I have been coming to Istanbul regularly since 2008 and even in that short period the changes are amazing. I recall being really pleased when the Belediye replaced the paving on our street, but that is nothing compared to some of the major changes that have happened. In less than ten years a metro has been built that can take me from Taksim to the airport and over to the Asian side, with a trip over the Halic on the way.
The infrastructure programmes have been amazing, and when compared with how slowly Crossrail has been built in London it makes me realise just how much has changed in a short period of time. The new crossing to the Asian side came in particularly useful to me when I accidentally booked a ferry ticket to Bursa from Kadikoy instead of Kabatas. The twenty minute journey to Kadikoy wasn’t anywhere near long enough however, for me to come up with a reason why this was my other half’s fault and not mine.
Regeneration comes in many forms, some good and some bad. Where I live in London has had extensive regeneration and I recognise a similar process in Istanbul. It makes buying a property here a slightly daunting prospect, as rapid change can make it difficult to know what will happen in an area, and one must just hope that the changes will be positive. Istanbul is a wonderfully comfortable city to visit, a good friend I love to see again and again. But like a friend who buys too many clothes, you can never be sure what you will see next and if you will like the most recent trend.
One of the biggest changes I have observed is the growth of what could be described as alternative lifestyles, more often than not described derisorily as ‘hipsterism’. Often seen cycling along the streets of Hackney in London, I see similar styles more and more in Istanbul. Turks make particularly fine hipsters as dark hair and high cheekbones really help to carry off the look and Turks are one of the few people who can get away with an ostentatious Ottoman style moustache.
At first hipsterism was confined to Cihangar, but soon the abundance of top nots and beards became too much for that small area and it began to spread it’s tentacles across Beyoglu. For a long time however, it seemed unable to get past the natural barrier that is Taralabasi boulevard. Not surprising, as that traffic can be a bit of a nightmare to cross at the best of times, never mind on a fixie. Eventually though the hipster tide broke down even that wall and I started to see hipster cafes everywhere. Well, I think they were cafes, but they might just have been really trendy people sat outside their house having a coffee.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a hipster, local organic vegetables and artisanal cheese is great and my male friends love being free of the tyranny of shaving. Istanbul is big enough to contain a wide cross section of people, including hipsters and hijab I teyzes in baggy trousers, this is part of what makes it an amazing city and why many of us want to own a property here.
And then one day, walking down Omer Hayyam, I smelt change in the air. Was it the Belediye fixing the street? Some hope there, Omer Hayyam is still a slippy slope in the slightest bit of wet weather. Maybe it’s those slightly uneven steps and nasty bins under the bridge. Perhaps it was a Starbucks, we all know there is no cap on the number of Starbucks that can exist in any one area. And then I saw it, like a beacon in the night. A Carrefour mini supermarket.
On Omer Hayyam. Just around the corner from my flat. My heart beat faster, could it be true? I peered in the window and there they were, hipsters shopping. And I knew that whatever happened to the area, we would be safe, as there was somewhere locally to buy milk. So thank you hipsters, your top nots might be daft but you’re brought Carrefour a bit closer to me.