Garipçe, a little village untouched by Istanbul's third bridge
Wilco Van Herpen
Standing in the harbor of Garipçe, one cannot see anything of the construction whatsoever.Last weekend I went with my photographer friend Murat Germen to another part of Istanbul, Garipçe. Recently, Garipçe has been frequently in the news because of the construction that is going on to build
the third bridge and a new highway around Istanbul. Because of his background, Murat, who studied architecture, is very interested in the many projects that are going on in Istanbul at the moment. Urbanization is one of the projects he has been working on for a long time, and he therefore wanted to go to Garipçe.
On our way to Garipçe we passed a piece of land that used to be the property of the army. Maybe it is still theirs, but all we saw was a bare stroke of land. On both sides of the road there were signs that told us that entering was strictly forbidden. Those signs are both in Turkish and English, (a lot of foreigners live in the Sarıyer area), but after reading the Turkish warning, the English was almost like a joke: If someone wrote English like this in his or her exams they would definitely not pass the exams.
Exactly three minutes after taking my first picture, two big 4x4 cars approached us and they stopped a couple of meters away from us. One of the people in the car asked us what the reason for our visit was, whether we had permission, and told us that entering this area was strictly forbidden. I was a bit surprised; I was still standing on the road and was only taking a couple of pictures, but according to the man in the car everything was the property of the Turkish highway, so even just being there was
forbidden. Another friend of mine was dealing with the guys, I just continued taking some
pictures. Before the guys left us they warned us one more time: If we did not disappear soon the police or gendarmerie might come and then the situation would be more difficult. “We are only trying to help you so you don’t get into trouble,” they said. They started the car and disappeared, driving away over the land that was not accessible for us.
A small village
We arrived in Garipçe and I was a bit relieved: At least this little village had not been touched by the construction of the third bridge over the Bosporus. Actually, standing in the harbor of Garipçe you cannot see anything of the construction whatsoever. But a boat was waiting for us and we directly sailed off to see the construction of the controversial third bridge. A lot has been written about it so far; people who are in favor of it come up with their ideas, and the people who are against it try every possibility to get their vision into the media. Finally, I was able to see with my own eyes how it would look from the Bosphorus.
I have to be honest with you; my first impression on seeing this construction was impressive. Two huge pillars stand there on the European side of the Bosphorus. On the other side, there are two more pillars, which are exactly the same height. It will not be long before they start reaching out for each other.
On the other hand, my problem is that yet another huge part of the already scarce forest that remains in and around Istanbul has or will be cut. If it was just the road I even might say: “Let’s think pink and this will be a solution for the traffic problems in and around Istanbul.” But there is a dark cloud hanging over the project as well. History shows this whenever such a project is realized. Think about the first and second bridge over the Bosphorus; shortly after being finished, on both sides of the new road people started building houses, offices and factories. I am scared that the same will happen with this project. The whole flora and fauna will be disturbed, animals will not be able to cross the highway and will be isolated in an area that will become smaller and smaller. In the end, together with the animals and trees, the lungs of Istanbul will be gone.
From far away a small boat was rapidly approaching us. Once it got closer I could see it was the coast guard. I was not really surprised by their visit, but nevertheless I felt uncomfortable. The only thing Murat Germen and I were doing was taking some pictures, so why would they be disturbed? What I do not understand is this: According to the companies working on this project, and the government, this is a very prestigious project, so they should be happy that people like Murat and I want to document this. By sending officials over to the visitors of this project you create a strange atmosphere, as if you have something to hide.
Invite people to see
When something is forbidden to people, it is in their nature to want to go and visit such a place. My advice to the companies involved with this project is this; be relaxed, invite people to see the project and create an atmosphere of transparency. The coast guard accompanied us to the harbor of Garipçe and checked the boat and papers of the captain. It turned out that everything was all right and then off they went.
We decided that this was enough adventure for the day. It was time to relax a bit. All the restaurants facing the harbor were full. Garipçe is, especially during the weekend, a popular place for breakfast or lunch. We found a fish restaurant 50 meters away from the harbor where we sat down and ate some beautiful fish. It turned out be an exciting and productive day with, as a result, a couple of very nice pictures.