(English extended version)
I wandered through the soul of the parks with a bank employer at a lunch break, having picnic with medicine students, joining the meeting of two marketing coordinators.
Words & Editorial Design, July 2013, Vogue Turkey
I had planned this holiday months ago with totally different expectations, it was meant to be an ordinary one, further from work and daily life. However when the departure time came the Gezi Park protests have already changed all the dynamics of my life. My expectations turned out to be just the opposite, I did not want to leave Istanbul and especially Gezi Park mentally or spiritually. I found myself in need of another way to participate. And started going to the parks at the cities I visited, Bologna, Milan and Amsterdam. All the parks I’ve been to were at the center of those cities, just like Gezi Park. I met different people there who welcomed me to their park routines.
Giardini Margherita, Bologna
This graffiti was made by the street artists involved in the festival Gardens Invaders.
“I play basketball twice a week at a park in Copparo. I grew up in this park and right now we are taking care of it with my basketball mates. During the weekend I go to parks in Bologna; Giardini Margherita and Villa Ghigi’s.” _Marco
Bologna – Giardini Margherita
Giardini Margherita is, at size almost seven Gezi Parks. The crowd was very young, although it was a weekday all the students were spending time there playing frisbee, football, guitar… It was very peaceful despite all the crowd and attractions.
Marco is 37, he has degrees in political sciences and welfare planning. He works as a coordinator in a refugees shelter. He spends time in the park three or four times a week with his wife and basketball mates. I ask him about the graffiti I saw at Giardini Margherita: Garden Invaders. He says “It’s sort of an urban festival settled at the park, a passive invasion of course! The goal is basically to open the park to everybody’s participation and creativity.”
He follows Gezi Park protests especially through independent media. He says: “It’s not about being ‘conservative’ and defending a park; more than that, a park is the symbol of liberty and socialization while a mall is the symbol of mere consumerism. In few words I think the idea behind the ‘replacement’ is: Let’s replace less rights with more consumerism.”
“Coming here is much better than going to a cafe, both more quiet and relaxing” _Francesco
Although the park is very close to where I stay, I prefer walking to Sforza Castle and pass through it in order to enter Sempione. It is bigger than ten times of Gezi. It starts with Sforza’s garden, and goes on and on including Palazzo dell’Arte, Tower of Branca, aquarium and Gianni Brera Arena until the Arch of Peace.
When I came across Francesco, he was working with his notebook. He’s a freelancer working on security systems. He lives in Pavia and comes to Milan everyday for work and spends his spare time in Sempione. When I ask him if he also went to parks in Pavia, with a smile he answers, “There is no need to go to parks there, the city itself is already green and peaceful”.
“I also love this park because there is a special area for the dogs.” _Sandra
Sandra was walking with her dogs Milo and Tala by the time we encountered. She was taking them to the “dogs area” of the park. She’s German and her husband works for oil industry. For the last 16 years had lived in many different countries because of her husband’s work, they had been living in Milan for a year by then. She says, “We insisted about finding a house close to the park”. Her favorite moment at the park is when it’s raining, she prefers to spend her time alone with her thoughts. She mentions how important it is to have a park at the very center of the city. When we start talking about Gezi Park (which was planned to be replaced with a shopping mall back then) she makes a comparison with shopping and going to parks. She remembers the times she was living in the United States, Houston, she says “I have done a lot of shopping back then, but after a few months I got bored, shopping is not an activity which can be compared to spending time at a park, I love trees, birds, the nature.”
Paolo is 29, works at a bank. His ritual is to come to park every monday and tuesday to eat and read. It was one of those days for him, at that moment he was reading a book on a bank close to Sforza. “At work I interact with people a lot, two hours a week I like giving a break and spend time in nature” he says.
The Fish by Picasso. Vondelpark, Amsterdam
Amsterdam – Vondelpark
Moving on to Netherlands I said goodbye to the sunny weather of Italy. For the Dutch, going to parks is an essential activity. Vondelpark is visited by about ten million people every year. The park is about eleven Gezi Parks at size. Inside there are Dutch Film Museum, sculptures (including Picasso’s “the Fish”), playground for the kids, open-air theatre and an area for special events.
“In Helsinki park is everywhere! It’s like the city is actually built inside a big park” _Saara
Two bikes, a blanket, fruits and cookies… I encountered with a Finnish couple having picnic. They are both medicine students. First I ask about their park routines in Helsinki, they say: “We go everyday for sports, also on the weekends for picnic with friends”. The conversation inevitably lead us to Turkish government’s critiques about the doctors who voluntarily took care of the injured protesters in Gezi. Tuomas answers underlining the doctors should follow their own ethics: “according to the Hippocratic Oath, doctors must help everyone who is in need”.
“Out of our work environment we think more freely and it is more likely to come up with new ideas.” _Roger & Tibout
I come across two people talking: Roger and Tibout. They are both working at the marketing department of Loterij. I join them, and we start walking towards the exit of the park. They come to Vondelpark everyday on lunchbreak to talk about work in a more relaxing environment. “Out of our work environment we think more freely and it is more likely to come up with new ideas. In the office we are stuck behind our desks seeing the same things and same people everyday which isn’t very inspirational.” says Roger. “So coming here is actually a part of your daily working life?” I ask. They answer smiling “yes, we are actually working right now!”. They are following the news about Gezi Park from Dutch media, I wondered what would they think if Vondelpark was to be replaced with a shopping mall or another project. Tibout thinks if they will build a park somewhere else or have a bigger plan, it may be considerable. While Roger says: “This park has it’s own cultural value, removing it would be like breaking down Rijks Museum and building it somewhere else”. By the end of the conversation Tibout agrees with Roger: “Values of the park are more than the trees and grass in it. People come together and spend their time here, even if you remove the park itself, you can not replace the soul of it in another place, because it happens to be here spontaneously”.
By the end of my vacation, I meet a friend of mine, Mine Sim. She has been living in Netherlands for 4 years. Our meeting is not at a park, rather in a Turkish way, we meet up for coffee. I wonder how Turkish people and Dutch differ about their park habits, she says “For the Dutch going to park is a major part of daily life. They spend their time at the parks in different ways: meeting with friends, reading books, walking, running… They also want their children to grow up close to nature. On the other hand, here people go to parks alone too, they feel safe. Meeting up for a coffee in Turkish culture is the reflection of going to park in Dutch’s”.
On the night of June 15th just before I flew back to Istanbul, I read that the protesters at Gezi Park was forced to leave the park by the police. I remember the protests in the Netherlands on 1971 to stop the car accidents which ended with arrangement of the bike ways. I wish also our story has a happy ending.
(Photography credit: @oualadinle)