We all know how magical Turkey can be.  With the endless Turkey tourism videos depicting its landscape of minarets, mountaintops, which encompass the sounds and smells of multiple restaurants and nightclubs, there’s no limit to showing the beauty of the land.  However, what is it like to actually live in Turkey?  What is a regular neighborhood like here?

Well, surprisingly enough, not everyone lives next to the Haghia Sophia, nor does everyone eat kebabs and lahmacun at bustling outdoor restaurants everyday.  Turkey after all, can be as normal as McDonalds and mall outlets.  But, a real beauty happens to be in the little things within the environment that make it truly unique and beautiful.  For me, the whole point of coming here was to find the life I always dreamed about, one that would provide me with a sense of happiness and adventure that I didn’t get in the states.  Having lived here for a while now, I’ve seemed to find the feeling I was looking for, discovering beauty and mystique down the street as much I do in tourist literature.

Living in a suburb of Izmir, my neighborhood is made up of numerous restaurants, cafes, and stores; a lot like my previous apartment in Astoria, NY.  My area consists of mainly blue-collar workers, who cram into the public buses and dolmuses, headed on their way to work or school in the downtown areas.  I guess that takes the mystique out right away, but without the balance of some kind of normalcy would be blinding myself from a well-rounded life experience.

My neighborhood is pretty Turk-centric, without much English speaking available.  I’ve had the experience of stumbling with my Turkish, resorting to English words.  That has always been met with smiles and curiosity.  Several times in fact, the person will make it aware among the rest of the coworkers that a “yabanci” is in their prescense.  It often comes across as strange for me, but I guess there are not that many foreigners around.

As an American-raised person from the northeast, several things struck me immediately from a visual point of view.  The liveliness of the neighborhood is certainly vibrant, with the sounds of people shouting and cars honking, but coming straight from New York City, noise is a constant violation, so I guess I’m used to it.  But soon after, the call to prayer fills the streets of the neighborhood, making it known that I’m not in New York anymore.

From afar, a vast span of hilltops lay along the horizon, with several minarets among the houses, which light up like green lampposts during the evening hours.  Walking down the street, there are endless restaurants showcasing rotating doner meat, çig kofte (Turkish steak tartar), and midye (mussels stuffed with rice).  With the streetlamps aligned with walkways and benches, the environment comprises of European and Middle Eastern nuances.  A local park includes a teahouse that also serves nargile along with light foods including gozleme, a favorite cheap eat that’s perfect for any occasion.

In the end, what is so fascinating to me is that it really is a different lifestyle, and unlike the craziness of tourist locations, the neighborhood provides so many unique experiences for a much more affordable living.  Whether it is a food I’ve never had before, or a view I’d like to sit and relax watching, it’s all a bit different and refreshing.  It’s what I wanted.

So, all in all, this is my neighborhood.  Just another typical, everyday town in western Turkey.

posts by Valantis