Istiklal Caddesi Made Them Do It, In Istanbul

Istiklal Caddesi

By PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Gina Czupka examines the exotic garment most likely to cause buyer’s remorse in “Ugliest pants in the world inexplicably popular with many travelers.” She’s talking about harem pants. (Gina also collects travel guides, so if you have any extra, send them along to her please.) A few years ago, Gina went shopping on Istiklal Caddesi, which seems to be, for shopping and tourist crowds, something like the boardwalk of Venice Beach, California, only it’s in Istanbul, Turkey. She saw many examples of these harem pants and had a very negative reaction. But within a few years, even hippies in Guatemala were wearing the grotesque things. Here’s the skinny on the fat pants:

…often made of jersey or light cotton, that incorporate the volume of fabric needed for a very big, floaty skirt, gathered together in a dropped crotch that sits at about mid-thigh or knee level… They could make Angelina Jolie look bulky and dumpy, and if that’s the case, what chance do the rest of us have…?

Of course, our first thought was: What if we should find ourselves one day in the Beyoglu shopping and entertainment district, on Istiklal Caddesi, tempted to buy a pair of these atrocities? What would we do, to distract ourselves from such a mistake? We started looking around for suggestions, of which their ought to be plenty. After all, in The Third Tower Up From the Road, Kevin describes Istiklal Caddesi as “one of the liveliest streets on the planet. It’s entirely pedestrian, really long, very wide and bursting with life.” So, here are some ideas:

1. Visit the infinitesimally small café called Mandabatmaz, which is just off the main drag, for Turkish coffee like it supposed to be.

2. If you happen to be there between the 3rd and 6th of December 2009, check out Contemporary Istanbul, a convocation of artists, gallery directors, art collectors, art critics, and basically the entire art world.

3. The city just started up something called the Istanbul Design Weekend, so look for it again next year.

4. There’s a gay nightclub on the street, and if you come at the right time of year, there’s the Gay Pride Parade taking over the thoroughfare.

5. Take the advice of Mina Ercel and visit Cremeria Milano for Italian ice cream. The flavors include bitter chocolate, fior di latte, tiramisu and Baileys.

6. Here’s another of those right-time-of-the-year ideas: hit the annual Jazz Festival, and a group like the New Orleans New Wave Brass Band might be playing right there on the street.

7. One of Istanbul’s famous churches, Saint Antoine’s, is also found on Istiklal Caddesi.

After we’ve done all those, if we still feel an irresistible urge to visit the vendor of harem pants, we intend to give in to it.

Harem pants photo courtesy of Idhren , used under this Creative Commons license; Istiklal Caddesi photo courtesy of Salim Virji , used under this Creative Commons license

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