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Sheepdogs, blisters and tea: 100 km on foot through rural Anatolia

Posted at 14:00, December 6, 2012 in City.

In April my son and I returned from a rather over-ambitious camping trip and I found myself burdened with a load of camping stuff sitting mockingly, accusingly unused in my bedroom. It needed to be put to use, and I needed to take a walk. After some research, I discovered the Evliyah Çelebi Way, ordered the guidebook, and set about planning my odyssey. Çelebi had been an Ottoman traveller, diplomat and adventurer. The Way is the initial part of his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1671. As for me, I was born in Jamaica, grew up in the UK, and have been living and teaching here in Istanbul since ’97.

I was at a point where I wanted to get out of Istanbul for a while and clear my head; I also wanted to travel. Rather than take a bus and see Anatolia with 37cm of leg room, I felt like I needed to count each step, and let everything thing slow down, watching mountains and rivers, valleys and villages pass me by, making each metre travelled a personal experience. For several years I’d also been feeling the urge to challenge myself and accomplish something from start to finish. As a teacher, one rarely gets that sense of having achieved something by their own efforts and skills alone – it’s a collaborative process; and if I couldn’t do it with my hands (doubtful since I’ve no carpentry skills to speak of), then I’d do it on my feet.

Initially, I’d planned to take my trip solo, not too concerned that I had no real experience in this sort of thing; it was essentially walking, and since I’m a pedestrian by both nature and nurture, I figured it was my kind of undertaking. A week before my scheduled departure, a colleague asked if he could join me. He had plenty of previous experience (unfortunately I realised later that all his anecdotes involved getting lost at some point) so we bought some food, planned a shorter 150km trek to Bursa, and arranged to meet in Yalova on the 22nd.

North of Kızderbent

He’d mapped the coordinates into his GPS, with a margin of error of no less than 500 metres– it was particularly great to discover that while trying to descend a mountain through dense scrub and trees. Hopping a dolmuş to Altınova, we dropped south, (having backtracked two kilometres) and found the river we would follow for the next twenty-two kilometres down to Kızderbent. Five minutes into the journey we discovered our first Incredulously Curious Local. After ten minutes explaining ‘I am English, my name’s Adam, yani Adem, he is American, though yes he does look a bit strange for an American, that’s because he was born in Pakistan. He’s a Muslim, I’m Christian’ (I’m an atheist, but have found that many Turks, more so in rural areas, just don’t understand how anyone can be an atheist) and ‘no we don’t have a car, or bikes, and yes we are walking all the way,’ we were back on Evliyah’s trail.

Kızderbent, a traditional village house

We ended up repeating this conversation in each village we stopped at, with the addition of where we’d been, where we were going, and in one village, Mahmudiye, the understanding that no one else had used this trail in quite some time. We’d been suspecting that this might be the case, given that the guidebook occasionally seemed to be describing another walk in a parallel universe. I’d been highly suspicious of the map since the first evening, when we discovered that one village just so happened to be fifteen kilometres from where it should’ve been… a minor detail, really.

You know what’s not a minor detail? The local dogs. We were ambushed wending our way through a gravel pit, and chased five hundred metres by three snarling, salivating, maniacally possessed beasts, probably named Pamuk or Fındık, or something equally innocuous. As a result I spent the entire trip down a mountainside, convinced that I could hear a dog barking in the distance, and expecting to find a whole pack of them around each bend of the dried up river bed, probably waiting for a delicious snack.

Strays were one thing, but the kangal sheepdogs were a whole ’nother ball game. The two pictured are called Toni and Chelsea, and they’re beautiful, loyal, intelligent animals. Well, until a sheep happens to head in your direction, and they turn into foaming, spring-loaded, harbingers of imminent dismemberment. Sometimes the shepherd would whistle them back, but others, they’d just lean on their staffs and watch the fun. I’ll admit there isn’t much distraction in watching sheep graze, but some of these shepherds have a particularly obtuse sense of humour.

Ahmet the shepherd with Toni and Chelsea

I’d often heard of the hospitable nature of Turks, but it isn’t until you’ve wandered into a village, dusty, hot, tired, stale, and unshaven that you realise how true it really is. Numerous times a ten minute rest stop would still be underway forty minutes later, when one glass of tea had become five. At each village, I’d tell our story at least three times as more men arrived at the kahve.

Villages felt like home after only five minutes, and I was struck by the disparity: only in cities do you receive the challenging ‘You’re not from around here’ stare as you travel through a mahalle. We were welcomed into every village with offers of lifts, words of advice and encouragement, and sage heads nodding. Taking our leave, we shook hands – still a meaningful act more than a perfunctory gesture in these remote areas – and munched on our recent gifts of grapes or apples or olives as we made our way towards the inevitable cemetery at the edge of each village, trying to remember if we should fork left, or right…

Time takes on a different meaning in rural Turkey. In Mahmudiye, 1893 is considered a recent year (the year the village was founded by refugees from Bulgaria). We walked in roughly fifty-minute blocks, but gauged our progress by the ever-growing blisters on my feet and the number of stones my friend seemed to accumulate in his sandals. Had it been one hill or two since the last pack of dogs tried to attack us? How many times have we crossed this river, and why did that book tell us to bother at all? And was that the second, or the third left we just passed? Neither of us particularly wanted to go back and check, so we just headed south, counting blisters, stones, and olive trees. The call to prayer is more personal, and the way in which it punctuates the day coming through a wooded valley, or rolling over the rocky highlands is particularly welcoming, and evocative.

On the first night we camped out, by then we were averaging about twenty-five kilometres a day over five hours, so we decided to stay in hotels. There are places to camp in İznik, Yenişehir, and İnegöl, but we did what Evliyah would’ve done (minus the servants and mules) and slept well, and had a hot breakfast prepared for us (mostly hot, anyway; in one hotel in Yenişehir we found ourselves wondering what day the egg had been boiled).

We passed a family as we were walking down from Yeniyöruk. This was shortly after we’d been ambushed by two of the biggest kangals I’ve ever seen, but we were hardened men by this point, and counter-charged. We’d had enough barking and snapping after 3 days on the trail and (thankfully) the feral beasts turned tail and ran. We limped on, basking in the glory of our feat. Although we’d initially only meant to stop and ask to refill our water bottles, we were treated to a full kurban meal, including a huge plate of homemade baklava.

The walk into İnegöl was punctuated by the occasional left or right turn, one last spirited ambush by three Beagle puppies, and watching various men perform the sacrifice required on the first day of Kurban Bayramı. I stood and watched as a beautiful black cow was ritually slaughtered. I have no particular moral compunction about killing animals for food, and it’d be hypocritical of me to comment on whether it’s right to do it for religious reasons, so I won’t. I’ll just say that it was an intensely personal experience.

The author in Yalova, heading home

We decided against walking to Bursa. By that stage we were both hobbling on our last plasters. We’d walked, slid, limped and slogged 100km in four days. Sitting in a taxi, explaining where we’d journeyed from, the driver turned to me and said, ‘Vallah abi, ben sana taktir vereceğim.’ He looked at me with appreciation and respect, and I remembered why I’d set out in the first place. It felt good, that sense of achievement. Adam Bowden

 

Lomography turns 20!

Posted at 14:00, November 20, 2012 in City.

It’s been a whole 20 years since Lomography brought highly saturated and weirdly beautiful pictures to our lives. Now, this calls for a celebration! Swing by Lomo’s birthday party at Galata this Friday and maybe even stay for the after party at Urban Bug Lounge?

Şahkulu Mahallesi, Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak 5B, Beyoğlu

23 November 2012

20:30 – 23:00

 

 

 

 

Missing Ataturk

Posted at 18:06, November 9, 2012 in City.

There’s a good chance you were awakened by a loud siren precisely at 09.05 a.m. this Saturday. The reason traffic stopped, people got out of their cars and began honking; the reason everyone on the streets froze and stood at attention for a full minute was to pay their respects to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on the anniversary of his passing 74 years ago. The remembrance of Ataturk is not merely state business, a formal commemoration, just another day on the calendar in Turkey, but as evidenced by this dignified gesture of millions and by the tears in their eyes, a very personal business. The world has yet to see a leader as smart, competent and visionary as he was in all aspects of running a country. We revere and love him for fighting off the enemy and for our metamorphosis into a modern republic; we love him for his interest in fine arts, for his commitment to rational and positive thought, to education, to women’s rights, to a million other things that’s made our life today possible. We’re eternally grateful, and we truly, truly miss him.

 

Nam June Paik Award goes to Cevdet Erek

Posted at 17:00, November 6, 2012 in Arts & Culture.

Whether you’re basking in the glow of the city’s current artistic invasion or wondering if, even though art’s not really your thing, it’d be worth stopping by for an afternoon, here’s something you might want to consider. Turkish artist Cevdet Erek, who you may remember for his part in dOCUMENTA (13) or seen his works at such establishments as the Tate Modern and the Istanbul Biennial, was recently awarded the famous Nam June Paik Award. Founded in 2002 and awarded every two years by the Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Nam June Paik Award seeks to put together an exhibition featuring a variety of works by a group of young artists whose creations bear visible ties to Nam June Paik’s oeuvre. It’s named after Nam June Paik, a Korean-American artist who was known for his work in a variety of different mediums and is considered the first video artist. One of these artists is then chosen and awarded the prize as well as 25,000 Euro.

You can see art by Erek at Gallery Mana’s Reflecting on Reflection until November 10 and between November 22-15 at Contemporary Istanbul, at Galerie AKINCI’s booth.  Lara Conway

 

Oktoberfest comes to Istanbul

Posted at 14:00, November 2, 2012 in City, Food & Drink.

One of the world’s most established and enjoyable celebrations, the famous Oktoberfest is taking place with organisation by Pepe Events, on November 3 at Kemer Golf & Country Club.

Offering a traditional German Oktoberfest menu including a variety of sausages, potato salad, spätzle, soups, brezel and apfelstrudel, the event promises to create a warm atmosphere where Turkish and German cultures are united.

Behind the 12-hour long event is a committee familiar with German and Turkish culture.

As for entertainment, you can expect a performance by Can Bonomo, university bands Deep Note and Namütenahi, as well as various dance performances and more. Furthermore, a number of leading brands will be introducing their products to festivalgoers.

Assistance will be provided from central locations such as the Sanayi Mahallesi Metro Exit, Beşiktaş and Taksim, to facilitate transportation and arrival on the day.

Tickets for the event sponsored by tv8 are available from Biletix.

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What is Oktoberfest?

Held for the first time to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I, Oktoberfest is a festival that is still beloved today, and held for 16 days from late September to the first weekend in October in Munich’s Theresienwiese. People come from all over the world to celebrate in the giant tents set up on the grounds.

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Oh, and if you feel like having a little Octoberfest on your own, check out our favourite places for a cold one and yummy, fried treats!

 

Top 5 Halloween parties for tonight

Posted at 13:00, October 31, 2012 in City.

Hall-a-Normal Activity

The Hall’s annual Halloween party is Paranormal Activity-themed this year, for extra gooey flavour. (And what better place to feel the terror than a 145-year-old church building?) There’s going to be a costume contest, performances and DJ sets by Discoman and Virgin Radio’s Atilla Özdal. Don’t miss this horrific visual show, because, you know, sleeping like a baby is soo out.

The Hall Küçük Bayram Sokak, 7, Beyoğlu. (0212) 244 87 37. 25 TL.

 

Bloody Date

One of the latest additions to Asmalımescit, Date’s brought gastronomy and design together. Tonight, they’re adding some spooky fun to that mixture with their Bloody Date Halloween party. Come in costume, and leave yourself to the able hands of make-up artists who’ll be on the premises to ugly up their guests.

Date Ensiz Sokak 1\B, Beyoğlu. (0212) 243 81 26

 

Scary Night at the Museum

For a classy, art-loving night of terror, head over to Pera Museum. After a tour of the museum, you can enjoy the Terror Pop performance by Müzik Hayvanı, the independent music production group, followed by a screening of the cult horror classic Horror Express (1972).

Pera Museum Meşrutiyet Caddesi 141, Beyoğlu. (0212) 334 99 00. 10 TL (regular)/ free (students)

 

Halloween Nite Mixed Up!

Ghetto mixes things up a little bit tonight with Naim Dilmener and Orkun Tunç (Rashit) in the booth. As you travel back in time and dance to those 80s tunes, remember just how scary hairdos were back then.

Ghetto Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Kamer Hatun Caddesi 10, Beyoğlu. (0212) 251 75 01

 

Creepy Fun at SupperClub

SupperClub’s the address for those of you who want to boo and dine. They’re offering a special menu for tonight as well as dance shows and suprises. The DJ sets by Hakan Zambak and Mehmet Okumuş begin at 23.00.

SupperClub Istanbul Muallim Naci Caddesi 65, Ortaköy.

 

A risky journey: Cloud Atlas

Posted at 14:00, October 26, 2012 in Arts & Culture.

Cloud Atlas, one of the most anticipated films of this year, hits theatres today. The cast of the film looks like this:

Tom Hanks as Dr. Henry Goose / Isaac Sachs / Dermot Hoggins / Zachry Bailey

Halle Berry as N’Fera / Jocasta Ayrs / Luisa Rey / Ovid / Meronym

Jim Broadbent as Vyvyan Ayrs / Timothy Cavendish / Prescient

Hugo Weaving as Haskell Moore / Tadeusz Kesselring / Bill Smoke / Nurse Noakes / Mephi / Old Georgie

Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing / Lloyd Hooks / Hae-Joo Chang / Adam Bailey

Susan Sarandon as Madame Horrox / Ursula / Abbess

Hugh Grant as Reverend Horrox / Alberto Grimaldi / Seer Rhee / Cannibal

Does anything strike you as odd? Yeah, all actors have multiple parts to play. Now, this could get a little confusing. An adaptation of David Mitchell’s best-seller of the same name, (dubbed “unfilmable” by many), the film is a centuries-spanning epic of human kind analysing how our lives and actions are intricately interwoven paths continuously affecting one another. Which means this: Cloud Atlas is one of those films that you’ll either absolutely just love love love, or it will make you want to put a bullet through your head instead of sitting through 172 minutes of undecipherableness. After all, it took 3 directors to handle the content of the book; the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run).

I’d like to leave you with the words of film critic Nick Spake, who’s commented that ‘Somewhat reminiscent of a cross between Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” “Cloud Atlas” is a risky, passionate journey that’s deserving of in-depth study.’

Maybe a filmic challenge every once in a while isn’t so bad, no?

 

Istanbul at its best

Posted at 19:00, October 24, 2012 in Arts & Culture, City, Food & Drink, Music.

By metropolitan standards, Istanbul’s practically become a ghost town. If you’re among the ‘lucky few’ to be enjoying the city during the bayram holiday, we’ve got a couple of pointers for you.

It seems that the weather will be reasonably nice throughout the bayram so you can still enjoy a looong breakfast or two outside, preferably by the sea. You can walk around the city aimlessly and get lost in the streets of Balat or Kuzguncuk that you only know from Instagram photos but never had the chance to visit yourself. You can discover lost gems at flea markets or vintage stores. You can go on a ‘Mini Istanbul‘ tour, marvelling at these tiny beautiful shops. You can swing by Anadolu Kavagi or Rumeli Feneri for a brisk walk in fresh air followed by a fish feast by the Bosphorus. Bayram’s also the perfect time to visit those two museums you’re almost ashamed to admit that you’ve never been to, Miniaturk and the Rahmi Koç Museum (the first is open throughout the holiday; the latter is closed only on Thursday.)

If you’d like to catch up on your theatre-going, we’ve got 3 must-see flicks for you: Looper, an action thriller; Hysteria, a romantic comedy and The Angel’s Share, a heart-warming drama. Also, Mick Harvey at on the 25th and the Oldies but Goldies on 27th are two Babylon events that we strongly recommend.

We wish a happy bayram to everybody with their families and loved ones!

 

Lovely art. Lots of it.

Posted at 14:00, October 22, 2012 in Arts & Culture.

In the lovely neighbourhood of Emirgan is a colourful and imaginative space where kids are welcome to get messy as long as they create and enjoy themselves. Alara Hindle’s Lola, short for ‘Lots of Lovely Art’, is an art studio for children ages 18 months to 12 years. We use the term art studio loosely, as Lola not only holds every kind of art workshop from oil painting to recycled sculptures but also organizes birthday parties, summer camps and has a lending library of around 2000 titles in Turkish, English and French. It’s also a perfect space for expat families or those with a keen interest in raising a bilingual kid- all classes held here are in English.

The studio will be closed during the bayram holiday, but do make plans to participate in one of their workshops later. Here’s their schedule and here’s our interview with Lola’a artistic entrepreneur, Alara.

 

North Aegean Narratives

Posted at 17:00, October 18, 2012 in Arts & Culture.

There’s a screening of 16 short films at Beyoğlu Sineması today at 20.00. Collaborative effort of 8 Turkish and 8 Greek media artists, these films are part of a project called ‘North Aegean Narratives’, which aims to foster mutual understanding between the two countries through art. The films explore issues of religion, culture, tradition and gender in Turkey and Greece.

 


Illustrations and animation by: Gökalp Gönen

You can find more about the project here.

 

 
 
the Time Out Istanbul in English blog: never miss a beat Ajans Medya © 2013 All rights reserved.