21/05/2012

The Galata Tower Bar (It’s Not A Bar)


Last summer it was panic on the streets of Taksim.

No one is sure quite what happened, but at some point the local municipality of Istanbul’s pub-club party hub must have been trying to squeeze through one of the tiny cobbled alleyways filled to the brim with outside tables, when they began to wonder if these bars actually had the right to take up this much of the street.

Long story short, almost one year later the old, trendy student haunts of Taksim have become haunted streets, a shadow of what they were.

However, at the bottom of the magnificant Galata Tower, somewhat of an authentic punk reaction bore of angst and indifference to the regulations, has created an overlooked space for nightly gatherings with the same buzz of the former bar areas. Not a bar, or a cafe, but the pavement itself.

Every evening, somewhere between the time the tower closes for tourists and the sun has almost set, into the square drifts a wave of young people determined not to be bothered by the law, or forced to choose between noisey clubs and overcrowded, overpriced bars.

The Galata area has always had a youthful, artistic feel. For years, it’s walls have been plastered in stylish yellow grafitti with the constant refrain, ‘Sokakta Hayat Var’ – “Life’s on the Street”. The slogan was once a factual description of the feel of the suburb, now it represents a kind of symbol of defiance.

I hadn’t assumed much of the gathering until a friend at a nearby college bade me meet her there with a few friends. I was excited to see what the fuss was about, but expected to find that the trendy loiterers were just a bunch of freshman finishing the day with a little public drinking. However, the people I met were from all trades, and only a few were students. They simply found the tower a great central location to meet friends, with room to sit, smoke and chat without disturbing anyone – including, ironically enough, those working at the town hall a stone’s throw away.

A group of long-haired rockers soon showed-up with their acoustic guitars and perched on the ancient walls around the tower, but needn’t have showed up. After all, the posh bistros lining the streets were providing a fine soundtrack without the least bit inticing us into the joys of table service.

But who needs table service, when a perfectly decent corner shop is open until twelve o clock?

“They are the real winners in all this” said Evren, one student I spoke to lining up for drinks. For most attendees, the night comes courtesy of this unassuming little store, overwhelmed for drinks service like a bar counter.

Little did the owners know that for all these years only a matter of municipal regulations were in the way of them competing with the sprawling uptown bars.

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