Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's in a name?

Like suburban developments in the States that might be called "The Meadows" or "Forest Grove" when such things no longer exist there, street names in Turkey also sometimes outlive what originally inspired them. Asmalımescit Sokak ("Vine-Covered Small Mosque Street") in Istanbul is now full of bars and there's not much in the way of trees on Siraselviler Caddesi ("Row of Cypresses Avenue"). In the northeastern city of Kars, Bankacılar Sokak ("Bankers' Street") is a small abandoned alley. So when the driver of a car I was in started asking directions in the town of Sarıkamış that involved "çöp" (trash) street, I assumed it would be more of the same. I was wrong.

As the road led outside of Sarıkamış, I felt like I'd been transported back to the mountains of California: Alongside the road ran a clear stream winding its way through a green, flower-filled meadow at the foot of a forested hill. But as I looked closer, I started to wonder why some of those "flowers" had such vivid, almost unnatural colors. Could they actually be... yep, they were... bits of trash, increasing in volume as we progressed. Around one curve, the reason became clear: The entire other side of the road was a massive open-air garbage dump, with detritus fluttering off in the breeze. Sometimes, a name means exactly what you think it does.

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