Empty bottles, musical instruments, stray socks and dreadlocks decorate the floor of a one-bedroom fifth-floor flat in Taxim, just off Istanbul’s famous İstiklal Caddesi. Two anarcho-hippy friends from the Rainbow have been subletting this flat from a friend, but have become inundated with hippies as word spread there was a free space to crash. On an evening you can see buskers dotted up and down the length of Istiklal – at least 50% of them staying in this flat. Add to this Caleb’s younger barefoot and outspoken anarcho-primitivist brother and their vegan-yet-still-quite-macho friend from the U.S. The flat is a one-bedroom affair, covered in grime and mattresses. The city, like the flat, is hot, crowded and noisy, five stories above a bar. It’s great to be back in this city.
A “Retro Shop” on Istiklal, proclaims “everything 5TL, 10TL!” Lots of identical clothes in piles tell me these aren’t second-hand and I don’t find much of interest except a skirt. I haven’t bought clothes in years, but I try it on. While rummaging, the shop owner chats to me. He offers me tea and I drink it with him. I decide to buy the skirt, but he won’t accept money – not only that, he wants me to take more stuff for free! I find some tops I like and try to give him 5 lira for the lot, but he still won’t accept money. “Take it, it’s good energy,” he says. Finally we agree that I will also take some sunglasses and he accepts the money.
We’re back just in time for the weekly vegan potluck. It’s as though I never left Istanbul – we first started these when I was here the first time. It’s nice to see the tradition continuing. I’m still with Lila and Rooz. We hitched back with our friend Maura from the Sufi Gathering, but soon said goodbye to Maura who flew back to the U.S. Rooz seems somewhat distant and I feel he needs some space. Lila and I move to my friend Yiğit (pronounced Yee-eet)’s place to find a little space of our own, but end up getting locked in and out of the flat – with Lila downstairs on the street and me unable to open the door for her. I throw her book down from the balcony and she goes to our friend from the potluck, who luckily lives in the next street.
Strange to be back in Europe, though no part of Turkey really feels the same as the E.U. to me, as I am about to discover…