Thursday, October 16, 2008

Notes from Istanbul

On Sunday night, I went out eating at a nice restaurant in the Cihangir district of Istanbul… since I did not have a reservation and the restaurant was fully booked, I ended up eating at the bar… with the nice side effect that I got to chat to the owner of the restaurant, a man in his late 50s with an excellent command of English (who also - as it turned out - owns a hotel in Istanbul)… the conversation soon became rather philosophical (mainly on account of his comments)… Turkey is – for an outsider – an interesting concurrence of modern life and very traditional values, secular versus very conspicuous religious life, European values juxtaposed with the door to Asia Minor… As I mentioned that there might have been a few steps back in Turkey on the road to modernisation lately (for example I noticed that youtube is blocked in Turkey, someone told me that some statues of the champion of the secular state Atatürk have been removed these days), the restaurateur intimated that sometimes what might look as a few steps back, might in reality and with hindsight be even more modern and in a sense post modern than it seems at first glance… He also suggested that some of the legislators have enacted some stricter laws recently to prevent that even harsher laws are put in place… and he insinuated that maybe a less secular way of life is more in tune with “contemporary” life than what conventional wisdom would suggest - have you been in a church recently during the day and noticed how many people are there, and I mean not sightseeing but praying? maybe he has got a point…

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