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By Kristin Trapp

            I walked through Istanbul’s streets for five consecutive days and found myself to be slightly bored with my surroundings.  The significant signs of being a transnational city were portrayed with every Mc Donald’s and Starbucks that I came across.  The city was cold and damp and the smell of fish penetrated the air.  I knew now that the days of street venders harassing me was long over.  This city was far too advanced to have its streets cluttered with impoverished people shouting their best prices for small trinkets.

            My days in Istanbul all seemed to run together with no great distinction.  The only variation I found was in which parts of the city I would be walking around that day, would I be on the European side of the city or the Asian?  That was the extent of my difficult questioning.  Either way I felt that I would be walking down streets that were paved, with side walks and fancy cars, these things that have all become so foreign to me over the past few months. 

            The transnational traits of the European side were so easily spotted.  The tall skyscrapers with advertisements and logos of the latest and greatest products lined every street.  Spotting the vernacular took a little more patience, but always proved to be worth the effort.  One evening I and a few friends adventured over to the Asian side of Istanbul, with no expectations and a blank agenda.  We paid the fare for the ferry with pocket change and found seats on the top deck.  The ride was short, but just long enough for us to lose any sense of familiarity in our surroundings. 

It was dark out and the streets were not very well lit.  The five of us were hungry so we decided to walk the streets and find dinner.  The Asian side was much more familiar to all of us, there were no signs of big skyscrapers, trendy chain restaurants or any transnational businesses for that matter; this part of the city had much more in common with the other countries that we had just previously visited.  The streets were lined with town houses and small businesses that looked as though they had been there for years.  Nothing here had the feeling of a big international city.  This is partially explained in Caglar Keyder’s article "The Housing Market from Informal to Global.The article discusses the different forms of housing in Istanbul, mainly focusing on the legal and the illegal housing that so many of its residents occupy.  A large percentage of Istanbul’s residents occupy housing that was considered to be in the wrong zoning and after election of a new mayor is now being re-zoned and considered “illegal.”  This presents a large problem for many of the residents because a society that is already short on housing is now short a lot of housing. 


Eventually we found the main street, which was all lit up and people were crowding the street.  Thinking that a festival of some kind was in action we decided to take a closer look.  There was no festival, just the locals doing their form of “grocery shopping.”  The vendors in the streets were selling produce and meats the same way the vendors in the Vietnam sold souvenirs.  There were hundreds of them, each selling something a little different then the next.  The whole spectacle was amazing, how one little ferry ride could transport me so far away.  I was back in a familiar territory, but knew that it wouldn’t last long since the last ferry back home was leaving soon and we all knew it was time to go.    

            Istanbul was not my favorite port, but it did prove to be much more interesting than I gave it credit for.  Reliving some of my memories from the other countries on the Asian side of Istanbul was amazing, if only for a little while.  The differences that I found inside one city truly were polar opposites.  I may never return to Istanbul, but I am glad of the time that I spent there. 

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