Monday, June 3, 2013

Istanbul, Turkey: When The Dust Temporarily Cleared

[Warning: Graphic content]

The dust temporarily cleared when we flew out of Atatürk Airport early this morn. We're now more than a thousand kilometers away, shivering under a doona in a rented Tbilisi unit, yet my heart yearns for Turkey. And though my body's overly sore  beyond Efficascent Oil repair (yes I have a bottle in our first aid kit) — from a two-week spring fling with/mad dash around the country, I am still wishing the embassy gave my visa a few days more. 

Because yeah, we would have stayed longer even with the anti-government clashes that erupted in Istanbul.

War zone-ish. Photo from The Times Of Israel.

 Water cannons used to disperse the demonstrators. Photo from Mirror News.

Taksim Square. Blood or red-dyed water (from cannons) to mark protesters?. Photo from IntelliHub.

Yesterday, we warily roamed the streets in and around Sultanahmet Square. We noticed that the number of foreign tourists significantly declined. It was our last whole day in the city, we can't let it go to waste. Never mind the ongoing social unrest a few kilometers northeast and well, our aching legs. The plan was to drag our arses to the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest permanent enclosed markets in the world, after checking out of the dilapidated Atlantis Hotel at midday then meet up with a fellow travel blogger late afternoon.

The former was a plan that didn't fall through, because unbeknownst to us, the bazaar's closed on Sundays (Sundays?!). So we resolved to buying a few knickknacks from shops surrounding it. After our last lunch in the country, which did not consist any form of lamb — because ermergehd we had too much of it, we strolled back to the hotel to grab our luggage and transferred to the charming Naz Wooden House.

There was barely time to lay our heads down on tempting beds for I received a Facebook message from Sabrina, the bubbly blogger behind Just One Way Ticket, saying she has accomplished all her errands and that she's ready for tea. Cause yah know in Turkey it's always time for tea.

Photo by Sabrina, taken from her flat's balcony in Taksim.

Sabrina and I were interviewed for a 2011 Couchsurfing video but we never met personally until that day. Her scenes were shot in Istanbul where she was couchsurfing/traveling that time. Ours (we were featured as a family) on the other hand were shot in Australia, where we were spending some time with relatives before continuing our round-the-world-trip.

Because we're both travel bloggers, we somehow found each other online early this year.

We fetched her from the hotel she's staying at for a five-day gig. She emerged from the lift looking like a ray of sunshine slicing through Istanbul's gloomy sky that afternoon. She just checked in that day, and came from her rented flat which sits in the area where clashes between protesters and Turkish police took place. I remember reading her Facebook status about being trapped in a Starbucks branch when the chaos began the night prior.

She witnessed the bedlam firsthand, while I, only saw a small parade of demonstrators along Kennedy Avenue. But we're both furious. If you've been following the news, you'd know about the fight for Taksim's Gezi Park (which will be turned into a commercial center). It's one of the few remaining green, open spaces in the city. There's a bigger story to tell which I do not know of, about what the Turkish Prime Minister and his ruling Justice and Development Party has or has not done for the country, but I find it difficult not to judge.

Will you do the same just to be heard? I certainly ain't got the cojones for this. Photo from IntelliHub.

Peaceful protesters were doused with tear gas and pepper spray, the canisters thrown straight at them. Water cannons were used to shoo disoriented people out of the park. The news never made it to Turkey's telly. I surfed the channels and only saw dubbed foreign films, dubbed cartoons (to Luna's delight), and cooking shows. I read somewhere that Miss Turkey was on too, and I uhm, regret not being able to catch that.

Also on Saturday, Facebook didn't load properly when accessed from Istanbul, because "they throttled the bandwidth to the bare minimum". At first I thought the internet connection of the 70€ room we were bunked in last Saturday had a wonky connection cause I cannot see photos on Facebook, and I let myself utter a slew of ugly curses (cause hello, 70€?). Then I read that TechCrunch article which made me question... Where's the freedom of speech?

It's a heavy matter to tackle. Sabrina and I did not to dwell on it. Like in any meetup of two nomadic people, we exchanged stories about where we've been and where we're going. In between sips of Turkish tea and bites of gozleme sprouted topics like visa hassles, cheap flights and Philippine's stunning beaches.

Amidst the mayhem, our last day in Turkey somehow ended light.

It was too short a time.

We ended our tea session just before nightfall. Sabrina walked us to Hagia Sophia where we bade farewell with a double beso. A shiny-happy ending to our whirlwind, fifteen-day visit. A kind of ending I am hoping for the Turkish fighting to save a park.


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Francis Balgos said...
June 5, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Ehmergerd! I have to read this..
You were in the middle of all this mayhem.. hay!
I didnt know its possible to reduce bandwidth on social media website..

Pandelicious said...
June 5, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Wow. Easy to overlook the injustice happening around the world if you always stay in a different part of it. :( Amazing travels Gaye i'm floored by all the places you've been already! Turkey was the one of the tourism councils that i really connected with at TBEX-- hehe, i'd wanna go there so bad :D

BTW where's the mandatory Luna pic?

Gay Emami said...
June 5, 2013 at 7:12 PM

Luna's photos scream bliss, and I thought it's not appropriate for a heavy article... Sab and I clearly look like we're, err, having a fine time here though.

Gay Emami said...
June 5, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Yeah, insane noh? I was flabbergasted that I could watch Youtube shows but not load Facebook!

mountains&beyond said...
June 5, 2013 at 8:33 PM

wow... you manage to pull it through..

Melo Villareal said...
June 5, 2013 at 10:43 PM

that was indeed a sad story but Im happy to see two equally beautiful travel bloggers together:)

Claire | Traveling Light said...
June 5, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Glad to see you're safe and happy!

And yes, the Turkish deserve a shiny-happy ending - and beginning. ;)

Shugah Pauline G. said...
June 6, 2013 at 10:19 AM

glad to hear you guys are safe! grabe! this was insane ha having reduced bandwidth on facebook. really terrifying! I would love to visit turkey sans such mayhem... one day one day <3

Sab said...
June 7, 2013 at 5:27 AM

<3 Aaaaaaaw <3

Sab said...
June 7, 2013 at 5:37 AM

Very charming Mr. Melo :)

Eileen of The Super Tourists said...
June 7, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Just got to read about Turkey!
Bitin na bitin pero at least you guys were able to go around despite the protests.

How is Georgia???

Jeffrey Rilles said...
June 7, 2013 at 8:32 AM

bloody :( Andun pala kayo during protests. Taz parang may news black-out pa na nangyari dyan :(

Gay Emami said...
June 7, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Yes, sadly walang freedom of speech. No wonder the people are very angry.

Gay Emami said...
June 7, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Thankfully yes. But then again, the places we visited outside Istanbul, di alam ng locals ang nangyayari.

Georgia's... Hmmm... Let's just say the spark died a lil. Sadly I'm comparing it with the country we've been prior :( My bad.

Gay Emami said...
June 7, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Really sad :(

Gay Emami said...
June 7, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Hope to see you again someday, somewhere :)

Carlo said...
June 7, 2013 at 8:16 PM

The pictures look so disturbing especially the one with a bloodstream. I have a friend/co-worker from Turkey and she said it has been a mad rally over Istanbul. Great thing to know you guys are well. You all inspire me.

Eileen of The Super Tourists said...
June 10, 2013 at 8:17 AM

carry lang. happens to all of us :P
keep calm and something na lang, i guess :D

Ephraim Arriesgado said...
June 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Turkey is now back in the world headlines for violence in the streets. And it's still in Taksim Square. It's truly unique experience for you. :) said...
June 13, 2013 at 12:52 AM

I know! Poor protesters :( said...
June 13, 2013 at 12:52 AM

It's quite a shocking sight :(

Mehmet said...
July 20, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Omg thats lie. this thing on the street is not blood. it is painted water to mark bad guys inside the protesters. do you see hor much liquid on the ground? i think 30people need to die in same point so they can make street like that. please look for truth on your posts. international media was so happy to make a chaos in turkey. they wanted to show that there was a war in turkey. i work near Galata Tower whish is only 1km away from Taksim. And nothing happened here. there were no protests here no police no tear gas...

Mehmet said...
July 20, 2013 at 7:02 PM


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