by Cüneyt Ayral
There are very few cities in the world as astonishing as Istanbul. And doubtless to say Paris is one of them. Hong Kong is also a surprising town when wandering around. These cities are amazing where concepts such as poorness and richness, humor and grief, present and absent are all mixed up.
I wanted to squeeze European Istanbul - the back streets of Beyoğlu - on a late summer afternoon. My photos, which were carefully selected from one hundred shots, accompany this writing and dumbfound people.
When walking down the street I paused as soon as I saw the stunning image of the Genoese (Galata) Tower. Afterwards I went to Konak Patisserie, which is located on the roof of an old building and has a view of the historic peninsula. Galata Tower, with its history of thousands of years, rises at my back. If you are in Istanbul you will be challenged as to which panorama to admire next - even for a period of drinking coffee.
I followed the music coming from the foot of the Tower. Dozens of people filling the small square were listening to the tunes of a young Jewish group. The tourists were surprised and the local people had this-place-is-ours excitement in their eyes. Everybody was in a different mood.
New shops have been opened in the back streets, cheering up Galata. These streets in Galata, Tünel and Beyoğlu are now trendy. Youngsters, people looking for an alternative life style, fill these streets and convert the area to a festival site.
I was left open-mouthed in front of a shop. Many Masonic insignia from all over the world were on display among dresses, "evil-eye" beads, (nazar boncuğu), flashy rings and necklaces. Another radiant festival! Who would not be surprised ?
As I continued my walk I stopped at some marble stairs that were trying to tell me their history. The stairs told me that they were witness to the kissing of Maria and an Ottoman soldier, and to Eleni's hitting the head of a Tophane boy with her umbrella who had pinched her, and much, much more.
I was just turning the corner when I saw two big black eyes staring at me... The eyes of a seahorse. Seahorses are notable for being the only species in the world in which males become pregnant.
When I strolled towards Tünel, I heard a pleasant melody and headed to the first floor of the apartment from where the music was coming. I entered from a high front door and immediately dived into the world of paintings, calligraphies and postcards. Ali Bey, the owner of Galeri Sefa - literally 'delight' - was enjoying himself. "To tell the truth I repair old furniture. The customers usually call before visiting. The doors are not open always and the visitors are a few French people" says the owner of this gallery on Ilk Belediye Avenue.
When I was heading home, I thought about the years when we published the Konstantiniye News newspaper. We encountered many surprises and presented them to our readers with great enthusiasm.
We paid frequent visits to the Mayors in order to preserve the values of Istanbul that were about to be lost; however, we didn't succeed with that very much. The wall pictures of Süreyya Beach at Küçükyalı were among these values, but now those walls that we exhibited at TUF Camera corner of Tufan Aksoy are a group of photographs in the archives.
In 2010 Istanbul will be the European Capital of Culture. How many people are aware of this and how many know the meaning and importance of this event?
Now, I believe everybody should say "Istanbulites! Two more years and
the world will be watching us. Therefore let's protect our treasure and look
after this festival of our city and the historical heritage of the world"
and we should talk about Istanbul every chance we get.
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