Sunday, October 26, 2008

Old House Revisited

A bit of morbid curiosity overtook me a few days back, and I decided to go see what had become of my old house. The one bit of consolation after having my house expropriated was that all the area was to be turned into a large park, and if there's anything Istanbul needs, it's more green space. This is a city where you will see people from the villages having a picnic, or just sitting, in overgrown empty lots or on the green embankments of highways, simply because they want an alternative to cement. The officials from the city were talking about people from the gardens department, and though a voice inside told me to take that with a grain of salt, there have been some good projects in Istanbul during the last few years, including honest attempts to make it a greener, more livable place. Of course as far as I was concerned, my garden was a very liveable place. And the empty lots next door were full of trees of several kinds. Not only was it a nice place for me, it was a habitate for all sorts of wildlife - birds like this shrike that visited one day, as well as protected species like martens. Not purple martins, but martens, the large ferret-like mammal. They would play (and fight viciously) at night and sometimes wake us with the strange twittering cries.

The last time I'd gone there, the surorunding area was still a wasteland and the house I lived, along with its garden, were still intact, because as private property it took longer to expropriate (the remaining areas were in the hands of religious foundations).

So I showed up that afternoon to find...this! This, apparently is the current concept of a "park" in Istanbul. I suppose people don't want kids' feet to become too accustomed to actual ground, given that they have to live on a cement substrate. Another green (if rather unkempt) habitat has been turned into a concrete expanse. Our door to the yard/garden was directly across from the old single-story house on the left. Almost all of the trees that were on the land have been removed (on the pretext that "children might climb them"). For a people that have mostly rural roots, a paradoxical attitude indeed. They did leave the one walnut tree that used to be in the mosque's garden.
As for the are where my own garden was, that was being done away just as I arrived; the workmen hauling out the rubble that was my house. The fig trees were all gone, and the next target of the bulldozer was the large black mulberry tree (in the background), which had been famous in the neighborhood for years. This area will no doubt become an extension of the concrete expanse as well. Istanbul has done some very nice park restorations, Gülhane comes to mind. But evidently where tourists are not involved, greenery just not so important.

4 comments:

Laura 3:) said...

My God - it's enough to make you cry! Is there avenue to protest this devastation?

Sazji said...

Burası Türkiye canım...

chaiselongue said...

This is very sad ... I thought the idea of protecting children by not letting them have contact with nature was a western European idea. There should be trees for children to climb. And a bit of wilderness, even in a city. I lived in Istanbul many years ago and remember lovely parks. I'm pleased to have found your blog - I'll follow it from now on.

Sazji said...

In Turkey, I think it's sort of an urban idea. In the villages, though there is a lot of discipline, kids pretty much have the run of the land. What was angering about these trees though was that the owner of the large adjacent property had talked with the city and been assured that the large trees would be left untouched. I guess there's a loophole when it comes to bulldozers...