Inside one of the cultural hubs of Turkey.
It is still cold in Turkey. It is still raining in Turkey. So, like everyone else, I have become prone to taking my walks inside of shopping malls.
As I walked into a massive six floor shopping center in Istanbul, it became apparent that malls have become the modern equivalent of the old town square, as they fill a similar social capacity. Young couples come to the mall to kiss, business men come for a mid-day coffee, and office workers stop by for an after work chat, while old folks walk around aimlessly because they seemingly have no place else to go. Malls serve as a social center in many cities, and I know that I can just sit inside of them and just watch people interact with each other, just like I would do anywhere else.
in Eskisehir, Turkey- March 19, 2009
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I could not help but notice that hardly anyone in these Turkish shopping malls carried any shopping bags or any other sign of having purchased anything. People seemingly go to these Turkish malls just to congregate, to pass the day, to be around other people, but not to shop.
Three of the six floors of the mall in Istanbul are dedicated to restaurants and massive food courts, and not to stores. The city Turks go there just to eat a little food with their friends and hang out, presumably, in a place where no grump faced waiter is going to pressure them to clear the table and leave.
And hardly any Turk seems to go to these malls alone, for they are places for socializing with groups of friends, checking people out, and looking good. The mall has becomes the new social forum for the middle to upper classes of many countries.
“Coming to the mall is a good thing to do. It is warm and you do not need to pay for heating in your house when you are here, and you can stay for 6, 8, or 10 hours and nobody will say anything to you,” my couchsurfing host explained as we sat in the food court section of the mall just watching people for an hour or two. He, too, seemed to enjoy just sitting around in mall food courts watching the ebb and flow of society around him. This was good. We sat around relax, having small talk and hanging out.
The shopping malls of Turkey seem to be different than those in the USA. I grew up in a country in which malls are hustle and bustle shrines to capitalism. People go to malls and buy crap. Turkish malls are laid back, relaxed, and nobody seems to buy much of anything. They are good places to escape the weather and look around at hokey manikins dressed up in hokey clothes in extravagant window displays.
I like to walk, I like to just look around and watch the world go by when traveling. When the weather is cold, the rain falling, and wind blowing, I have found an odd sort of refuge in these Turkish shopping malls. So I sit, relax, and just observe the scene around me in the free warmth. . . . like everyone else.