Tuesday in December

Tuesday in December (2016)

Today, I shoot two rolls of black and white film. It was mostly sunny with some white fleecy clouds.

After getting the metro to Basmane Railway Station, I start to walk down Anafartalar Caddesi through the market. There are many shops, tea places, and some restaurants in this old traditional area. I found it to be a good place for street photography.

Now Syrian refugees have largely taken over the place. The Turks are not very happy about it, generally. Many of the shops have been taken over by the new immigrants. One now sees women fully robed in black, heads and sometimes faces completely covered. This is not normal, except in some places in the southeast of the country. It is tricky getting pictures of them, so one must do it clandestinely. Sometimes, one can wait for them to walk into the frame of the picture, while pretending to be photographing something else. Sometimes I walk past them and then shoot the picture from the other side, as if shooting a shop.

Near the big square next to Hamidiye Camii, there is an old traditional house. There is a plaque on the side that says that it is the house where the imam (religious official) was living who married Ataturk and his wife, Latifiye. The house is now empty but once was a sort of mansion. The ground floor is of stone, but the upper floor is wooden with a balcony, now in a state of decay. It is now falling down. No one is doing anything to restore it, apparently.

At any rate, it seems that his wife was more of a nuisance to Mustafa Kemal than anything else. He had bigger things on his mind and liked his independence. He was a military man, after all. He was making a nation. Not an easy task, when one had to fight a war and overcome all the political obstacles. Politics got in the way. He was sitting up nights with his associates, often playing cards and drinking raki. Sometimes till dawn, it is said.

At some point, not too long after the marriage, Ataturk divorced Latifiye. It seems that she was just in the way, especially when he had to travel around the country.  He gave up the idea of marriage. Smart man!

Almost down to the ancient Agora ruins, there is a very old hamam. It is hard to get good photographs of it in the narrow lane and the parked cars and trucks get in the way of the beautiful old wall that would make a great photograph. Too many cars get in the way of good photographs in this city. I try to keep cars out of my photographs as much as possible. But it is generally not possible. It is impossible to frame the shot.

Across from this old hamam is a kiratanesi, a tea house, where mostly old men meet, talk politics, and play games all through the day. It seems that the women do the work at home, while the men take their leisure outside the house. At least it seems true of this class of people.

I meet a Turkish guy in the small street. Being a foreigner, I must have caught his eye. One cannot help but sometimes stand out. He is running the tea room and invites me in for tea. I guess he liked me. Hospitality is a part of Turkish culture, after all. Certainly, more so than in Europe and the USA.

He brings me a small cup (glass) of tea. He asks me how the tea is. I tell him that it is good, but a little strong. (Guzel, ama az sert.) I tell him that it is “Muslu.” Mus is a rough city in the east of Turkey. He tells me that it is “Mardin” or “Sanlurfa” cay. OK. So, he got the point, that it was strong, but good. The common people in a down-scale area like this, generally like it strong. And maybe need it that way. I am able to get a couple of pictures of the place inside. More local colour.

When I start to pay, he refuses to take anything for the tea.

Down at the Agora Ruins, a team is working on the restoration that has been continuing for a long time. It is a treasure for tourism, but unfortunately, is not visited very much, especially not in the winter months. Fewer cruise ships are coming to the city now, after a couple of terrorist incidents. However, there seems to be very little danger for tourists here. They are always treated well.

When I start to take a picture through the gap in the fence, the guard tells me “no.” So I walk on, taking a picture through the iron railing a little further on. It is free to go inside and take pictures, but one must walk all the way around to the opposite side. At any rate, it is not on my agenda today.

Along the iron grate fence an old man is watering his tomato plants that he has planted along the fence. Even though it is December, they are actually producing tomatoes in the warm sunshine. Some of them, while small, are turning red. He tells me that one can grow them even in the winter time.

Walking around to the other side of the ruins, there is a small park, where I sit down and change my film. I then begin the long walk up the steep path between the old houses. It is a narrow, paved lane that goes up to Kadafekale, the castle at the top of the hill.

I go slow, taking my time. I must cling to the sides of the path when cars or small trucks come along. That is something that one must watch out for carefully, when taking pictures in Turkey, especially in these old traditional areas. It is a steep path all the way up, a good, hard walk. I take pictures along the way. A rich area for photography.

The easier way, of course, is to just take Bus number 33 from the Konak Bus Stop. But there is no challenge in that! I am not trying to be a hero. Just trying to get some good photos. That takes leg work. There is no other way.

I finally make it up the steep path. Just below the castle, there are a few shops and a tea place next to the mosque. I have tea and take a rest. There is a fantastic view of the city from up here. The very poor people who live up here have the very best view of the city.  The city below, the bay, and the mountains beyond. A beautiful panorama.

I start back down the hill on foot. It is very steep, but much easier than coming up. I am soon happy to be back at the old bazaar.

On the way to Basmane station, I pass a wine shop and buy a jug of Sirince wine. Sirince is a small village up in the hills to the south. The sunny hills produce good grapes for great wine. I am very tired by this time from the walk.

In the evening, I try the red wine. It is tasty, with a slight sweet taste, even though it is “dry.” God! I love doing this type of photography. I develop both rolls of film in the evening and scan the negatives while sipping some of the wine.

The wind picks up in the evening. Snow is on the way for most of the country, although one never expects snow in Izmir. It is a terribly hard struggle in the east, where villagers get snowed in for days.

It is December 2016 and the USA is just about to get a new President. I count my blessings that I am not there. I predict in my journal that Trump’s White House is going to be the greatest collection of political failures in history.

Probably the easiest prediction I ever made.

January 22, 2018

Izmir, Turkey