Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | March 24, 2010

molly’s cafe: spring streets 2004

Here is another from my archives.  not much has changed since i wrote this!

Spring Streets

June 2004

The streets are alive with music these days.  It is late spring and there are festivals  in Beyoglu (pronounced Bay-o-lu for those who have not been here).  I live between two neighbourhoods that have had theirs in the past few weeks.

okay temiz at galata square

One was at Galata Square.  It was a small kind of homegrown afair, with local talent, mostly.  There were a few sellers on the square, but the ones that made the most sales were the local women who were selling gozleme, a kind of bread crepe filled with spiced potato or spinach and cheese.  One man was selling authentic old pictures from old magazines, but he wanted more than $100 for them, so did not make many sales.  Even his postcards were about $1.50, which is about 3 times what they usually cost.  However, the music was great.  My favourite was Okay Temiz, whose atolye, studio, is across from my old house.  I often heard the music but never saw him, so this time I saw what was in essence a recital for his students.  Okay and his lead drummer, a young woman named Ebru, were on the main stage. One group, playing drums set between their knees, were on the additional stage. On the ground in front of the stage was the group that played the big flat drums. They played  several sets, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.  They were followed by a band that played a kind of Anadolu music that seemed influenced by the Chechen immigration more than 100 years ago. That band included an accordion, two kinds of drums, a guitar, a flute, a clarinet, and a singer.  There was also a folklore dance group that performed in front of the stage in modern dress but did old dances.

watching from the wall

fridge art

This past week Tunel Square and the streets around Tunel have hosted a lot of events.  The square included activities such as a daily metamorphoses of a refrigerator into an art object, the passing out of t-shirts (mine was too small, unfortunately), the passing out of popcorn, and a lot of music.  I passed on the Turkish rap from Germany but really enjoyed the Balkan music group, who played twice.  Their music sounded kind of Turkish, actually, but was a little different.  They also included two kinds of drums, including the finger drums, a clarinet/flute player, an accordionist, a saxophonist/bagpipe player, and a couple of singers.  The saxophonist and accordion players often accompanied some street acts, as well.

rope dancer

The street acts were fun to see.  A structure had been put up beside and over the entrance to the street that leads down to the Galata Tower. From it were strung a big heavy rope and what looked like a long curtain.  A  couple of girls from France entwined themselves in these, making the audience gasp by seeming to fall, when they were actually unrolling.  They were very athletic but they actually were not much at putting on a show.  The real showman was the ponytailed young man, who I think was also from France, who had what looked like a big opened-up yoyo, which he rolled, threw from and caught on  a string strung on two wands.  He was very good, flinging it high above the crowd and actually catching it.  The musicians played for him, slowing down the music or building it up again.  The last I saw them, they were playing as the street players did an impromptu Turkish dance in circles, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

music on a camel

There were also dancers who did their version of performance art on the streets.  There were several bagpipe players, who were not from Scotland—they were from France, I imagine from Bretagne, which shares much of Celtic culture. Of course the usual Turkish street musicians were set up, a blind saz (long-necked lute) player, led by his small son, the mournful kemanci (a sort of violin played upright) player, singers, a man who played a small keyboard, a flutist.  Many of the imported musicians were from France or the Balkans and I saw them on the street when they were not playing, trying to communicate in English with their new Turkish friends

There were also some art events, including a big ball that was rolled

a grand ball

down the street. Futher up Istiklal there were folklore groups and impromptu dancing.

dancing on the street


I saw a mystery on the street near the post office.  first i saw legs outside and then inside i saw the person they belonged to!


Of course I saw many people I knew.  That was the best part, as every day I run into someone I know, and I always wave to the shopkeepers I know.  Last week I ran into an English Time teacher who left 5 years ago and was on vacation here with his Armenian-American friend.  I asked him (the friend) what his family thought of him coming here, as I know what the Armenians abroad think of Turkey (not good).  He told me they thought it would be dangerous.  Actually, Turks generally take people at face value, one by one, person by person, distinguishing them from their government, for example.  Americans are welcomed, in spite of the fact that everyone (including many Americans) can’t stand Bush.

protesting nato

In fact, Bush is coming here.  There will be a NATO conference here the end of June and the city is battening down the hatches.  Schools are closing early, and there is a rumour that our school will have to close for 5 days, though they say they won’t.  Streets will be closed for security and as those bigwigs tour the city as tourists, those streets will be closed too.  It will wreak a lot of havoc and most people are not too pleased about it, including me.

One thing that goes on every day, five times a day, is the ezan, the call to prayer.  I wish I could take a picture of the sounds that reverberate across the city scape, especially in the evenings.  From the back of my house I can see the skyline of the old city, and it rings with the ezan.  I truly miss it when I can’t hear it.

The spring weather is also bringing out the travesties.  These are the crossdressers and transsexuals.  Many walk the streets to pick up men.  Some are actually attractive, but many are butt ugly—real travesties.  The other evening on istiklal Caddesi I saw a couple of girls with long blond hair, tight jeans, and belly skimming tops.  It wasn’t until one spoke with a scratchy shemale voice that I realized they weren’t girls.  Shortly afterwards I saw another couple, one wearing short shorts and a long top.  They were not beautiful at all, mincing along the street.  Today I saw yet another couple, one with long blonde hair and the other with short permed hair.  They both swayed as they walked through the park.  I was walking behind them, so I could see people’s reactions as they realized they were not girls.  Most people smiled as if it was a joke.  No joke, especially for the travesties.  They have a hard life, as they don’t fit anywhere, can’t get normal jobs, and often have to resort to prostitution to get by.

In Istanbul in all seasons the streets are interesting, but spring and summer really brings everyone out.



  1. Can’t try your cuisine this try mine at my place.

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