Selling pigeon food is serious business
WILCO VAN HERPENIt is 9 a.m. on Feb. 1, a Sunday morning, and İzmir is still asleep, except for some people who want to enjoy the quietness of the city. I am on my way to the famous clock tower of İzmir and when I arrive at the square, the first thing that draws my attention is, of course, the clock tower. It is smaller than I expected, but it looks beautiful in the morning light. While looking at it, I suddenly hear the sounds of two women quarreling.
The square near the clock tower is a popular space in İzmir and, as so many other squares in the world – think about the Dam square in Amsterdam, San Marco in Venice or Trafalgar square in London – pigeons outnumber the number of visitors. Pigeons were eagerly waiting for people to come so they would get their daily dose of food. Around 8:30 and 9 a.m. people who sell pigeon food arrive and quickly prepare their little tables. There is a certain order at the square about who is allowed to sit where. The problem this morning was, a woman (let’s call her Ayşe) had taken another woman’s (Burcu’s) place. With loud arguments, Burcu tried to convince Ayşe of her wrongdoing. But whatever arguments Burcu used to convince the woman that it was her who had to go, Ayşe did not listen. “I was here first and this is going be my place for the day,” she tried reasoning with Burcu. It was Ayşe who won and Burcu, while still swearing at the woman, walked away to her new and unwanted post.
It was beautiful winter weather and the sun shone nice light on the tower. With just a couple of clouds in the background, this would allow me to take a beautiful picture. At 10 a.m. it began to get busier, but together with the increase of the number of visitors, the amount of clouds increased as well. Within one hour, the first drops came down and in no time it was raining cats and dogs. People tried to find a dry place at different locations, but when they realized that the rain would not stop soon quickly they also left the square.
I decided to go to the covered market in İzmir. On my way to it, there was this interesting, but at the same time ironic advertisement. So many people have lost connection with nature and there are some people who create new projects in which they use nature in a very clever way. By planting a small park and pond, they give people the feeling that they are living in nature. Seeing the advertisement, which promotes living in nature with that background and nothing more than some old, horrible buildings without any green struck me. Sometimes it is not what you see, but what you want to see and as a picture, I liked this scene very much.
Finally, being soaking wet, I arrived at the Kızlarağası Hanı. Although I never had seen the clock tower, I have visited this old Han many times. It is a rather small Han, not as big as the one in Şanlıurfa, but I love this covered market. A nice square inside where you can drink Boza or Salep (typical Turkish winter drinks. Boza is a cold, almost-custard thick, slightly fermented drink. Salep is a warm drink and is wonderful during cold weather) or tea, of course. Inside this Han they changed it into a shopping mall, but this is so nice, so cute. I love those kinds of shopping malls; they are client friendly, and not tiresome as 21st century shopping malls. In spite of all the technology they put into those shopping malls, it is impossible to spend more than one or two hours in those places. The worst one for me is Cevahir; after half an hour, I start to get nervous and one hour later it feels as if my head is exploding.
Then take those nice ancient covered markets. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is very busy; the covered market of Şanlıurfa is crowded, especially on Fridays, but it does not matter for me how busy it is; it is always fun to walk around in those places.
The variety of shops combined with handcrafts makes an interesting combination. I will write about it in another story, but here in İzmir, in this Han, you will experience the same kind of feeling. There are a couple of silver shops, antique shops, touristic stuff shops etc. Every time when I visit this Han, I find something that attracts my attention. This time, I found this little music instrument shop and bought nice little pink (!) ukulele for my daughter. A bit further into the Han, I saw nice little shops that sell old Ottoman books, manuscripts and postcards. The woman working there knows how to read the Ottoman language and with a lot of passion, she explained about some of the books that I randomly picked from the shelves. One of the books was a children’s story translated from the original English. Of course, there were a couple of Qurans and even some schoolbooks.
If you are worried about food; don’t be, there are enough choices for everyone. It is not typical Michelin star food, but sitting there and enjoying the activities around you turn this place into an unforgettable experience.