Showing posts with label Istiklal Caddesi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Istiklal Caddesi. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2013

NY Woman Murdered In Istanbul

The body of 33-year-old New Yorker Sarai Sierra was found near popular tourist haunts in Istanbul, Turkey Saturday.
Reports indicate her body was dumped near the last place she visited, the Galata Bridge, in the neighborhood called Sarayburnu, or Seraglio Point. This area juts out into the Bosphorus and is downhill from  the highway and train tracks that circle Sultanahmet. It's a short distance to Topkapi, Hagia Sofia church-mosque-museum and the Blue Mosque.
Nearby are many small wooden hotels and youth hostels. A tram or a walk across the Galata Bridge connects Sultanahmet with the Beyoglu/Pera/Galata side of the water. The quays on either side are dotted with small restaurants, where you eat fish under canopies as ferries and ships glide past.

A TV report on
Sarai Sierra
CBS news says here those initially "detained were at the scene when the body was found, with Sierra's driver's license, near the Four Seasons Hotel."
The London's Daily Mail quotes Sierra's husband speculating that maybe she got into trouble photographing graffiti. CBS quickly concluded the murder won't disrupt tourist travel to Istanbul. Conveniently, who was paying attention to international news on a Saturday afternoon?
But it is clear that the ramifications of the case were important to Turkish police, who questioned so many -- including two women. Also, a volunteer Turkish organization for missing persons got involved.

UPDATE 2/7: Sarai Sierra's body was turned over, curiously, to an Armenian Church in Beyoglu and her coffin carried through narrow walkways before the return to the U.S. on a free Turkish Airlines flight. Related stories here and here. There is much detail that U.S. media omitted in the English-language Turkish daily Today's Zaman, which writes that police denied the following rumors:
"Pointing to the shadier backstreets of Beyoğlu where Sierra stayed and the side trips she made to Amsterdam and Munich, suspicions that Sierra was a CIA operative, drug trafficker, and so on, have circulated in Turkish media."
Istanbul is a mesmerizing mix of headscarves, mosque calls to prayer, blue sea, ancient Greek sites and an overwhelmingly male sales force at the cash register. A larger issue here is how men view women in a Turkish cultural context. Do Turkish girls and women get encouragement and access to equal education and treatment as boys and men?  Important and shocking observations on that from the New York Times here.
A woman alone in Istanbul remains a curiosity, but it's not uncommon. I've traveled alone in Istanbul. Proprietors were very curious and friendly. Deeper into Turkey, a woman has little clout without a male companion, not to mention a translator.
On one trip, wandering out of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar at the close of business, a young man purchased a  piece of curious-looking melon for me when I asked what it was. He asked about my life, wouldn't take money for the fruit, and moved on. Another man, a jeweler, walked me to my hotel and we chatted in the lobby over tea about the economy and his life; he lived with with his mother.
After days of travel, it seemed the men were unrelenting in hitting on foreign women. One night in Sultanahmet, a guy on the street -- it is always presumed they are hawking a restaurant, hotel, carpets, ceramic trinkets  -- called out to me as I walked toward him: "Are you French, British, American?" With half a block before I got to him, I crossed in the middle of the street to the other side.
"I'm sorry," he finally called out.
I never looked back, and took the tram home, in the dark, to an apartment-hotel with no front desk. Within four blocks, Turkish police armed with machine guns manned a post; transvestite prostitutes hovered in dark corners.
Sarai Sierra, a young mother and aspiring photographer, wasn't so lucky.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rick Steves in Istanbul

Istanbul was the featured city of tonight's PBS re-broadcast from intrepid traveler Rick Steves.
In Chicago, the show was on Channel 20 at 8 p.m., but you can check local listings here on his Website. He brings home that the Turks have a script for the city's tourists: nation created in 1923, Sultans at Topkapi lived in rich sophistication, Istliklal Caddesi is interesting, and Hagia Sofia was the center of Christianity.
Why, as a museum, even after restoration, is Hagia Sofia still in a state of decay inside?
Working at the family dining table here, I just can't bring myself to finish the last nibbles of the loukoumi (locum) that I bought back from an adorable old-fashioned-looking shop in Uskudar. That's a neighborhood on the Asia side of Istanbul where there were many Greeks and Armenians at one time; the ferry ride across the blue sea full of fluorescent jelly fish, the warm sun setting, was really pleasant.
I realized after I got back to the states that the candy box decoration is a church. I thought it was just a clock tower, since there is no cross on it. I didn't recognize the spelling of church, "kulesi," because I only knew it was pronounced KEEleeseh.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Istanbullda Birkadin


That means I'm a woman in Istanbul. And what an amazing city Istanbul is! There is no way I can see the modern art museum, and Topkapi might fall off the list too. On Monday, after visiting the Phanar, which is nearly on the water and a 10-minute cab ride from anything important to tourists, I wandered in the neighborhood. Lots of very old, brick-and-wood buildings being restored, but others very run down. I was told the "Fener" neighborhood is the most religiously conservative neighborhood in Istanbul; nearly every woman sported a headscarf and long coat over long dress. Fascinating too: a man selling garlic from a makeshift cart, hawking to second and third-story customers. From there, I hopped into a cab with two English speakers headed to Taksim Square -- they wouldn't let me pay -- and capped all this off with a walk from Taksim through the shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi (second photo here). The boys would love because a small red trolley runs up and down the street at very long intervals. I bought lots of little, Turkish things today: rose water (for a face toner or food flavoring), some antique post cards and Turkish music. (Books are very expensive here $50+) Huge New Year sales here. I found hand-knit baby booties from a villager selling on the street.
Had dinner by myself, wishing I had someone to talk to. But traveling alone means you meet more people, and experience more instead of concentrating on your companion. I asked in stores twice about places to eat, and landed in a bustling mezze taverna -- a "meyhane" -- the kind of place where locals have small portions of pan-seared fish, pickled greens that look like miniature olives leaves, spicy puree of tomato and raw onion, with raki diluted in water. It was perfect.