Class Divisions in Izmir, Turkey

Part 1: Kemeralti and Basmane

Kemeralti- A huge bazaar with a maze of streets and hundreds of shops selling almost everything. It is next to Clock Tower Square in Konak. Easy to get lost.

Along Anafartalar Caddesi that runs from Basmane Train Station to Kemeralti. It is a more downscale area. Most people are poor. There has been a large influx of Syrian refugees in recent years. Many of them are now running shops in the area.

Women along Anafartalar Caddesi in late afternoon.

Shoppers in Havra Sokak Fish Market. (Synagogue Street) At one time before World War I, this was a Jewish area and there are some synagogues in the area that are now closed. This covered street is mostly a fish, meat, and vegetable market, but other things as well. Fascinating place, always busy.

Shopkeeper and friend.

Shoppers in Kemeralti

Havra Sokak Scene

Alsancak-The upscale west side near the sea. A crowded restaurant.

One of many popular pub-restaurants in the old area of Alsancak. Crowded every night. Hard to get a seat.

The wide mall, closed to traffic, is crowded every evening. Many shops and restaurants for upscale shoppers.

Young women in Sardunya, a beautiful historical pub.

Evening crowds on the mall. 

The buses, trams, metro and ferry boats are all free if one is over 65. But who would ever tell you that about Turkey! 


Some Memories of Yunan

Buddhist Temple with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain behind.

The old town of Lijaing. It is clear that tourism has greatly developed since I was there in 2007. The connection is through Kunming. Lijiang is some 100 km further. A big tourist attraction is the Tiger Leaping Gorge in the Jinsha River that flows into the Yangtze. It seems that the trekking trails were not developed in those days. I was on a study tour of China. Our bus stopped at one point and we descended a steep narrow trail down to the rapids. The climb back up was difficult. Some on the tour paid to be carried down and back up. Now many trekking trails have been developed. A great adventure if one is younger. It is one of the deepest gorges in the world, and incredibly scenic.

The River.

Shop in the old town of Lijiang. 

The monastery at Shangri La (Zhongdian). The name was changed to Shangri La to attract tourists, it seems. 

Inside the old town of Shangri La. The town goes back some 1300 years. I guess I was lucky to get some pictures because most of this old town burned down in January 2014. It was a tragedy for tourism.


The Khyber Pass Railway

In 1982, the Soviet Army was bogged down in Afghanistan fighting the Mujahadin. The USA was shipping arms and aid to the Mujahadin rebels and anti-Soviet warlords via the Khyber Pass. 

I made a trip up the Khyber Pass from Peshawar to Landi Kotal in the Northwestern Frontier Province in l982 on the Khyber Pass train. The Khyber Pass Railway was built by the British and ran from 1925 till 2007. It ran 51 kilometers from Peshawar to Landi Kotal. There were steam locomotives on both ends of the small train. These engines were HGS-2-8 OS locomotives manufactured by Vulcan Foundry and Kitson and Company in Preston, England. The village of Landi Kotal at the west end of the railway is 1200 meters in altitude. 

I returned to Peshawar by bus.

I scanned some old slides that I took along the pass. Today (2018) the train is not running, but one can go from Peshawar to Landi Kotal by bus up the Khyber Pass. Some local authorities in Peshawar want to restore the railway for tourists purposes, using the old train and classical engines. Hopefully this will be done in future, but security is still a problem due to the war in Afghanistan.

It can be a great adventure, and was quite safe in those days. Unfortunately, it is not the case today. 

A flat plain and Afridi villages west of Peshawar.

A Fort Along the Way

A hillside fort and some villagers

Mountains and a dry riverbed in August


View of the Pass and the road

A village and village children watching the train

A small shrine next to a graveyard

A Graveyard

View of a hilltop fort


A Hilltop Lookout

Landi Kotal at the end of the line

A bus at Muree, a popular hill station



Evening in March

Evening in Early March

I am often drawn to the old classical part of Izmir, Alsancak. In this part of the city, near the sea port, many old buildings still survive. Many have now been converted into beer halls. The streets and pubs are crowded with young people in the evenings. On the weekends, the tables on the narrow streets are also crowded with young people, mostly students. It is an incredibly funky area of the city. It always amazes me. Forget half-liter beers. Many places sell it by the full liter. Where do these young people get so much money to spend? It is a rich city. But places here are not expensive. They are mostly for students.

I reach the area easily with the metro and bus. Transportation is free for me. Here, one gets something back for their taxes. I have never had any objection to such socialistic benefits. Indeed, social welfare has never caused me any harm, so I am amazed that some people object to it. Of course, I am not thinking of Americans who all certainly have a great appreciation for social welfare.

I put Ilford ISO 400 black and white film in my Leica. It is nice for making pictures at night, pushing the film two stops to ISO 1600. A tripod is not necessary as I can shoot down to 1/15 of a second at f 2.5. This will be more than enough for streets with some lighting and even inside dark pubs. I like how the pictures look and one can get a surprising wide depth of field even at 2.5 with my Leica Summarit 35 mm lens.

But first, I need some serious darkness and bright street lights. I also need a big draft beer to give me some inspiration. It is a somewhat thankless task, I suppose, but someone must do it. Someone must meet the challenge of ubiquitous selfies with cell phones. I am just an old crazy on the street, so hardly anyone pays attention to me with my classical gear. Most here have probably never seen a film camera.

After a walk down the long crowded mall with bright lights and shops, I turn into a small lane for Varuna Gezgin. It is almost packed, as usual. The walls are lined with paperback books, old sewing machines, old radios, and old wind-up clocks. I can only get a seat at the bar, which is a four-sided square in the middle of one of the large spaces. An amazing place with several large-screen videos playing. Some showing sports. European football. I am not too big on this feature, actually. But my vantage point is worth a couple of pictures.

The place has a long list of domestic and foreign beers. And wines. And food. An older couple wanders in, occasionally. But the crowd is largely youth. Sometimes an old timer like me.

The place is not just a pub, but a restaurant too.

But there is not much going on if one is not with a group.

After a draft beer, I head down toward the other side of the mall toward the railway station. There are many pubs and restaurants in these narrow lanes. One is called the Dinosaur Bar. I have made pictures in here before in the daytime. There is somewhat of an American sixties atmosphere with a large painting of Che on one wall.

There are almost secret passages running to the back, narrow spaces with small tables where students are getting enormous draft beers through a square hole in the wall. The space for the bar is quite small. The older bartender and a couple of girls are helping to serve. I take a high stool at the back from where I can take some pictures. I have another beer here. It is interesting for a couple of pictures, but not the liveliest of places.

After a beer, I am back on the street. Still early, waves of young people are pouring into the area from the direction of the train station. Avoiding the occasional cars, I get a few pictures of people on the streets.

A better place is La Puerta across the street, but I will not get there tonight. It too is large and rich.

Across to the other side, almost to the Kordon and the sea, the small lanes are packed with tables. Non-stop eating, drinking, smoking. Leisure. Keyfi. That’s the name of the game in Izmir. Almost non-stop leisure. Day and night. But tonight, I work with my camera, almost. Young lovers stroll by.

In front of a beautiful old pub that I know, Sardunya (Geranium), are tables with oil lamps burning and crowded with young people. I see that it is a good vantage point for a couple of shots. I order a beer and use up a couple of frames of film. These young beauties are everywhere. A constant stream of them flowing out of every lane. Filling up the pubs. Most are quite innocent of life, I suspect.

I take my beer inside and find a table in one of the old classical rooms. I love the atmosphere in this place. Sometimes the music is good, but I would like more old sixties songs. I talk to some young students, studying international relations in a local university. I think they are incredibly bright and talented. I think they will succeed in life.

I will finish my beer and head out, having finished my roll of film. It will be interesting to see what I have when I develop it.

None of this checking the back of the camera or the cell phone as with digital. I will only have digital images, after I scan the film. But I will always have the film to make prints, if I will take the time. That takes a good deal of time. It is easy to see why people prefer to use digital.

Developing black and white film is simple. One only needs two chemicals, developer and fixer. I load the film into a Patterson developing tank in my dark room. I develop the film at 24 degrees. I wash the film for one minute with distilled water. Then add the one-shot developer. Kodak HC-110 (5.2 ml of developer in 325 ml of water). This takes 20 minutes. Since I am pushing the film, I double the time to 20 minutes. After that, the stop bath is just distilled water for a couple of minutes or so. Then add the fixer for four to five minutes. Then wash the film in tap water for eight to ten minutes at around 24 degrees. After that, just add a couple of drops of Kodak Photo-flo 200 in water for 30 seconds. Then hang the film up to dry.

When the film is dry, it can be scanned.

March 7, 2018


David Halberstam on Vietnam

March 3, 2018

Reading David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, brought a lot of memories of that time in the l960s back to me. The book was published in 1971 and then again in 1992 with a new introduction. I have read quite a lot about Vietnam, but had never read this book. I saw a reference to it recently and wanted to read it.  

Clearly, if one wants to understand the Washington decision-making side of the war, I believe this is the best book to read. It is an impressive accomplishment. Halberstam had been reporting on the war for years. He made something like three-hundred interviews of those policy makers and others involved just for this book. I would love to use this book in a course on war and decision making or even a course in American government. But it is a long book and I am not sure if students would seriously read such a book today. Most of them probably would not. It takes some effort. But if they did, they would learn a lot more than they do from most courses.

Reading around a hundred pages a day, my eyes started to get tired. It brought back a hell of a lot of memories and fleshed out much of what I knew about the era. I found the book fascinating and hard to put down.

Personally, I was determined that I was not going to go to Vietnam and shoot peasants who were in rebellion against the feudal agrarian system that was still in place. I had always thought that they were right to revolt against their exploitation. The US was not just pursuing a failed policy. The US was on the wrong side in the war. The US should have supported Ho Chi Minh, in my view. Even a few policy makers in Washington realized this. That is also a fascinating fact.

I was the exact right age to be sent to Vietnam in 1963. But I wanted no part of it. I could never see any point in that war, except to make profits for the war corporations. And careers for the generals. I got a deferment to go to the university until I graduated in 1968. That was not fair to the guys who did not go to a university, but I took advantage of it.  After I graduated, the draft board was after me at once. Johnson still wanted more men in Vietnam.

The French had ruled the country for decades. Then after World War II, the British allowed for them return to the country. This was a historical mistake. The French fought the same kind of war as the US and lost. There was no way that I was going to be a part of that. Even if one did not believe that it was evil and immoral, totally unethical, it would be the height of folly and stupidity. I could see that, but what about those in Washington? Well, actually some of them could see it too, as Halberstam shows, but still, they could not keep from going to war and then they kept escalating the war wider and wider for years and years. They kept being sucked right down into the maelstrom. Even those who realized that it was complete folly went along. This was true of even Robert McNamara after 1966. It turned into a terrible disaster for both the US and Vietnam.

1966 was the year that the US actually lost the war. McNamara didn’t have a clue at that time. He was wrapped up in mountains of statistics. He was a corporate management guy coming from being the head of Ford in the 1950s. Technology should do the trick.

Most didn’t know the war was a lost cause for the US Empire until many years later, of course. Even nations cannot stop history. The war was political and historical. I would say that it was an event of historical necessity. Part of a larger historical dialectic. The country moved to communism until the l990s, but then in a dialectical process, moved to today’s capitalist system under the name of communism or socialism. It is almost a mirror image of what happened in China on a larger scale. Globalization is also part of the dialectic.

This does not mean, of course, that the revolution which the US was trying to prevent, was wiped out. The gains of the revolution were not all lost. They are enveloped in the development of the country today. When I was in Vietnam in 2006, I surprised that most young Vietnamese do not think much about the war today. Not the way Americans who grew up in the 1960s do.

Men (and women) make history. This is an old Marxist truism. George Plekhanov. But as the Marxists always argued, they do not make history in just any way they like. Machiavelli could have agreed. There is fortune, fortuna. The historical situation did not allow the Washington policy makers to make history in just any way they liked. Those in the White House were unlucky. The war practically killed President Lyndon Johnson. Maybe it did in a slow fashion.

For John Kennedy, then Lyndon Johnson, there was the l950s legacy of McCarthyism. They had to be anti-communist for political reasons. The Democratic Party had been accused of “losing China.” They could not afford to “lose Vietnam,” because of domestic politics. Somehow Americans could not see how such hubristic concepts revealed that the country was a global empire, believing that it owned countries and could “lose” them.

Vietnam never attacked the United States. The United States attacked Vietnam. The enterprise of the US Empire was to stop a revolution from happening in Vietnam. Counterinsurgency, in the jargon of official Washington and the US military. It was probably not possible, even if the US had sent twice as many men. Even a million or more, as the Joint Chiefs suggested at one time in 1967.

What is also interesting is that very few Americans see clearly that the US is still doing the same thing under a different name. David Petraeus and his counterterrorism models do the same thing as the US tried to do in Vietnam. Just a different terminology is being used. Afghanistan. Stopping a revolution. All the other wars. The so-called global war on terrorism. Just another version of an empire trying to stop history from unfolding. Stopping the undoing of colonial history. Now it is drones to stop the historical process. Politically, it still sells.

Trillions of dollars are printed and poured down the rat hole while killing many thousands of people and piling the debt on the increasingly impoverished population of the United States. Profits for arms corporations and banks, the corporate ruling class. Whether the US Empire will really collapse soon, as Johann Galtung has suggested, is a larger question. But global opinion largely has it correct. The greatest threat to global peace and security, and even life itself around the globe, is the United States of America.

I clearly remember those days in 1965 and 1966 when I was a student at the university. Every morning, the news in the papers just got worse and worse. More and more soldiers being sent to Vietnam. More coming home dead. It was coming to my time to graduate in 1967 and I was certain that I was going to be sent to Vietnam too, if I didn’t do something about it.

I would have loved to go to Vietnam, but not to shoot peasants.

Perhaps never before had people had such hope for those bright people in the White House. John Kennedy, Robert McNamera, McGeorge Bundy. The generals, Maxwell Turner, William Westmoreland in Vietnam. Kennedy started by sending “advisors.” Several thousand. By 1964 after Johnson had become president, pressure was being put on the White House to send combat troops. Once that began, it continued to all go down-hill. Or one can say up-hill from the perspective of those who wanted revolution in Vietnam. The US army eventually collapsed.   

This very significant book brings out many aspects of the United States that should help Americans understand the problems with American war culture and US imperialism today. The sickness of anti-communism from the McCarthy era. Racism. Ethnocentrism. The arrogance of Americans when they go abroad. The deep underlying gut-feeling in the US culture that Americans cannot learn anything from other people. That is, anything that would help them. Some sick notion that they somehow have the God-given right to rule over others. To rule the world.

One sees many parallels to today’s folly in Washington when reading this book. One realizes that not much was learned. Or if anything was learned, it has been forgotten. McMaster, in the White House at this time in 2018, wrote a revisionist book accusing the generals of not doing their duty in Vietnam. Of not “winning.” Still trying to erase history. This just gets more people killed.

The effect of the Vietnam War is not yet over. Americans still die of health effects such as exposure to agent orange. Vietnamese still die from this poison and dioxin. In the same way, much of the Middle East has now been polluted with depleted uranium weapons which will continue to kill people even after the wars end there.

But so far, there is no sign of them ending. It is likely there will not be as long as there is an American Empire.  

Whatever you do, read this book. It is the best way I know of to learn and understand how the US Government really works and how war policy is made. Unfortunately, it will not inspire confidence or make one happy. But it is a lesson worth learning.

March 3, 2018

Izmir, Turkey