October 19, 2011

Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul, 2007

Bustling by day, peaceful at night, this grand boulevard follows a three-kilometer stretch of pedestrian road (though I’ve always seen cars on it, and a streetcar clangs its way from one end to the other) between Tünel and Taksim Squares. “Independence Street” in the Beyoğlu district is often visited by up to three million people on a weekend day, tourists and residents alike, sometimes difficult to tell apart. (I remember the Turkish teenager who asked me the time in his language and was surprised to hear me answer in mine.) During its early 20th-century continental heyday, it was known as Grand Rue de Pera, and after a late-century slump into seediness, it’s back again with cafes, boutiques, restaurants and a rich roster of characters. Walking alone in the evening, I was often approached by touts (aka pimps), suggesting I follow them to an excellent club owned by a cousin or to an assignation with some lovely Russian ladies. One “textile merchant from Cyprus” told me he needed a place to stay for the night. I see. My favorite come-on though was the young man who offered me female companionship one night and then the next, when I reminded him he’d already unsuccessfully approached me, asked me if I was gay. When I told him I was, he outstretched his hands and asked, “Well, how about me?”

No comments:

Post a Comment