Beauty lies within: Tarlabasi, the other Istanbul
Two of the things I most love about traveling are 1. taking photos of people and 2. discovering the unexpected. When I travel I often wander the streets, studying people’s faces, the way they walk, talk, interact. I wonder who they might be, inventing little stories for myself what sort of lives they might be living, whether they’re happy, what dreams and ambitions they have, where they’re going in life. I marvel at their happiness, their wisdom, their freedom, i feel for their sadness, frustration or anger.
Because to me that’s what travel is all about: people. They’re the ones who made their country’s history, who shape their culture, build their houses and sights, who make the laws, cook the food and speak the language. People are the single greatest thing on this planet and they’re worth any trip. More than that, they mustn’t be overlooked by tourists like they so often are.
The first time I arrived in Istanbul back in February of this year I took note right away of the run down abandoned houses lining one side of Tarlabasi Boulevard. I found it difficult to make sense of the mashed in doors and windows, crumbling walls, the waste everywhere. Just on the other side of the boulevard the very heart of Istanbul was beating with the Taksim area offering all the bars, restaurants, shops and clubs a city traveler could desire. I was curious about what I could expect from that part of town and one afternoon during my last trip to Istanbul this summer I took my camera and with it I walked through the narrow streets of that part of town called Tarlabasi.
Tarlabasi is part of the Beyoglu district and expands over 20.000 sqm. It is home to mostly Greek and Kurdish immigrents and a growing population of Roma. I was quite curious about this part of town and as it turns out – 2 hours spent here were the highlight of my Istanbul trip.
In no time I fell in love with all the kids playing in the streets who were more than delighted to let me take their photo, giggling when I showed it to them afterwards. Soon enough I noticed women peaking out from their windows, curiously looking who I was. It seemed that within no time word had spread that I was going around taking snaps and suddenly I was ushered left and right by people asking me to take their portrait as well.
Groups of men sitting outside their shops invited me over to share a cup of tea, toothless old grandpas lurked outside from their shops to see what was going on and more and more kids came to see what the fuzz was all about.
It was wonderful. Something I can only recommend doing next time you’re in Istanbul. There is some caution advised, because this is also a neighborhood of very low income families. There are drugs being sold everywhere and the area should definitely be avoided in the dark due to the risk of petty crime. During the day however, there are plenty of people hanging out, always willing to pose for a photo or have you practise the Turkish you don’t yet speak.
Istanbul really is a special city with inspiration waiting at every corner. If you’re planning a trip there, definitely have a read-through my Travelettes Guide to Istanbul.