Meet Zeliha: The Story of an Award-Winning Young Poet from Istanbul

Zeliha is a 24 years-old young, passionate poet who released her very first book “Odalar ve Şehir” right before she graduated and got awarded by Arkadas ZOzger. She majored in philosophy at Boğaziçi University, which is known as the most prestigious institute of Turkey in terms of social sciences. In this article, she compares the stages of her life in #Antalya#Istanbul and #Madrid through the eyes of a metropolitan artist.

Read on to learn more about her path and to get her golden tips for a remarkable visit to Istanbul.

“I was 18 when I moved to Istanbul from Antalya, where my hometown is. Antalya and İstanbul are completely different than each other in all manners. Antalya is a touristic place and it is crowded only in summer period. The weather is much more warmer, calmer, peaceful and smaller than Istanbul. It is possible to find more isolated places around Antalya when it is compared to Istanbul. For sure, Istanbul is a metropol, a super big city! It is noisy and full of interesting people. It is much more crowded than Antalya. Antalya symbolizes my childhood with its tranquil sea; but Istanbul has its own colorful city culture and that attracts me more. I am in love with the collapsed, dirty look of the old buildings and the costal of Istanbul. No doubtly, you learn more about life in Istanbul. It offers you variety of experiences every single day.”

“Sometimes, it reminds me of the times that I lived in Madrid. Just like Istanbul, there are always some people who drinks, dance and smoke on the streets in Madrid. Both of those places has that big city vibe with its cheer and crazy population.”

“I live in Kurtuluş, where you can witness to the past 500 years. In the past, the Greek and Armenian population was dominant here. Today, there is still some Armenian or Greek population and they are mostly the market owners. In one street, there is a mosque which locates oppose to the Christian cemetery. I think I really like this structuralisation.” 

“A typical day of mine runs around Kurtuluş. I woke up, do some works at home, play with my cat and go out. I walk through the streets and generally buy ‘simit’ from one of the delicious patisseries or from the simit sellers on the street. I spend time by staring at the old apartments and thinking about who might be living there. Then I take the subway, I go to the campus to study or to meet with my friends. In the weekend, we prefer hanging out in Taksim for drag parties and techno events. We drink in the streets and have fun at night. Basically, that is what my daily routine is.”

“There is one traditional thing that appears in all parts of Istanbul: The Ramadan drummers. During Ramadan, in many neighborhood tables which are full of traditional foods are established, especially in the more conservative districts of Istanbul such as Fatih and Eyüp, and people open their fast with the evening adhan… Even in Taksim, there are Ramadan activities. For example, since the Orthodox Christian population is predominant in my neighborhood, I am able to smell the sweet yeast bread just in April. In New Year’s week, you will certainly find those Christmas decorations on each street. What makes this city uniqe is the way how those different traditions greatly mix together.”

“It is nice to watch the snowflakes falling on the Bosphorus in winter. It is nice to have a cold beer while sitting in Maçka in summer, slightly sweaty and cold. Spring in Istanbul might be rainy and cold. It’s good to wait for the cold to be over. In autumn, we see how the leaves of huge trees turn into yellow on Kabataş Road. So in all seasons I enjoy this city. I think autumn is the one which triggers my creativity with its sadness. I love the idea of being surrounded by people who tries to chase their life in such chaos. Shoulders begin to collapse again and the traces of sunburn from the summer begin to diminish. For a moment, the color of the skins matches with the color of the fallen leaves. To describe all those, there is even a song called “Autumn in Istanbul” which we all know. I am getting sad when I think about the arrival of the season. Let it come anyway!”

“They say there are a thousand kinds of people in Istanbul and it is true! Istanbul’s taxi driver, street vendors, students, white-collars, workers, natives, retirees… But in general, I can choose grumpy to describe the locals of Istanbul. The city is extremely crowded, tiring and busy. Living as a student and having fun sounds easy but it is not that enjoyable as an adult who has to deal with the high cost of living. Nevertheless, as metropolitans, there may be moments we behave rude, vicious and angry, especially if we try catching up something. Everybody is in rush! Apart from those moments, we are sweet, polite, helpful and chatty in general.”

“If you are a student, you can offer private lessons. You can search for freelance jobs such as translating. For all those things, you need to build up a strong network. You can also work in coffee shops, bookstores and so on. If you go for being a white-collar, it all depends on how your CV is built up. There are not so much spots available in the academic field.”

“Be careful about the Facebook groups while you are searching for rental places. There are lots of swindlers in such platforms.Go for the neighborhoods, where students are predominantly live in such as Beşiktaş, Şişli, Levent, Cihangir, Taksim and Kadıköy. Those central regions enable you to socialize with locals and youth around. Landlords may not be fair in terms of rent prices, especially for the ones who comes from a country that uses Euro so that might be better for you to check the average room/flat rents of Istanbul before your arrival. Keep yourself updated for the current events of the city via online platforms, but keep in mind that the best way is to follow up the things spontaneously on streets. Oh, and please do not be afraid to give a shot for Turkish cuisine since it has variety of delicious options even for vegan and vegetarians! Make sure you clearly understand how the transportation works in the city before your trip so that you won’t spend time to figure it out.”

“Get up early on Saturday, go to Cihangir. Walk through the streets and visit the antique shops. Buy some gifts for your beloved ones. When you feel hungry, have some Turkish breakfast. In the evening, grab a steamed burger in Taksim, walk to the Dolapdere Flea Market. You will encounter the most interesting views of the world.”