Sunday, January 4, 2015

Taksim Square - Istanbul's New Town

Mehmet Tetik my guide (www.turkishguides\tetik) took me to Taksim Square, the New Town of Istanbul. I believe Beyoglu is the other name for this district. It was where the people of Istanbul demonstrated to save the park, a third space green area which I would agree deserved saving from being turned into a parking lot or some such abomination.  Taksim Square is named after the water distribution site for the area.
In the centre is a monument to Ataturk.  On one side it shows him leading the fight for Independence.  After WWI when Turkey lost to the Allies, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938)a turkish military officer lead the fight against  Allies to establish Turkish War of  Independence.  The Sultan fled the country to die in poverty in ?Saudi.
In his early life Kemal had been part of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 which reversed the 1878 suspension of the Ottoman Parliament, restoring. His military career was particularly distinguished with command of armies of the Ottoman Empire.
After the Turkish War of Independence he became the first president. As a great statesman e campaigned for political, economic and cultural reforms.  He modernized Turkey into a secular nation state. The second side of the great statue shows Ataturk as this peace time leader.Under his leadership thousands of schools were built primary education was given free and women were given equal civil and political rights.
The new town is similar to other modern cosmopolitan cities where the shops of the international corporations are prominently displayed. Around it are the 5 star restaurants like Four Seasons.  There are also several reasonable four star and even three star restaurants in the area.  A convenient shuttle bus goes to and from the airport. Mehmet explained that the main street had previously been where the leading Europeans lived.
The Opera House is in Taksim Square.I asked Mehmet if opera was very big in Turkey and he replied "Live theatre is most important to Turkish people.  Don't get me wrong, Opera and Ballet are loved here too but it's the Live theatre that's most appreciated in Turkey."
 Today the consulates of the major European countries are represented.  The largest Catholic Church in Istanbul is here too.  The only evidence of really distinctively local phenomena were the street musicians. It was like a very big Robson Street Vancouver on steroids. A particularly gifted pair were playing what Mehmet said was mostly Kurdish music.  Otherwise it was all very upscale, safe and friendly reminding me of  similar areas in Moscow, Manhatten, Amsterdam or even Honolulu.  There’s a global homogenization in the distribution of the goods. No question the goods are fine and desired but the fashion distribution has developed this universality to it .  I liked New City very much but I preferred Old City for it’s history.  I suspect when I was younger I’d definitely gravitate towards this happening place.
In an Armenian Church there was a lovely dove descending above the door.
The British Consulate was a grand staid building behind a very large wall.
Saint Anthony Church was the largest Catholic Church in Istanbul on Istiklal Avenue, Beyoglu district, with a Christmas manger outside and a Christmas tree.  It was very festive outside and worshipful inside. I bought a candle and prayed.  I liked the atmosphere and thought my Catholic friends would very much like this church as I did. It is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua and was built in 1912. The original St. Anthony of Padual church was built in 1725 by the Italian community of Istanbul.  Around the church today there are apartments buildings that were part of the complex. This style of building is called Venetian Neo Gothic. Pope John XXIII preached for 10 years in this church when he was the Vatican’s representative to Turkey. He was called the ‘turkish pope’ because he became fluent in Turkish and expressed his love for Turkey and the City of Istanbul.

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