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Mystical World

By Evan Kleiman

    Traveling through time, internally I visualize the many ways in which Turkey has evolved into what it is today. In particular, I see the mythical city of Istanbul, one of the most magnificent and beautiful Global Cities I have ever stepped foot on. Its blend of cultures, its European and Asian fusion, its geographical splendor, its mixture and diverse influence of architectural styles and deeply rooted character that loudly reveals itself as I slowly gaze my eyes all around.

    The transnational impacts on Istanbul became tangible when I entered a local market and found the same Vermont-produced brand of granola that you can find in supermarkets all over America. In no time I am walking through streets that mirror the architecture in San Francisco, one block to the right I am walking through an ancient district to find myself climbing the tallest tower in Istanbul called Galata Tower.  This structure is eminent, just from observing each layer from the ground to the clouds in the sky; you can see the city all around from its top, while the tower can be seen from all around Istanbul as well.  

    As I embrace the vernacular influence still present, I breathe the crisp and fresh air. While simultaneously in the other nostril I inhale the toxic fumes of the transnational reality that is rapidly taking over Istanbul in its road to EU membership. Learning of the essence of this historical city and understanding the layers it has gone through to get to the place that is Istanbul today is vital in analyzing the relationship between its vernacular and transnational elements. The transnational power is a force that can be overpowering. However it appears as if Turks have strongly attempted to preserve the tradition, local markets, and local trade. For that it is especially difficult to justify the shiny golden arches of McDonalds standing taller and more dominant than the thousand-year-old mosques and temples. Or the Starbucks coffee next to the 85-year-old Turkish coffee shop.

    The Bosporus bridge that connects Asia and Europe in Istanbul is a microcosm of what globalization is doing to the world, connecting us all making it so that there is less and less of a distinction between what is vernacular what is externally influenced, what is internally influenced, and how the transnational implementations have affected the city as a whole. There is so much going on that even natives often struggle to connect. Anthropologist Jenny White notes in  "Bridge between Europe and Asia,"  “each time I return to Istanbul, there is more construction." In the article, White engages in an exploration of the polarization, globalization and bridge between two worlds. "By 1986 it seemed the wall of high-rise apartment blocks reached all the way from the outlying airport to the old Byzantine walls that still demarcate the site of the old city”(1). The expansion of the city is rapid, the land is being developed anywhere and everywhere.

    In order to understand the character of this breathtaking city of Istanbul it is important to understand the impact that natural disasters have had on the city, causing it to have been recreated numerous of times. You can tell by just walking through the streets, and going destination-less through the alleyways that it's almost as if each block has its own character, style and influence.  While I try to visualize and connect together the individual pieces (neighborhoods) of the puzzle that is Istanbul, I have an idealistic dream that all of these locals reconstructed, repainted, and transformed their unique visions into value, hence the diverse yet collective beauty of so many different styles. There is something so powerful and special about the preservation of the vernacular, the history, and the peoples who created Istanbul into what it is today.

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