pressure. Cox talks about becoming aware of what you really feel/believe by being able to compare your home values to what the norms are here. Subversive behavior amuses me sometimes, and I find dumb rules annoying. I assume (erroneously?) here that if Turks aren’t following our laws, those laws don’t exist, and while maybe they should, it feels freeing that they don’t.

Like litter laws, see #1 above.  And traffic. Istanbul traffic signs are mere suggestions.  Jim has driven once here, I haven’t yet.  He was stressed at the inattention, the phoning/texting while driving, the lane creeping, etc, etc.  The street in front of our apartment is marked one-way, but Lucy was clipped (gently, thankfully) by a car going the wrong way. Turkey has high accident rates. I think non-texting laws here are needed and should be enforced.

I loved the pan banging at 9pm at night as political protest.  It has stopped. Laws can be put into effect within 24 hours here. Laws were written making it illegal.  People have been fined $5,000 for doing it.  Surreal, no?

New wide, easy to walk on sidewalks.  The side the man is walking was all angled parking before.

New wide, easy to walk on sidewalks. The side the man is walking was all angled parking before.

Recently the belediye (municipality) dug up what looked like perfectly good streets and replaced them, widening sidewalks and removing parking spaces as they went.  Cars are kept off the walks by 2 foot high barriers spaced 5 feet apart.  I joked that the bureaucrat who ordered this project must own the parking garages (he might).  Parking is a big problem, so a number of those stanchions have been removed and temporarily screwed into place to SAVE a parking spot (on the sidewalk) until later.  Many have been backed into and broken – they are made of a composite which breaks.  The new sidewalks are really nice, smooth and I trip a lot less. The stanchions look pretty ratty already.


10.  How to empathize. “Living abroad puts you on the outside looking in.”  I recently realized that this is my first experience of being a minority.  I’m privileged, but I don’t know the boundaries of my rights.  I watch the violent repression as the paranoid current party scorches the earth trying to double down its power.  As a white educated affluent person in my own culture, although of ‘lesser’ gender, I was not marginalized.  I don’t feel marginalized here either in the day to day…unless I’m reading the inflammatory statements made by politicians about foreigners.  It may be as a foreigner I will be treated better than a Türk…not sure.  Certainly, as someone over 40 (++), I am treated better than I would be in the US.  Here, I am offered a seat on all public transportation.  I’ve come to count on it   🙂

Another Adil Can Bey design.  His atölye (workshop) in Iznik is a place of wonder.

Another Adil Can Bey design. His atölye (workshop) in Iznik is a place of wonder.

We chose Moda to live in through research, not luck.  We have learned of additional benefits, however.  It is the center of the opposition party’s supporters, very secular, and there haven’t been any TOMA (water cannons) or brutality at the protests here.  That is a relief, even though we aren’t protesting.  Here in Moda, during the long days of Ramazan, restaurants continued to serve food, people who weren’t fasting were enjoying their meals in public…it is comfortable.  I wouldn’t have minded experiencing the challenges of a broadly fasting society, it is part of why we live in a foreign place…and I’m getting a workout  just trying to speak Turkish!

My relationship with Turkey and Istanbul was like the romance where early on you are thinking maybe this can be forever.  There were many unanswered questions, and I wasn’t sure how I could cope without my friends of 30 years from Northern California…but it was enticing.  While we were in the police state of Israel in May, I felt separated from and was yearning for the beauty and freedoms of Istanbul.  I was happy that for the first time I could leave a place in the Middle East for home and still shop in an “Oriental” souk.

And then, the object of my affection, Turkey, showed a different, deeply disturbing side. The place didn’t, but the government did.  Just two weeks after I joyfully returned home, I was reminded of the type of discomfort I felt in Israel. Turkey might yet be forever, but my disappointment has been sobering.  It doesn’t change my appreciation for the experience, nor my enjoyment of the place (too much), but the extra dollop of blind honeymoon excitement is finished.

Another sunset on the Marmara Sea.

Another sunset on the Marmara Sea.

I still love what I love:  the cultures that are mashed together over the eons, the people, and their music, and their food, and their art. It is one of the beautiful places on earth.  It has the best weather I have ever lived in.  I am depressed about the violence and misuse of power, not only here, but in the region.  I’m glad I traveled in Egypt while I could, and hope to return. I didn’t realize the extent to which the craziness was here in Turkey too, even though I had heard all about it. Time will tell how it plays out…meanwhile; I’m continuing my dondurma (ice cream) research.

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:



The first protest weekend I viewed the events catapulting Istanbul into international news mostly through my computer screen. I have borrowed most of the photos here  from friends’ Facebook posts.

A creepy but beautiful shot by  Noémie Deveaux, Photographer.  31 May, on Istiklal Caddesi

An unsettling but beautiful shot by Noémie Deveaux, Photographer. 31 May.

Facebook and Twitter posts from friends in the thick of it have been my window, along with Turkish and global news sources all over the world.  We live in a quiet neighborhood with no massive gatherings, but with obvious protest I’ll describe later.

Istiklal Caddesi, 01 June, from Hugh Pope's window.

Istiklal Caddesi, 01 June, from Hugh Pope’s window.

A caveat: I don’t know the lay of the land, lack adequate context, am not Turkish, haven’t been here long, don’t speak the language (not for lack of trying), and don’t understand the nuances or the politics of the culture.  My American lens is likely inaccurate.  This isn’t my fight.  Also, I am a guest in the country and unclear on my rights of expression. I have no role in influencing politics and am free to leave.

Taksim Square Sunday 01 June, 8pm.  The police had left.

Taksim Square Sunday 01 June, 8pm. The police were called off. Gezi Park is at the center left edge.

It is an interesting time here, and I’ll try to offer a considered look at the situation.  I find these events give me perspective on my own country and its system. For me, it gives insight into plights of the other fledgling democracies in the region too.

Early hours of Sunday 01 June, 40,000+ people walked over the Boğazıcı Koprusu (Bosphorus Bridge), which does not have a pedestrian walk.

Early hours of Sunday 01 June, 40,000+ people walked over the Boğazıcı Köprüsü (Bosphorus Bridge), which does not have a pedestrian walk.

Taksim Square is one commercial center of the city, and THE political center of the city.  It is where protests traditionally are held.  It is a main touristic area as well as a destination for Istanbullular after work and on weekends.  It is also a neighborhood where many people live.

Two photos of private sailboats motoring to join the protest, 01 June.

Two photos of private boats motoring up the Marmara Sea to the Bosphorus Strait to join the protest, 01 June.

You’ve seen my earlier photos of Istiklal Caddesi, an iconic outdoor pedestrian mall, along the lines of La Rambla in Barcelona and Calle Florida in Buenos Aires.  Istanbullar flock to the meyhanes (taverns) and night life in the streets and alleyways off of it. Political rallies and parades often weave their way through weekend crowds on Istiklal Caddesi. The highest point of Istiklal connects at Taksim Square, a huge plaza and transit hub where the Metro stations, bus and dolmuş (shared taxis) lines convene.

gas antidotes.

gas antidotes.

On November 5, sections of Taksim Square were blocked off with corrugated aluminum fencing and a big development project was begun.  We arrived one month later, and immediately heard complaints about how it had destroyed local businesses, and the public had no involvement in its conception or approval.  Less than a week after we arrived, I picked my cold rainy way through the muddy chunky mess to go to a life drawing session nearby.  I got lost in Gezi Parkı that first night, which was dark but not dangerous.

Taksim Square and Gezi Park in winter, before development project.

Taksim Square/Gezi Park in winter, before development project.

Gezi Park was Lucy’s best exercise place.  She needs to run, and we had three choices. Narrow Fıstıklı Parki on the Bosphorus, a close-by church parking lot obstructed by a cranky priest, and Gezi Park. The month we lived there, we found much of Beyoğlu and Cihangir just down the hill from Taksim Square pretty unlivable because of the huge muddy construction projects gentrifying the area. If we still lived in Cihangir, we would have closed our windows to tear gas, and worried about our pets..

New Taksim Square plans from AKP website.  Offending mall is upper right.

New Taksim Square plans from AKP website. Offending mall is center right.

The small group of young activists began protesting in the park Monday two weeks ago.  By that Friday, riot police trying to disperse the reportedly peaceful group used harsh measures of tear and pepper gas, and water cannon.  For the first few days there was very little coverage of the skirmish on local mainstream news, evoking cries of media suppression by the party.  The prime minister, at a ceremony announcing a (controversial) third bridge project across the Bosphorus had dismissed the 3-day old protest by stating the park decision was made and final. Period.

The original Ottoman-era military barracks that fell into disuse and disrepair.  The mall was to replicate this structure.

The original Ottoman-era military barracks that fell into disuse and disrepair. The mall was to replicate this structure, on the site of Gezi Park.

The general complaint against the current government is of authoritarian behavior, and headlong, unrestrained, crony-enriching development (sound familiar?).    I have Islamist friends who share that complaint. Secular Turks who experience the ruling party as Islamist autocrats imposing religiously motivated lifestyle restraints are really unhappy.

Rival futbol (soccer) teams showed solidarity to the protesters by wearing each other's scarves.  Unprecedented...these guys hate each other.

Rival futbol (soccer) teams showed solidarity to the protesters by wearing each other’s scarves. Unprecedented…these guys hate each other.

The PM is very popular and powerful, and as he is timed out of office after 2015, he is working to change the constitution to a presidential system, so to run again – a la Michael Bloomberg in New York.  The protest began over trees, but has evolved to become directly critical of the prime minister, due to how he has reacted.  The president, and deputy prime minister have met with representatives of the protesters and acknowledged the need for democratic dialogue.

Old Türks expressing their disagreement with the status quo.

Citizens expressing their disagreement with the status quo.

Most of my expat friends, while riveted to the subject, skirt the protest areas, however, many people live in the Taksim area or need to travel through its hub in their daily life, and are thereby impacted.

Our neighbor got caught in the crowd on 31 May, not knowing the protest was happening...

Our neighbor, picking up his daughter, got caught in the crowd on 31 May, not knowing the protest was happening…

We had a life drawing day planned on the violent Saturday in the Harbiye flat mentioned above.  Friday night, with protesters and tear gas on her street and trapped in her apartment, my friend cancelled the event and spent her time offering lemon juice to wash out the eyes of those gassed.  I’ve learned that antidotes are vinegar, milk and lemon juice.  Ayran works well too. 🙂

Manning the gas management supplies station...vountarily.

Manning the gas management supplies station…voluntarily.

Clashes moved to Beşiktaş, because the PM’s Istanbul office is close by.   A  different friend trying to skirt a blockage on the main shore road between Kabataş and Beşiktaş, took ferries to and from Kadıköy zigzagging across the Bosphorus, where she then sought tearful refuge in the smoke of fires set by protesters also as (interestingly) tear gas antidotes.  She reported that people on top outside decks of the boat moved inside with eyes streaming…gas from a helicopter they said…!!??

Sunday morning, 01 June, protestors were back, cleaning up the place...all of the food, and gas antidotes were placed here for those who needed  them.

Sunday morning, 01 June, protesters were back, cleaning up the place…all of the food, and gas antidotes were placed here for those who needed them.

The government has characterized the protesters as hooligans, extremists, and marginals, although they look like students and citizens of all ages who care about their life in Istanbul and Turkey. I suspect there are criminals mixed in — those who seek a situation to prey on.  I’ve also seen some reports that plain-clothed police officers have roughed up protesters and caused damage.


Antidote. Noémie Deveaux Photographer, 31May.

All over Istanbul, including on our street, in our building, citizens have protested from their homes by hanging the Turkish flag, and banging pots and pans.  Called cacerolazo in the Latin world, this form of protest gathers steam because it is easy to participate. The practice began in Salvador Allende’s Chile in 1971.  Listening to a neighborhood chant, whistle, clap hands, ring bells and bang on cook pots is an amazing sound.  It sounds like entering an airport gate full of Hare Krishna. I found it charming, for a short while.  It erupted here the first Saturday and Sunday nights at the dusk call to prayer. Its acoustic nature is compelling. The first Sunday evening it took on its own life, and like a car alarm that someone is ignoring, it got tedious and sent Rita running to her most scary hidey-hole.  Over the last 10 days It has settled into a ten-fifteen minute 9 PM ritual.  One evening it was preceded by a recording of the Turkish anthem.

01 June, a hammam towel pressed into protest...Diren means "resist".

01 June, a hamam towel pressed into protest…Diren means “resist”.

An American friend who has lived in Turkey for many years said this protest reminded her of the 60’s in the US, rather than the Occupy movement.  Our Turkish friends agree that this is a watershed, but can’t tell us how.  The protest songs I learned in college are playing in my head…”pave paradise, put up a parking lot…”

Turkey in the News…Again

You may be seeing stories about the protests in Gezi Park, near Taksim Square.  For four days now, an increasing number of protesters have tried to save the park from being destroyed by the massive development project in Taksim.  Turkish police are no stranger to big confrontations…the country has a long history of various, at times violent, unrest.  A typical response is to use water cannon and tear gas.

In the six months we’ve been here, I’ve frequently heard complaints about the “mall-ization” of Istanbul.  The current government undertakes huge development projects, some of which reportedly involve privatization of public spaces.  My research of complaints includes a lack of transparency and public notification and involvement, destruction of archaeologically significant sites, and enrichment of the few at the expense of the many.

The ruling party is largely composed of conservative bourgeoisie Muslims.  It looks a lot like the US Republican Party to me.  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic in 1920, decisively separated the new republic from its Ottoman, thereby Muslim, past by deeming the country definitively secular. He made radical changes,one being the alphabet, thereby immediately rendering the entire population temporarily illiterate!

Saving the trees in Gezi Park has become a symbolic protest and criticism of heavy-handed, autocratic actions and policies, including a speedy parliamentary ruling limiting hours for sale of alcohol, the harassment of journalists and political opposition,  and even a PR tiff naming ayran – a yogurt drink I happen to love — as the national drink over rakı, the Turkish equivalent of Greek ouzo,  One blogger portrayed the national drink as çay (tea), which feels more true to me, so this particular political tit for tat will likely disappear.

We all know the varied outcomes of these sorts of political uprisings, from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, to Sidi Bouzid in Tunis, Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, Oakland City Hall in California, and so on.

Personally, I am surprised at the unchanging response of the Turkish police in Gezi Park.  Tourism is a key industry – who else are all of the shopping malls for?  Turkey is continuing along the path towards EU membership (although, I suspect if they ever get there, they may choose not to join), and they are in contention for the 2020 Olympics, to be awarded this fall.

International media is speculating on the emergence of a “Turkish Spring”.   I just hope the ruling party pays honest and meaningful attention to those citizens of this fair country who differ with them.

You  don’t have to worry about us.  We live on a different continent from Gezi Park where the Occupy protest is occurring.  Jim and I understand the first rule of avoiding the wrong place at the wrong time…don’t go there.  We did not go to City Hall in Oakland either, and the distance and situations are pretty similar.

In fact, generally what we observe in Turkey, reminds us of corollaries we’ve seen in US politics.  I love Turkey, and I hope for the health of her peoples and their governments.  This may be an emergency for the current party…and I hope they show some leadership out of the problem.

Istanbul is a big city.  The warm stiff breeze this Friday evening has turned the normally placid Marmara Sea across the street from our apartment into a raging beach.  Young peoples’ singing in the park along the water is wafting through our open windows.  Taking Lucy for a walk, we collected dondurma (ice cream) cones from famous Ali Usta – a warm weather Istanbullular pilgrimage destination each weekend.  Jim had iki top (2 scoops) of çikolata parça (chocolate chip) with çikolata sosu (hot dipped chocolate sauce), I had iki top, çikolata and şamfıstığı (pistachio) dondurma with çikolata sosu and kıyılmış cevizi (chopped walnuts). Life is good.