Wednesday 24 January 2018: Kadafekale
A cold day in Izmir with gusts of wind from time to time. I have to get out on the street with my camera, my Leica M6. Taking the Metro to Basmane railway station, I head up Anafartalar Caddesi through the bazaar. An old truck has brought a load of wood for a bakery. Two guys are busy unloading it. My first chance to get a couple of photos.
It is a little tricky with the traffic on the narrow street, quite a lot of pedestrians and sometimes a bicycle whizzing past. Mostly delivery trucks. Often a good shot gets messed up with the wrong thing in the picture. Something may appear at the wrong time. Timing is everything, even though I am standing in an advantageous place.
A young guy whizzes past on a bicycle seemingly as snap the shutter. After developing, I see that I only got his hand in the photo as he entered the frame. Perfect timing there, almost.
I leave Anafartalar and head up one of the small lanes to the east that eventually goes up to Kadafekale on top of the hill. I have walked this path before, but one always finds new things, new scenes. It is a sunny day. Plenty of light, but one must be careful with black and white to control the light and shades.
There are strong, cold, gusts of wind from time to time. A little further up the narrow road is a small stone enclosure inside a wall. There is an open window with ancient iron grating. I notice that there are graves inside with old Ottoman grave stones. The building is interesting for a photo. I shoot through the iron grate for a shot of the grave stones inside.
Further up the path is a larger well-maintained old Ottoman cemetery. I go inside the small gate that is open and up the three or four stone steps. There is an official attendant inside a small building. The place is very clean and well-maintained. A couple of large squares are filled with Ottoman graves. The tomb stones are painted white.
I greet the young guy and ask if I can take photos. At first, I understand him to agree to it. But then he comes over and tells me not to take pictures. This is OK with me, as it is not my priority, in any event. There is little there to detain me at this point. I think him and again hit the path up the hill.
I must cling to the wall when a car or small truck comes along. Some young drivers come up and down quite recklessly. Some are positively crazy. Further up at a square, I wait for the right shot. Waiting for some interesting figures to come into the frame. Just when some interesting figures are in the shot, a truck appears and parks halfway in the frame. Bad luck. But I will take the shot anyway. One cannot control everything. The guy is delivering eggs to a small bakkal.
Further up, is the ruins of an ancient city. Perhaps the city built on the hill by Alexander in the third century BC. I am not sure. There are some old walls with huge square stones and stones scattered in the area, now rich with green grass. The whole area is fenced off with a high fence with razor wire in some places. Most of the walls have fallen. It might have potential for tourism, but no development along that line. In spite of that, one can get a photo where the wire fence has been mashed down. It is apparently not keeping everyone out.
Now the steep road goes up further. I notice that there are sizeable areas along the hillside where old buildings have been knocked down and cleared since the last time I walked up this way. Slum clearance is underway. They are not historical and traditional houses, so can be cleared. Probably structurally unsound. Some had been occupied by Syrian refugees. But many houses slated for demolition are now cleared out. I am glad that I took pictures in the area before the demolition.
I hope that the area will not be spoiled by unsightly new construction. But I have no idea what sort of housing the state plans to build. Or whether it will be gentrified as some gecekondu areas have been. This has happened to the south in the hills about Narlidere. The peasants get rich when their houses are demolished. They will own part of the new construction. A significant part.
There are several construction trucks waiting to haul away the rubble and a tractor working to load up the trucks. Proceeding up the road, I think perhaps the guy is going to run me over at one point. I can’t predict which direction he is going to swing the outfit and I can’t get out of the way in time as he swings out onto the road.
From here, the road on up becomes very steep. The tea house and mosque below the castle come into view. Nice place for a rest.
I toil up the steep path getting a couple of pictures. A rattletrap car, a Tofas, plunges down the slope. The Turkish equivalent of an old badly American-made Ford in the l960s. I think the guy might lose it when I see the front wheels sledding down the slick stone path, but then it catches and he makes it down to where the road levels out. Hellish drivers. There is a better road that is the bus route down, but the brave can take the steep short-cut down to Basmane between the old houses.
The view from up here is nothing less that fantastic in three directions. The sea and Izmir below. The sea to the south and north and Karsayaka, the other side of the city. To the east, one can see the outskirts of the city spread out for miles. I have been to the mountain-top, as Martin Luther King said. I have been to the mountain-top and had chicken and rice. But it is not my agenda today.
I have taken pictures here before, so am not interested today. The pilav-tavuk guy is here, selling his delicious rice and chicken. I will not go for it today. He is here every day, year in and year out. There are a few small shops. I notice that the small shop that sold bus tickets for Mardin is now closed and the windows boarded up with cardboard. Didn’t work for some reason.
Other small shops are selling staples, rice, lentils, oil and a few other things peasants and other immigrants will buy.
I venture on up to the bus stop below the castle. I will catch bus number 33 down to Konak. It comes frequently. Some women and young girls come to the small stop for the bus. The bus passes going further up. It will turn and be back in five minutes.
It is a free ride down to konak. The bus catches Esrafpasa Street, getting down out of the poor area, then turns off down curvy Varyant, with great views, to the Konak bus stop below.
What to do? Not ready to hang it up yet, I will grab the Metro over to Basmane Station. I still have film to shoot and want to finish at least one roll.
Just across the street is the nice old pub underneath a hotel, called Boncuk Pub. Beautiful. Traditional. I love it. I will take a short pit stop with a draft beer to build up some steam to shoot the rest of the roll. The bartender here knows me now after a few trips. I have only one beer, just resting my feet.
The wind is still gusty and cold as shit outside. Nothing inviting here to photograph in Cankaya at this point. I have done that, so I drift along the street down to Cankaya Metro stop. It is only one stop back to Konak and from here I can catch bus number 121 over to Alsancak. Surely some interesting shots over there, in spite of the cold.
I join the cold passengers in the comfortable free (for me) bus and arrive over in rather upscale Alsancak. Here it is relatively free of peasants, unlike the Kadafekale side. And full of students, which always makes for an enjoyable area.
Still today, the back streets are rather uninviting in the cold and the outside cafes are relatively bare. Not great for pictures outside. I come across a bookstore that has tables inside, with snacks and drinks. A good chance, I think. And there is a vacant small table. Some students are sitting around studying. Some older customers relaxing and reading. A couple of attractive young women running the tea and coffee department. I love these types of bookstores in Alsancak. Free, free from peasants at last in this cozy intellectual retreat.
And it is good for a few pictures inside. I order some tea and take a couple of shots of the place. There is a large glass window onto the street. To the back, shelves of books. A lovely place.
I check the journals. All Turkish, what the Turkish intellectuals are producing. What they can dare to produce, at least. There is one small section that is dedicated to the old Left. Marx, Lenin, and so on. Old classics. One can educate one’s self if they can take the time and trouble. All the new books in Turkish are here and older ones. I walk around. Get a couple of pictures. It is also a place where friends meet.
I have now hit both sides of the city today, poor and upscale, middle class. While traditional Alsancak is not for peasants, it is still relatively inexpensive, due to the students who fill up most of the small restaurants and pubs in the area.
Leaving the bookstore, I cross over to the Konak side and find an inviting pub, that is now a favorite. Called Varuna Gezgin, there is great beer and food. There are several of these in Turkey. Another in Izmir and some in Istanbul and Ankara. I order a big cold draft beer that I know I am going to enjoy the shit out of. And a burger, that will not be bad after pounding the streets on a cold day with my camera.
My place on a high stool is waiting for me. I love the idea of walls lined with books and magazines and journals one can look through in the place. The place is full of students. They have a hell of a lot of leisure, it seems to me. I never had that when I was a student. I guess I must have been stupid. Or didn’t know how to live. The young women are mostly beautiful. Mostly with guys.
It is a hard life, I reflect, but someone has to do it. So I don’t mind. It is a well-kept secret, fortunately, that old Alsancak is such an incredible place. But then I think about these students. They are here enjoying their beer and leisure, while their Turkish soldiers are now at war in Syria and some are dying. I don’t know to what extent they are even aware of it. They probably do not think of it. Life is certainly not fair. The rich can mostly buy their way out of their military obligation.
I take a turn around the streets. Sure enough, most of the small cafes are full, buzzing with students. It is just that today they are inside due to the cold. Where do they get the money? Probably most are business class. Many have a job cut out for them in the family business. That’s what my students used to tell me. They had no worries about not finding a job. Most were from business families.
It is a rich commercial city. Very affluent here in this sector.
Izmir, Turkey is a long way from where I grew up. A long way in many ways.
What would these students think to know that there are homeless people freezing to death and getting burned up in tents in Ithaca, New York? Right there in a very upscale university town? Totally incomprehensible to them, I suspect.
My students used to be surprised when I told them that there were people living under bridges in America. Some of them went to America and found out that I was not lying.
America the beautiful. No shit!