Sunday, December 12, 2010

Looking Back: Riding the Balkan Express

I was going through old things that I was writing and found this account of my first train trip from Bulgaria to Turkey... Enjoy!

The Balkan Express

The Balkan Express in Edirne, Turkey.
“This is a drreeeam!” I heard a man shout while I was waiting for the train to arrive. My fellow traveler Ana and I had been joking with each other in our native tongue when the African-American Vietnam veteran from Queens ran up and hugged me. “This is a dream!” he repeated, “English! English! Get me out of this country!” Everyone on the platform was now staring at us, but the man didn’t seem to notice and continued madly talking about his desire to escape Bulgaria. Even if any of the onlookers had spoken English, they surely would still have had no idea what he was saying. He was, after all, completely incoherent, even to a native speaker of the language. His opening statement, however, proved to be prophetically accurate: we were indeed in a dream. The journey was surreal and sleepless. It exceeded my expectations of adventure. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Taksim Photos

Dönerci. Taksim, İstanbul. 

Garaj. TomTom İstanbul

Kestaneci. Taksim, İstanbul. 

Santa Bey. Taksim, İstanbul

Simitci. Taksim, İstanbul. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hocaköy Kurban Bayramı: Photo Essay

Host Family 4 years later...
This week I returned to Hocaköy, to celebrate Kurban Bayramı, the Muslim holiday of sacrifice. I first spent some time in the small village near İnegöl in highschool while doing an exchange program through "EIL," a very positive experience for me that perhaps defined my relationship with Turkey today.  It was fun to return to the village, something that I have done several times since my first trip there.
Hocaköy Playground
The playground I built with my American peers is still standing, and it was exciting to see so many friends including my original host-family from the program.  I was lucky to meet an interesting and like-minded traveler at a couchsurfing meetup in İstanbul. Rahde Franke is traveling the world  on a grant from the Watson Fellowship studying open-fire cooking. His account of the day can be found here. I decided to invite him to come with me to Hocaköy for the holidays as I thought it might be rewarding for him as much of the holiday revolves around meat. . . I really enjoyed my first village bayram, and while it may have a bit tough to bear the sights, smells, and most of all sounds associated with the sacrifice of the two cows that I witnessed, I thought it was an important experience. We so often forget where our food comes from, and it was actually quite nice to see the whole process through personally. Between two hours, I saw a walking cow and then had food in my mouth.  Without further ado, here are some photos of Bayram in Hocaköy, other photos I took in the village that are unrelated to the holiday can be found here.

(There are some rather bloody and graphic photos below, You've been warned.) A very graphic video of the event can be seen here.
3 men begin to wrestle the cow to the ground.

The cow's last minutes as a knife is sharpened

Sisters and mother watch from above.

Preparing for the slaughter.

Alim watches the slaughter

Alim watches the slaughter

Cleaning up

Burak skins as his mother watches proudly

Salting the pelt


Post-sacrificial meat stored in an attic
A truck of disposed cowheads



Returning to Hocaköy: Fall Photos

Oynat, Turkey

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey
Mamara Ferry. Yalova, Turkey. 

A tractor illuminated at night. Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Suat. İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Hocaköy, İnegöl, Turkey. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Walking in Fatih & Fisherman Friends

Today I went to collect my residency permit from the Bus Station to Hell that is the central Istanbul police station. . . After some waiting, I got it and had some time on my hands to walk. I was hoping to walk to Fener or Balat but I got hopelessly lost and suspect I didn't really make it to those areas. I wandered through Fatih and eventually found myself deep in Çarşamba, perhaps one of Istanbul's most religiously conservative areas. While I blend in fairly well where I live in Beyoğlu, I didn't necessarily feel unwelcome in Çarşamba, but certain very much foreign with the shortest beard and the longest hair of anyone in the immediate vicinity.  The experience was a good wake-up call from the trap that so many forigners, including myself, fall into by understanding Beyoğlu as a reflection of Istanbul as a whole.
 Typical fish boat... (Photo by "Nickim")
As I wandered rather aimlessly, I was lucky to see the distant Galata tower in a small exposed bit of sky between buildings. I used this to get my bearings and made my way down to the Golden Horn, an inlet off the Bosporus. As I was walking I spotted a boat advertising "Historical Eminönü Fishery," which is not at all an atypical sight in Istanbul.
The fish boat I found...
This boat was a bit out of place though... first of all it wasn't in Eminönü as its sign said. Also, it lacked the florid decorations that are so closely associated with the classic Eminönü Balık Ekmek sandwich. There were three men eating on the boat and I asked them if I could take their photo. After quite a bit of snapping, I began to leave only to be interrupted by them asking me in Turkish "Where are you going?!" as they beckoned me to come aboard. They fed me fresh hamsi: delicious Turkish fried anchovies and we talked for about 3 hours. One of the men, Yunus, has seen more cities in the US as a sailor than I have, and we got along particularly well.
New Turkish fisherman friends. Arif, Yunus, & "The Captain"

I'm starting to learn after this and the antiques salesman that I met how my camera can be a very good tool in starting conversations that otherwise wouldn't happen. Additionally, such acts of kindness and hospitality have never happened to me in the US, and every time strangers here offer me food and engage me in conversation it is really inspiring to me as no one I've met in the US would act quite the same way.

Here are the day's photos:

Balıkcı. Golden Horn, İstanbul.

Captain Yunus. Golden Horn, İstanbul
Fatih, İstanbul

Fatih, İstanbul
Dönerci & Spectator. Taksim, İstanbul

Tophane, İstanbul

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Photos: Çukurcuma (and some other places...)

Tepebaşı, İstanbul

Avni's Chain Doll. Çukurcuma, İstanbul

Stairs. Galatasaray, İstanbul

Roof Man. Çukurcuma, İstanbul

Scaffolding. Çukurcuma, İstanbul

Window Man. İstanbul
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