22 July 2013

June 7: Istanbul, Taksim Square Protesters

John and I leave the Divan Hotel about 6 pm. Our thought is to stroll the long way around Taksim Square, just outside the bulk of the protesters, and then go to the Intercontinental Hotel to enjoy the view from the bar at the top.

We saw no sign of any police in Taksim Square last night, and tonight looks the same. However, our tour guide told us not to walk into the crowds of demonstrators. In fact, he told us not to walk in the direction of the protests at all. Well, we have a little rebel in us, but our plan as we set out this evening is to play it safe and to skirt the crowds and get back by dark.

Just outside our hotel and heading in a counterclockwise direction around the protests, this is the view. Sorry, I accidentally set my camera to an exposure compensation mode for a few shots, so the first photos are overexposed, but this at least shows the general lay of the square and a sign that begins “You gassed us . . . Look, here we are! . . . civil, kindly . . . chasing our freedom”.

Taksim Square sign

Taksim Square sign

Here is the street food. Would you see street food this healthy in the US?

Taksim Square food

Street scene:

Taksim Square

A building plastered with signs:

Taksim Square

A short ways in front of us is a burned-out bus. The protesters turned over and burned several public buses during the first three days of the riots. At the time, the police were hitting the crowds with tear gas and water cannons. Here are four period news articles:

May 29 National Turk

June 2 The Telegraph (UK)

June 5 Fox News

The Guardian June 3


Taksim Square

We get close to this bus and I snap a picture. Note the guy in the Guy Fawkes mask.

Taksim Square bus

I like this photo of a guy taking a photo of another guy in the bus who is giving the peace sign. Note a guy in a suit walking past. And “Diktator” on the bus

Taksim Square bus

There are more buses ahead of us. You can also just make out our destination, the very tall Intercontinental Hotel just above the bus in the center of the photo.

Taksim Square bus

We pass the last bus.

Taksim Square bus

Barricade at the other side of Taksim Square. You can see the Intercontinental Hotel.

Taksim Square

We are now on the other side of the park. These are the camp tents of the protesters.

Taksim Square campers

I think this is a van used for relaying phone service, but I’m not sure.

Taksim Square van

A make-shift volleyball game.

Taksim Square volleyball game

The campers-occupiers did not neglect the free-roaming cats!

Taksim Square cat food

Graffiti and motorcycles and people.

Taksim Square

Street food - looks like lettuce to me! Where are the hot dogs, the french fries?

Taksim Square food

We are just about out of the protest area. It took us only 15 minutes to walk around Taksim Square. We are almost to the Intercontinental, and then about a block from our own hotel. This is looking back at several buses in the protest area.

Taksim Square buses

We arrive at the Intercontinental Hotel. Immediately we are back in ritzy tourist world. What a contrast. We take the elevator to the rooftop bar, “City Lights”. I think the hotel has 20 stories. We find a table and order a couple expensive drinks. They bring an assortment of nuts to go with the drinks, nice! This is so posh. A few other members of our tour group come in during the hour or so that we spend in City Lights.

The view looks out over the Bosphorus, where we were on a cruise yesterday. This view is looking southeast across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul.

from City Lights

from City Lights

The following photo shows the tents of the campers (on the left) and the people gathering in the square (on the right).

protesters from City Lights

From the top of the Intercontinental, I shot this photo of people way, way down at one of the buses. This little camera does have a great zoom, if you can manage to hold it very still.

Taksim Square

A couple glasses of wine later, we leave the bar. Fortified, and walking with a tour member we met on our Safari last year, we head back towards the crowds, the “occupy” area of Gezi Park. We are at the volleyball game when we decide to turn and walk right into the camping area. The camp has vendors, restrooms, places to sleep, yoga classes, medical tents - it’s a mini city. We noticed a GLBT sign (but I didn’t get a photo).

Gezi Park

Gezi Park

Gezi Park

More street food:

Taksim Square food

Here’s a short movie of the camping area:



I felt something that I called a “crowd feel”. The crowd was sparkling with energy, friendly, connecting, excited, political, speaking out. Trying to correct what they believe is wrong with their country.

We leave the “occupy” area and are in Taksim Square itself. Earlier, it was quiet, but now it is full of people. I kind of expected people to be making speeches, but no. Perhaps no one wanted to be arrested?

Paper lanterns are floating upwards. Music is playing.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

A group of people starts dancing right next to us.



It’s getting too dark for photos, and for crazy tourists to be out. We do have some sense. The police could come back with tear gas.

Taksim Square

When we get to our Divan Hotel, there is a long line of people in the lobby. They are waiting to use the restrooms. This surprises us, that this classy hotel is helping the protesters. We also note that the Divan has no graffiti on it - most of the buildings in Taksim Square are heavily covered.

It was hard to come down from such a high, but we finally turned in around 10 pm. We have tourist stuff to do tomorrow!

Great reference on Wikipedia for the 2013 Turkish protests.

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