Urban Amnesia

30 years ago, we used to go to Kumburgaz, a relatively close summer getaway for İstanboulites. On the way were vast sunflower fields, the owners wouldn’t care for the bypassers to steal a few flowers for the crunchy seeds. Now there are residences, villas, luxury sites in the place of the fields with security guards and high walls; all “within 15 minutes to the city center”.

25 years ago, my father used to buy us flowers in every important occasion. We used to go together to the flower sellers in Bebek, located right behind the Bebek bus stop, bargained each and every time and get back home with wonderful varieties. Now, Kitchenette, a pretty chic restaurant has taken their place.

20 years ago, my mom was pressing me to learn all the bus stops along Bosphorus, from our home in Emirgan towards Eminönü. I had trouble memorizing a particular one, Kömür Tevzi; where once the coal ships used to discharge coal. After its shutdown, the area has been used as a concert venue, “Kuruçeşme Arena”, and I have worked in many events there. Now, it’s abandoned, waiting for its fate to become a hotel.

15 years ago, where I shared a first kiss with a boy, we were standing next to a stone wall in our neighborhood, encircling a wild garden full of thorned flowers and trees. Now you can see one of the most wrongly-built “traditional” houses instead of this garden.

For the last 10 years, I almost stopped checking what “was”, but surprised on what “is” or “has appeared” at the place of my memories and moments in this city.

I know I sound like your grandma; but perhaps this amnesia is killing me inside. All the landmarks of my childhood, my youth and my actual life gave up on residences, skyscrapers, hotels and restaurants. I sometimes still try to give directions according to old memories, but if the person is not a resident of the city for more than 10 years, it’s almost impossible for him/her to get there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a definitive conservatist of “old memories” or “old city” and I believe in development; but come on, could we go a little slower? With more careful steps maybe? Leaving a little room for our lives with this city?

Could we try to keep or at least take example of what originally was there, and follow the spirit of the city instead of our investments?

For the sake of memories?


Written by our former writer, Beste Kuşçu