Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | July 3, 2012

Galata Square– the party’s over

galata square in about 2001. notice the cars on the road that is no longer there.

For the past two or three years Galata Square has been ‘occupied’ by hordes of young people sitting on the ground and partying. It started a few years ago with jugglers and rope walkers and the occasional fire twirler. Last year it really got popular and this year it was impassable at night. Last year a neighbour upstairs from the café had a letter published by her journalist friends in a couple of newspapers. She had complained with no result to the police, the zabita (the business police), the city, and the governor. After her letter was published, the city sent a street cleaning vehicle that went round and round the square, causing people to stand up and protest. Meanwhile the police and zabita were standing by. Of course the young people complained and about 20 of them were arrested. But they came back and were there for the rest of the summer.


in the past the square was crowded only for events such as this one

As soon as the weather got better this year they were back. The word was out that they could buy cheap beer and wine at the market, the supermarket, and the wine house. The tiny corner market was so busy that people were lined up outside it to get in to buy beer or wine. The winos were out in full force, tolerated by rather naïve young people. The square party spawned some other businesses– the popcorn man, the grubby men who collected returnable bottles, the oyster sellers, the corn on the cob seller, the jewellery sellers. The partying went on till the wee hours, usually until 5 a.m., accompanied by shouts, drums, screams, and fights. Finally last week some guy broke a wine bottle and attacked someone. I didn’t learn that until last night, but I had seen blood on my street, so I knew something had happened.


The result was that the police finally moved in. Now in the evening there are barriers and police tape manned by police officers, who do not let people pass them. The small market was closed illegally, though it has been there since 1948 selling alcohol and other things you buy at a mom and pop market. Now the young people sit on the stairs leaving the square and even that is a problem because people like me can’t walk down them anymore. This morning I saw that the newly planted flower boxes along the fence had been stripped of their flowers– every single one. And the neighbours on that side of the square are now complaining because the noise has moved closer to them.


empty square these days

I was interviewed for some no-name channel and told them that my first thought when I saw the police barriers was that freedom had taken a blow (I am freely translating from my Turkish here!) but then I was glad because the hordes of young people had turned our square and our neighbourhood into a garbage pit. Every morning city crews had to come to clean up the broken glass, the seeds, the plastic bags, the piss, and the puke. Even this morning I noticed vomit on the side of the street as I came to the café.


Those of us who are older and those of us who have businesses here sound very much like our parents did when we were young. These young people have no respect! They are dirty, sitting on the ground like that and fouling the area. They are noisy and prevent people from sleeping. And they certainly do not support local businesses, except for those that sell alcohol.


I was actually surprised that it lasted as long as it did. The government of Beyoglu is very conservative and Turks and foreigners agree that this kind of thing would not happen in Europe or Canada or the U.S. I hope now the city cleans up the stairs and that all these young people find somewhere else to go. The city is trying to make Galata more beautiful with the newly planted gardens and the youth are destroying them. Tourists are put off by the noise and crowds and filth at night and we business owners are tired of it.


Probably the nightly partying might have been tolerable and tolerated if it had ended earlier and if the people had been more responsible about picking up after themselves. However, the latter is not common in Turkey, as people often throw trash on the ground, knowing that eventually someone will come along and clean it up (‘it creates jobs’ they say). I guess the partiers do not have to work in the morning, unlike the neighbours they are disturbing.


All this said, if I were in my 20s, I would probably have been right out there with them.


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