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Project 5 – Istanbul

By Paul Padegimas


Istanbul may be one of the most incredible cities that I have ever been to.  I have never been to Europe before this trip, yet Istanbul still felt very European to me.  At the same time, the evidence of the Middle Eastern heritage, of the very strongly Muslim culture, was abundant.  I did notice some of the housing developments, the geçekondus, which Jenny White discussed in her “On Istanbul” article, but I believe that there are better ways to describe the transnational and vernacular aspects of such an incredible city.  The way that I feel best describes this is very simple, but strikingly appropriate for a city which I felt was such a perfect blend of urbanism and a more laid back, relaxed culture.

            The one thing that I feel describes Istanbul better than anything else is fishing.  The long history of Istanbul all began based on a location.  The strategic advantage to Istanbul’s location is that it lies on a bridge between two continents, surrounded by the Straight of Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara, with easy access to both the Black and Mediterranean Seas.  The advantage is based on water.  So much of Istanbul’s history lies in the waters around it, what better way to describe the city than a part of the culture that would not exist if not for the location on some incredibly rich fishing grounds.

            One thing that you cannot help to notice when walking anywhere near the water in Istanbul is the astounding number of people fishing.  Not just during the afternoon or morning, but all day and all night long.  People fish all of the time.  Off of bridges, piers, rocky points.  Fishing with huge poles and reeling up tiny little fish that look like they could be bait fish, is one thing that was visible everywhere.  The amount of stores that catered to the fishing culture was also incredible.  The vernacular fishing culture was like nowhere else that I had ever seen in any of my travels.

            At the same time, the transnational fishing culture was also visibly apparent.  I can recall one day when I was going to go hiking about 30 kilometers outside of Istanbul in the Belgrade area, and I was driving straight along the Bosporus almost the whole way.  On that ride, I found it amazing that there were commercial fishing boats netting fish less than a hundred yards offshore.  The density with which they were packed into any area fishing was incredible.  From what I saw in the water, and from what I was told about the abundance and variety of fish in the area, this was certainly an important part of the Turkish economy and is ever present in the daily life of the Turks.


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