Sunday Walk in December:
Needing exercise, I catch the bus and metro to Basmane Railway Station. I never mind riding public transportation for free and am thankful to get some services for the taxes I pay. It is only fair, after all. In Izmir, one can go anywhere for free if one is over sixty-five. Perhaps the USA would be rich enough to do that as well. Is the US a poorer country than Turkey? Well, perhaps it is in some ways. Certainly, in my humble view. At least there is often a sharp lack of public services.
The Basmane area is a great place for photography. I love the old bazaar along Anafartalar Street from Basmane down to the Agora Ruins. I take my time and shoot a roll of film.
Many of the old hotels near the station are now defunct or closed. Some seem to be falling into decay. The area is being taken over by refugees from the war in Syria. It used to be a flourishing area. Now the better hotels are further down toward the Agora ruins. Still, as a market area, it seems to be flourishing. They Syrian shops have become established.
I meet a young guy, a Syrian from Damascus who is running a small barber shop in the bazaar. He knows some English and likes to have his picture taken. People are always impressed when they find out that I am from “America.” This is true, even though the policies of the US Government are almost invariably hated. US policies in Turkey are incredibly unpopular, in fact, while impressions of the US as a country are highly positive. Most, especially down-scale people would love to have the chance to go.
The young barber also thinks that “America” is a great place and wants to go there! This is true, even after what the US has done inside his country`, causing him to have to live in exile. How can I disabuse him of that notion? The truth is that I can’t. Perhaps for him, there is more opportunity in Turkey. But how could he know if that is true?
American propaganda is so powerful in shaping people’s minds around the world, especially the minds of the common people! And the foreign media, as in Turkey, generally contribute to that positive image. Perhaps this is changing some, however. People tend to get the idea that the streets are paved with gold in the USA and that money drips off every tree.
I put another roll of black and white film in my Leica M6 and walk up the steep streets from Basmane. This is the hill with narrow streets and lanes that leads up to Kadafekale at the top of the hill. The ancient name for Kadafekale was Mount Pagus. The surrounding city was refounded by Alexander the Great in 334 BC.
It is a steep walk. There are endless places to photograph in this old area of the city. Mostly old houses, sometimes crumbling. On the way up, a high stone wall appears, with huge square stones. Some houses have fallen into ruin. Some have been abandoned but now some have been taken over by refugees from Syria. It is a challenge to capture it on film.
I meet school kids in the street who sometimes like to have their pictures taken. I meet some young girls, teenagers. They are happy to meet me and pose for pictures. They ask if I can put the pictures on “social media.” I tell them that I can, but then they have second thoughts and ask me not to.
Some young kids are mischievous. I am friendly with them. But one young kid playfully sticks his finger into my camera lens and then runs away. The other kids are better behaved. I get a couple of pictures of them. Generally, people are friendly toward me. However not everyone wants to have their picture taken. I don’t mind. But sometimes I can get a shot of them while pretend to be photographing something else. When I pass an interesting scene, sometimes I can circle back and get a good shot, discreetly.
The young people and kids ask to see their pictures at once in the back of the camera and are surprised when they cannot. Sorry, I am shooting film. At first, they do not understand that there is such a thing as film. They have probably never seen a film camera.
As one climbs higher, one starts to get a great view of the city below. Some of the people living in the poorest areas have the greatest view of the city below. The tall hotels, the harbour, and the other side of the city beyond. A vast panorama.
By the time I am nearing the top of the hill, I have used up all of my film. I will not make it all the way up to the castle today. I should have brought more film, although I have already shot two rolls. It should be enough for one day.
Lacking film, and anyway needing a rest, I start back down the hill by a different path. It is sometimes too steep for me to walk comfortably in the middle of the concrete and sometimes rocky path. One must take one’s time and take precaution on these rough streets. Sometimes there are high and uneven stops along the sides of the narrow path between houses.
The path is almost straight down. Many steep steps, a steep paved path and no railing to hold onto. So I have to take my time sometimes walking close to the houses.
Small kids appear carrying small pieces of thick white plastic material. It is a kind of building material that has been discarded. A couple of them sit on the plastic, making a sled of it and slide down the steep cement path. It is crazy as they come down wild and fast, I have to stay out of their way. They sometimes soar over rough steps as they come down dangerously. I wonder how they keep from killing themselves. I wish that I had more film.
In some places, I find it impossible to walk down the steep path. I am afraid of slipping as it is wet with soapy drain water. I go down slowly, holding onto the sides and rest from time to time. I wonder how people live up here. It should be especially hard for the elderly, but perhaps they get used to it. What else can they do? The poor have to put up with what they can get.
It is an amazing place and I am glad that I have discovered it. The old bazaar reminds me of India a lot.
I spend most of the day pounding the pavement. At the bottom of the hill, I am again at the Agora Ruins. I catch Anatartalar Street which winds through Kemeralti. As it is Sunday, most of the shops are closed today. By the time I get the Konak Metro, I am quite tired.
In fact, I am tired as shit. But that is good. I will develop my film in the evening and see what I have. It has been an interesting day.
Next time, I will be sure to take enough film and walk all the way up to the castle. If one’s legs give out, one can always catch bus number 33 which runs from Konak up to Kadafekale and back.
The American officials are always warning Americans about the dangers they may face in Turkey. Don’t believe it. Most likely, the Turks will take good care of you. Just don’t give anyone a hard time. Come to think of it, maybe that is America’s main problem. When will they ever learn?