Saturday, September 09, 2006

Something else

View to the Asian side
Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
An empty outdated lobby, man in his nearly-30s, bottle of beer and his laptop. There's desperation for you if you want to see it in that light.

One of my biggest projects for this year - a journalistic conference on popular culture - is now over. Most of the people already sit on the plane on their way to one of the 20 home countries. I decided stay behind, to take a few days in Istanbul after the event.

Although I have produced several events, I never get used to this empty feeling once the event is over. Especially as an organiser I have had maximum 2-minute discussions with more than 80 people for five days and suddenly everyone is gone. As Michael Stipe puts it in Leaving New York:
"It's easier to leave than to be left behind
Leaving was never my proud"

Today I walked by myself for a few hours around the Golden Horn of Istanbul. I noticed already on my last visit how the urban landscape is dominated by men. This seems to be the case especially on the European side - in Beyoglu, around Taksim square and in Tünel. But going to the bazaar today showed the other side - women and children. I really do not know what to make of this division. I wonder if it is an issue than will change also for the locals with issues such as mass tourism (Ryanair just opened London-Istanbul) and European integration.

With all its messiness, loudness and smells, I am in love in Istanbul. I can very much relate to the fascination expressed in Fatih Akin's documentary Crossing the Bridge. The combination of a glorious past and an extremely young population is something that you do not come across anywhere else in Europe. The youthfulness generates a passion and eagerness that I truly envy. During the last week I have a great group of highly talented and relentless young Turks with the willingess to put their words into action and take a personal stand. As I said to a friend of mine earlier today, every visit to Istanbul makes me want to see more but at the same time the trips make me very cautious on making any statements about this city.

I think it was a good move to bring a group of hip and intelligent journalists to Istanbul. As one of them said, the mystified exotism has been replaced in the minds of many by phrases such as underground, ass-kicking and trendy. And as my dear Turkish friend said yesterday:"It is funny how it has been so surprising to so many that we are young, fun, drink beer and still are Muslim."

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