Where is Istanbul?

After a week in Istanbul it all seemed terribly glamorous, a city of marble palaces and cosmopolitan streets. But I’d read that 400,000 people arrived every year, hoping for work or a better life.  There was a ten-million person slum somewhere nearby, but where? In a city that had to be mostly struggling migrants, the poor were completely invisible.

My guidebook mentioned the strife of an immigrant sprawl, but only in a sidebar, never really saying where these people actually lived. Googling “Istanbul slums” gave almost nothing substantial, at least in English. Millions of people simply don’t exist in the infosphere of a Western tourist. Eventually I began to find references to the Gaziosmanpaşa district northwest of the center, with a population of a million or so. With a reported population increase of 79% in the decade 1990-2000, this is an immigrant city risen whole from the fields: migrants from all over the country and sometimes further, speaking Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Kurdish, and Arabic, refugees from rural poverty and violence and the war in neighboring Iraq. Gaziosmanpaşa was on my maps, but just barely, a name on the corner of the page.

“Why do you want to go there?” asked my English teacher acquaintance. She was pretty and professional, clearly as much on the fast track as she could get. “There’s nothing there!” she said. Nonetheless she directed me to a tram line; I took it to the end, a stop named Mescid-i-Selam, approximately 20km from the city center (map).


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The Ultimate Volkswagen

Culture wanders, mutates, gets kidnapped, grows up. It spawns distant relatives we never hear from, unknown bastard children. I’ve run into fuax-Disney pillowcases in Cambodia and the Metallica Cafe in Thailand, but this — this takes it for crypto-cultural mutation of memes. From the mean streets of rural Turkey, I give you the Ultimate Volkswagen:


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That’s right. It’s a VW bus body with a half of a classic VW bug grafted on top as a moon-roof. In funky Lemon Yellow. Holy crap.


From the front you can see the attention to detail. The spare tire is strapped on front by a nautical helm. The paint scheme is elegantly simple except for the inscription “mashallah” which means “luck” in Turkish. A plush ornament hangs from the rear-view and all the windows are, of course, curtained and tassled. (I assure you the interior is similarly shaggy, with Turkish carpets and deep brown plaid upholstery.)


On the side we find the name of this righteous vehicle: the One Way Goreme (say it  GOR-ray-me, the town where it rolls.)  Naturally, the Volkswagen company didn’t build this — Germans were never so funky.  This makes it a Turkish homebrew, but note the genuine VW hubcaps — a classy nod to the OG.

Nice, kids, nice.

What Internet Censorship Looks Like, Part 2

The Turkish Government censors internet access from within the country, as I discovered yesterday when attempting to access YouTube from the Turkish town of Selçuk, as this screenshot shows (click to enlarge):


The English text on this page reads: “Access to this web site is banned by ‘TELEKOMÜNİKASYON İLETİŞİM BAŞKANLIĞI’ according to the order of: Ankara 1. Sulh Ceza Mahkemesi, 05.05.2008 of 2008/402″

Just to complete the irony, I was looking for a video of the Oscar Grant shooting when I first discovered this “blocked site” page.

Continue reading What Internet Censorship Looks Like, Part 2