Thursday, January 12, 2012


Sofa goes to Cihangir

Smiling faces, blistered hands; we carry a heavy bag with our inflatable sofa down steep, winding streets behind Galata High school, through the land of second hand and antique shops of Çukurcuma and all the way down to the kingdom of Turkish hipsterity – Cihangir.

A very brief history

The neighbourhood, situated in central district of Beyoğlu, between Taksim and Tophane-Kabataş strip, owes its charm to narrow streets with beautiful 19th and early 20th century houses.
The origin of the name takes us back to the Ottoman times. In 16th century the area was forested hunting destination, frequented by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and one of his eights offspring -Cihangir. When the young prince passed away Sultan asked the great architect Sinan to build a mosque commemorating his son and granting the name to the neighbourhood. During 19th century the area witnessed a considerable influx of non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire, whose impact is still apparent in architecture. Greeks and Armenians began to desert the area or were forced to leave when tensions between communities grew in the final phase of the empire and early days of the newly established Turkish republic. Urbanization process and growing significance of Istanbul as a major domestic, labour market resulted in chain, economic migration from rural areas. Cihangir was one of the places where the newcomers from Anatolia settled. From 1970s onwards the district started to resemble a jigsaw made up of poor eastern families, underrated artists and banned intellectuals. Some of my Turkish friends, who used to live there during the early 1990s (their rebellious good old days) claim that Cihangir was populated mainly by students, pickpockets, prostitutes and bohemian outcasts. The gentrification, which started in the late 1990s and continues until present, changed the character of the neighbourhood transforming it into an expensive, hip, a must-hang-out kind of district.

It's trendy, it's organic, it's cosmopolitan!

Nowadays the district is one of the favourite spots of foreigners coming to Istanbul. Here, after weeks of having simit, pogaca or acma for breakfast, you can celebrate all the familiar flavours! You’re round the corner from ‘White Mill’, which serves American style pancakes; you can pop into one of the veggie friendly eateries where nobody tries to argue that chicken is a vegetarian dish. Go to ‘Cuppa Juice’ to rinse it all with one of the super-colourful, organic fruit cocktails, with a touch of Echinacea to boost your immune system. In the afternoon relax at famous ‘Cihangir Yoga’, stop by at ‘Porto Bello’ to shop for an evening apparel and finish it all with a fresh, minty mojito, listening to chill out music at ‘Kiki’. So if you’re searching for ‘authentic’ go to a different part of the city, as Cihangir is all about cosmopolitan, trendy lifestyle.

Show me your garbage and I’ll tell you who you are

What can somebody tell you about the district by digging through its trash? Ali Mendillioğlu, a garbage collector and a head of the ‘Solid Waste Workers Association’ of Istanbul is also a writer for website. He goes from one neighbourhood to another, taking a close look at what people dispose off and provides readers with an interesting social analysis of the neighbourhood through the prism of its garbage.
Judging by discarded lifestyle magazines, perfume bottles and clothes he infers that nowadays Cihangir attracts mostly young, single, middle class women who are after anonymity and personal freedom. Extracting empty pizza boxes, organic food containers, vitamins, diet pills and empty jam jars (brands you’ve never heard of) Mr Mendillioğlu deepens his analysis, claiming that Cihangir is populated mostly by western individualism seekers and capitalist philosophy followers; for whom personal freedom, money, good looks and socializing are the key words. They consume beer and cheap wine at home to get tipsy and spend more on expensive, show-off cocktails at trendy Cihangir bars. Labelling basic products like milk, oil, toilet paper, shampoo and detergent as being of cheapest brands Mr Mendillioğlu completes the archetype of Cihangir inhabitant: young, individualist, self-centred and last but not least a trendy, shallow show-off.

Free thinking avant-garde or Braggarts?

So what is the truth about Cihangir? A beautiful, historical district overlooking the Bosphorus where Istanbul intellectuals hang out? An oasis of cosmopolitan, new ideas, organic food and yoga; or a social hub for trendy wannabees?
I guess all of the above…contrasts, lack of coherence, diversity -that’s Istanbul for you, so take it or leave it my friend.
My advice – just enjoy it! Put your skinny jeans on, wear your top shop shoes (no socks!), mess up your hair, season it all with some vintage accessory, have a sip of tea in a café in front of landmark Firuzağa mosque, reading ‘Radical’ or discussing latest art exhibition in ‘Tobacco Depot’ and breathe in Cihangir air…

Ahu: The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Istanbul is facing difficulties...

Ahu: I guess it’s just quite a challenge to live in the same place you were born in.

Ahu: I am very interested in India and I visit this country every year. I feel free there comparing to Istanbul and I really love Indian culture.

Ahu: All my memories are related to my family because I was born and grew up in Istanbul.

Anna: My first thoughts? Well, I associate Istanbul with richness. I mean, culture-wise…
I also consider the city very romantic.

Anna: My Istanbul memories are all about love. I met my boyfriend here couple of years ago and I visit him quite often since then.

Tuyla: Istanbul? First thing that comes to mind is diversity.

Tuyla: I love to dance and for me the city is dancing. There is a mixture of Arabic, Turkish and western music here. I really love it and I dance as often as I can.

Ece and Enis: We’re studying engineering at the same University.
What comes to our minds first is:
Ece: Entertainment, people

Enis: Culture, crowd

Ece: My most vivid memories are those related to Taksim, but I cannot think of one specific thing…

Selim: First thing that comes to my mind is that Istanbul is disorganized, not pedestrian friendly and crowded.
Selim: A memory... it’s a kind of strange question to ask to someone who is local…
I guess having one favourite place in the city is limiting. I try to find someting interesting in different places.
Selim: I had urges, like everyone who is growing up in a certain place, to leave this city at some point…and I did. I went to California, London and I liked it there…but I guess once you’ve travelled you realize that in the end you’re make a circle and come back to the same place…
Selim: Istanbul has this unique location. It's surrounded by water. At the same time there’s no connection, no reference to water in Turkish culture…so this wonderful abundance of water, the Bosporus is treated as an obstacle rather then a part of the living space…

Jordy and Yasmin: We are here only for couple of days but I have to admit that the most striking thing about the city are its contrasts.
Jordy and Yasmin: You have these really posh restaurants, but then you walk a few minutes further and the surrounding can change extremely…
Jordy and Yasmin: We visited all the touristic sights but also tried to discover less popular places in Istanbul.
We are staying in a quite funny hotel, modern but very kitschy at the same time…

Thanks to Aga and Kasia for helping us with the photos!


serhat dal said...

ben cok sevdım bu koltugu , cok ıyıymıs ya :)

Anonymous said...

Ben de o koltukta oturup saatlerce muhabbet etmek istiyorum.