One of my friends took me to a flea market this weekend, in another one of Istanbul’s poorest areas, and for a big walk through Tarlabaşı. From him, I got a much clearer insight into the area. The market, which runs every sunday, brings together vendors trying to sell garbage and stolen goods. Literally, most of the items in the sale are either dug out of the garbage or stolen, and then sold on Sundays for cheap. Some of the finds in the market included cell phone parts, old books, clothes, tableware, and even an opened bag of diapers (ewwww was that from the trash?)
Down one street, we found a man selling stuffed oysters from a filthy aquarium. Next to that, there was a family burning some of their plastic garbage/merchandise in a rusty tin can in order to try and keep warm. The poverty of this place actually stings you as you walk through.
We took the scenic, Tarlabaşı route back to Taksim. My friend had actually lived here for a year, so he had some more insights into this neighborhood. He seemed to be pretty fond of it, and the parts he showed me seemed almost a different place from what I’d seen before. I witnessed some really sweet things. For instance, a lady lowered a bucket down from her window on a rope and asked some passersby to grab her a loaf of bread from the street vendor. And then we watched a really heartwarming moment when some little kids had accidentally kicked their soccer ball down a hilly street, and an old woman was attempting to kick it back up to them as they were cheering her on.
Our walk took us to the construction zone of Tarlabaşı. The government is trying to tear down this area to build nicer buildings. They don’t want such a run-down area being so near the main tourist area. This creates a problem for the residents, though, since there are a lot of squatters. This area used to be abandoned (I think after the war), and so people started living in the apartments for free. Now, those people were chased out, and the apartments stand empty, with imposing metal walls barricading entry to them. Though, there are still some people who bypass the barricades… we saw a man and a prostitute emerge from behind one of the walls.
People coming out of this area are treated almost like criminals. Police guard the border between Taksim and Tarlabaşı, where these walls are, and they search anyone they feel like searching. But a lot of normal people have to pass through this area in order to leave their homes. It must suck to be looked at as a criminal just because you live in a poor area. But, I guess that happens a lot of places.