Approaching the last two weeks of our time here and the past few days have been full of strange events here in istanbul to say the least. May 1st is international workers day and here in istanbul is taken quite seriously. Main arteries of the city were closed off and hundreds of intersections police barricaded. Our street was inaccessible to the main road and there was a strange feeling that loomed over most of our neighborhood. We were told that there would be massive riots in Taksim square and it was very dangerous to leave our homes “So stay indoors!”. Since it was such a nice day and we were pent up with curiosity, a few of us decided to venture our way to Taksim using the windy inconsistent backroads. Upon arrival we found nothing but a large empty square, no rioters, and a lot of bored police men and women. Since nothing was happening in that area we decided to walk back and work on our projects. We found a way to walk on the usually busy street that was completely empty of cars and people. The only ones consuming it were a few people drinking chai in the center of the street and police on every corner with paintball and tear gas guns (which is nice….). It was a pleasant change to not be bombarded with the noise and exhaust of trucks and cars stuck in stop and go traffic and made me realize again how wonderful street spaces are when they are not being consumed by wasteful machines.
On the other hand, Besiktas was full of rioters, police water cannons, mace, tear gas, and over 250 arrests. It was definitely a spot that we would not have ventured to, but shows the drive and compassion of this city to stand up to their government for what they believe is unfair.
Stepping away from the police and rioters, this morning I was walking down our street to our local borek place when lo and behold I was passed by a group of sheep being herded down our street. I was confused to say the least…. Where did these sheep come from? Where were they going? And why are there twenty sheep being herded in the middle of the city? Unfortunately I did not have my camera to snap a photo but it is definitely something that has left a pressing image in my memory. But I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, this is istanbul and peoples ordinary customs are extraordinarily different in this city compared to anywhere else in the world I have been.