Born and bred Londoners when asked up North ‘where are you from?’ often reply by stating a particular borough, for example Camden or Ealing instead of London, as this is the part of the city they identify with most; London consists of 32 such boroughs. Granted, a borough can be rather big so even within that area chances are you would not be able to recall each and every street or tube station names, respectively. But if your very own neighbourhood is located in that particular borough – fair enough to make you ‘an Ealing woman or Ealing man’. Above all else, any borough would be a complete microcosmos with schools and shops and public transport, with friends and neighbours and green parks and most certainly your friendly local public house where they know you by first name what seems to be for ages.
Fast forward to Türkiye, newcomers to our fine resort Kuşadası might be surprised to learn that a similar system of public administration exists over here, too. Needless to say, there are some differences between town hall and other regulations when compared with London but as a matter of fact, Kuşadası has 23 somewhat comparable smaller entities, called ‘Mahallesi’ which in its purest version translates best as neighbourhood. We mentioned Camden and Ealing, let us here and again without any ranking whatsoever introduce Kadınlar Denizi Mahallesi and Türkmen Mahallesi.
As our town is of course not as big as a metropolis we would in all likelihood when prompted about our fixed abode in other parts of Türkiye or abroad initially say, Kuşadası, and only as a next step for example Türkmen Mahallesi/Neighbourhood.
However, and what this first contribution to The Ege Eye for a new year which has just begun is all about is a related topic which your friendly columnist has thought about quite a bit – let us call it ‘neighbourhood characteristics’ or perhaps even more accurate, ‘neighbourhood dynamics’.
The part of town from where the idea for this piece originated belongs to Türkmen Mahallesi indeed. It is a rather extended neighbourhood so what I started to do is to try and divide it into smaller parts giving each a certain focal point. By doing so the fascinating undertaking of so much better understanding our shared resort became truly enjoyable. In other words: each smaller neighbourhood within a bigger neighbourhood is a world in its own, ticking according to particular traditions and unwritten and at times even written rules, please let me explain.
Opposite our block of flats is a night market, indispensable everywhere in this fine nation ready to serve us long after chain supermarkets closed for the day. Yet exactly one of those branded stores is a mere five-minutes-walk away, too; both types of business exist in perfect harmony here in town. If we would look in the other direction a bakery sells many different forms of bread and cookies and other delights. On our way to the main street a grocery store awaits with fresh produce including fruits and vegetables. Still basically around the same cluster of flats and small streets interconnecting with each other a beauty salon, a barber shop and a chemists ply their trades. The nearest ATM is still within that five-minutes-radius and so is a minibus stop.
Add another five to ten minutes and you would reach the waterfront, this stretch of it belonging to Türkmen Mahallesi as well.
Finding everything we need for our basic and even more exquisite daily needs right at your doorstep – perhaps a cliché elsewhere but certainly not here; amazing.
Now let us add what according to me is probably the most important aspect in all of this: the neighbourhood would not be a Mahallesi without its inhabitants. Once we have started to frequent our local shops whenever we would not need their bigger brothers and sisters so to speak; once we have started to pause for just that moment or minute longer and ask ‘how are you today?’, mention the weather, bid farewell we have started to become a part and parcel of our Mahallesi. Soon we know the opening times and we recognize the face of our top floor neighbour when we cross our paths outdoors. Soon we take a look not like in tunnel mode rushing around as if the outside world is something to avoid but we look up – we discover the way balconies are decorated with plants and flowers, we understand that the best way to dry ones laundry and the most economical and figuratively speaking is to use solar power. We meet and greet the hardworking town hall staff who day in, day out, rain or shine come and collect our rubbish of which let us be honest we dispose of far too much.
One word of caution though – this is no soap opera where an entire lifespan is spent in an extremely limited space of no more than a few blocks of flats and one watering hole. This neighbourhood way of life is for real!
Of course – we must go and appreciate and explore the full diversity our resort has on offer and private or public transport are to be found literally everywhere. But from the moment we have become part of a particular neighbourhood from which we depart and later on in the day – or during the night – return, we have truly arrived.
Hoping you started the New Year 2024 in joyous and splendid fashion let me express my wish that it will continue like that – lots of luck and health and happiness to you All.