Istanbul: Tag it

I’ve always loved graffiti. It has such a pedestrian quality to it and I like its democratic nature. The best graffiti is just wonderful, semi-legal outdoor murals. Istanbul has looked after me well. 20130602-124814.jpg20130602-124844.jpg

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Out takes from Turkey

-Mosques serve as excellent time markers throughout the day. There are calls to prayer at 1pm, 5pm, 8:30pm and 10:30pm.
-There is zero shame in following Turks across the street. They know when to fold ’em and when to hold ’em.
-Nothing in Turkey is fee but nothing is terribly expensive either. One lira coins are your friend.

Random dude on a bench under the Galata Tower: So what are the differences living in America and Turkey?
Liz: Some good, some bad. The roads are better but we don’t have a health care program.
Random dude: (totally incredulous) Why? Do you not care?

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Istanbul: Going to the movies

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Trying to figure out something new! cool! exciting! all the time is actually kind of exhausting. So, I asked the desk if any of the movie theaters play movies in English. And guys, sometimes America as the 800 lb cultural gorilla is awesome. Namely, Gatsby in 3D for 14 lira with watermelon bought on the street while waiting for the box office to open.

My official review: Gatsby is long on pretty, short on compelling performances. Still one of my favorites books from high school. ❤ Fitzgerald ❤

Istanbul: The Spice Market

The Spice Market is a sight to behold. In some ways it reminds me of Pike Place, a functioning market that’s also a huge tourist attraction. The market itself is an enclosed structure next to the New Mosque (in fact, the market was set up by the mosque and rents helped subsidize the mosque and its charitable projects) plus blocks of stalls in every direction. You can buy anything you want/need/didn’t know existed including….

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Turkish delight

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Nuts and dried fruit

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Baklava galore

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Cheese

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Olives

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…and waders! Literally everything!

Istanbul: SALT Beyoglu

SALT is an arts and culture organization funded by the Turkish government. In recent years they’ve opened two multi-level gallery spaces in Istanbul. I read about a show in Time Out Istanbul that I was really interested in but couldn’t for the life of me find it on a map!

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This evening I rode the tram and hiked up one of Istanbul’s GIANT hills to explore the Galata and Beyoglu neighborhoods. Istikal Caddesi (caddesi=avenue) is the main street through Beyoglu. It’s almost exclusively pedestrian with a single old timey tram running down the middle. The shops are a mix of Turkish and Western and all the cafes open on to the street. There are food carts selling corn, roasted chestnuts and ice cream. I popped in and out of bookstores and stopped for Turkish coffee. Lo and behold, the very museum I had been trying to find!

The space is beautiful. Giant glass doors open to the street. The ceiling on the main floor is easily 15 feet. The hardwood floors help everything feel clean and modern. The first floor gallery was a smaller show of four Chinese-American artists living in New York in the 80s and 90s. Despite not setting out to make political art, the photography, installations and performance art pieces have strong anti-war and pro-LGBT themes. The AIDS crisis defined New York in the 80s, it’s not difficult to understand how it influenced their art.

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Floors two and three were the exhibit that had drawn me there in the first place: a retrospective on the Romanian political action group subREAL. The group lived in Bucharest in the early 90s as the economy moved toward liberal democracy. The first floor highlighted their experimentation with framing.

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The second floor covers the period after members of the group moved to Berlin. With both physical distance and political distance as the transition process continued, their later work is more explicitly political. SALT choose to recreate an interactive piece the group composed in the mid-90s. Participants are asked to write what they consider the most pressing social issue in the world on phallus shaped paper.

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The gallery was a great treat and I’m so happy I stumbled upon it!

Istanbul: Riding the rails

My first thought in a cab this morning was “wow, Russia really prepped me for driving in Turkey.” My cab driver seemed most comfortable cruising around 160 km/hr. Luckily, the roads here are much better. There’s lots about Russia and Turkey that are similar, especially borrowed words, but Turkey’s economic success in the last few decades marks it apart from Russia’s bumpy transition to a market economy. The difference in state investment in infrastructure is obvious.

I really like Turkey. It’s modern, surprisingly clean (at least this far) and cheap. This evening I did one of my favorite new city things: I rode the tram to nowhere. I love easily breezing through several neighborhoods to start to get feels for them and the people watching is unparalleled. The trams/streetcars in Istanbul are clean, fast and very economical at 3 Turkish lira a ride (roughly $1.65). Even on a Monday night the cars are packed with families, friends and a few folks still headed home from work.

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