Where to Find Hipsters in Turkey
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Young Turks need coffee and irony too.
By Daniel Lev Shkolnik
Kadıköy. It’s a district of Istanbul where beards point toward Bushwick and not Mecca. Where two men or two women can be seen walking arm in arm under lattices of rainbow umbrellas hanging over Ziya Bey St. Where young people drink European beers under Edison bulbs and munch on gluten-free breads or pork hot dogs. In the wake of the 2013 Gezi Park protests and subsequent government pressure on adjacent Taksim Square, Istanbul’s locus of nightlife has moved from Taksim to Kadıköy’s Moda neighborhood, which has rapidly turned from a sleepy residential area to a left-leaning hipster haven. The Brooklyn of Turkey.
Pilav Station, Çay Station and Coffee Station are three brick-and-mortar cafes bordering a triangular soul patch of public greenery on Diri Çavus St. Each provides essential sources of fuel: carbs, caffeine and, well, more caffeine. At the Coffee Station, Turkey’s famed coffee connoisseurship is applied to Western brew styles, such as the cold brew for 12 Turkish lira (about $3.50). The only place I’ve had better espresso is Italy. There’s a high-octane mural of Bruce Lee in full fight mode on one of the walls, a touch of action given to it by the owner, Umut Yilmaz, who sports a shiny man-bun and a bricolage of tattoos, and also moonlights as an MMA fighter.
A T-shirt that reads “Death to Hipsters” … is perfect for hipsters.
Anti-Hipster Art for Hipsters
In the past five years, the graphic design of chic cafes like Coffee Station, a slew of bars like Hiç and Ayı, and a host of local graffiti and mural artists have drastically changed Kadıköy’s appearance. Serkan Akyol, one of the graphic artists behind the neighborhood’s evolution, draws offbeat characters — a two-nosed woman smoking a cigarette, Frida Kahlo being eaten by bugs, a priest licking a Popsicle — and then prints them on backpacks, shirts and bags. His art captures the essential weirdness and self-deprecating irony at the heart of the hipster aesthetic, such as a T-shirt that reads “Death to Hipsters,” which is perfect for hipsters. However, the hipster-esque Akyol admits, “I’ve got nothing against hipsters.”
Dancing, Harlem’s Savoy Style
While hipsters may raid their parents’ attics for vintage hand-me-downs, Lindy hoppers kick open their grandparents’ trunks. We’re talking vintage dresses and floral fascinators, vests and Gatsby caps and two-toned shoes. Developed in Harlem, the Lindy hop became a popular dance during the swing era, and in the 1980s underwent a revival that’s since spread to Western-leaning cities across the world. In Kadıköy, check out the Stüdyo Savoy, named after the legendary Lindy dance venue in Harlem, the Savoy Ballroom. Classes and social dancing happen every week, and for major dances it brings in live bands and a crowd that dresses up like Prohibition-era Americans and Lindy hops till they drop.
- Crazy Flakes: Kadıköy’s (and likely Turkey’s) very first cereal bar. The wall behind the counter is paneled with cereal boxes imported from America and Europe: Turks, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks.
- Moda Sahil Kadıköy: This waterside park and walkway on the southern end of Moda, Kadıköy’s most popular area, is the spot to go with friends when the weather gets hot and beers need drinking. Along the ocean breakers there’s often a man with an arcade-style setup of balloon targets and a BB rifle. Be warned: That gun never shoots straight.
- The Street of Antiques: One of the richest troves of yesteryear is the Tellalzade Sokak. You’ll find dusty postcards, wooden ducks, Ottoman ottomans and several attics’ worth of loot crammed into every shop. Items range from true antiques to convincing imitations to yard-sale knickknacks. It may be a short street, but it’s a multi-century journey from one end to the other.
- Daniel Lev Shkolnik, OZY Author Contact Daniel Lev Shkolnik