We have been staying more in Beşiktaş (a central Istanbul neighbourhood) than on Heybeliada (one of the Prince's Islands, one hour from central Istanbul by boat) during these coldest, darkest weeks. This means that rather than having empty roads and park land to run on, there are cars and people everywhere, so when the kids need air I sometimes need to take them to the local playgrounds. The state of playgrounds say a lot about how countries value their women and children. Last year we had lots of fun in fantastic playgrounds in Slovenia, England, Finland and Bulgaria. These playgrounds were all fenced in (I do prefer a playground without dogs and men with their hands in their pockets), well-designed and maintained and a pleasure to visit. The top prize definitely goes to Burgas in Bulgaria where, within the fences, at tables giving you a perfect view of your little ones, you can have a cappuccino or a beer (much as parents love standing around in the cold while their kids play for 'one more minute'). I also love the playgrounds in Brighton in the UK where alongside great equipment there are toilets just for kids.

Here in Istanbul, in order for the kids to play, I have had to lessen my expectations a bit (well, a lot). The playground that we visited today in Gezi Park next to Taksim Square (two minutes from the Divan Hotel) is full of sleeping dogs (and on sunnier mornings sleeping men who have probably been too cold to sleep deeply till the sun began to rise) and never without a couple of deep-pocketed males. Teenagers having a sneaky fag are noticeably absent though. There are planks missing from the high wooden walkway and a broken swing has been 'repaired' with wire. Slides create drinking bowls for the dogs as soon as it rains. Of course none of this matters to the kids. All Anton sees is a decent slope for cars and a place to run. Neve is at that awkward age where she is desperate to be on the floor but it involves her hands as well as her feet in the dirt. Her crawling is super speedy leaving me to run in front of her checking for glass and cigarette butts. Life here is making a hovering hawk-eyed Turkish mama out of me that I hardly recognise from the woman who raised Ruskin in the Dales. Ville and I say 'be careful' and 'watch out for that (hole in the road, digger swinging across the pavement, etc)' too many times a day.

Obviously I am making a choice to take the kids to places like this and we are lucky enough that our weeks also include the things that, because you pay for them them, feel good to use. Sadly there are millions of children living in cramped conditions in this city who don't have options and there has been no real attempt at giving them a safe, free place to roam.

Hey Anton.

Super speedy Neve.

Fun times!

Peeling paint.

Probably the best way to use this swing.

Repaired swing.

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3 thoughts on “Playground

  1. You're right, the parks nearby probably aren't the greatest. But here's a couple other options if you don't know them already in our neighborhood. :-)
    Abbasağa Parkı, Beşiktaş, is up a steep hill. I've passed by in taxi and it looks nice but haven't set foot inside of it.

    There's also Şairler Parkı which is up the hill from the W Hotel. And a small park in Nisantasi near the City's Mall on Akkavak Sokak. I always see a ton of kids at this one in the afternoons. There's lots of pigeons and cats to chase here too.

  2. Anonymous14:17

    Your experiences sound amazing! The pictures are great :)

  3. Thanks so much Joy. I will check out those too. You are such a goldmine of information. I suppose I am a bit jaded about the playgrounds thing because the three on Heybeliada have been quite a state although the one near the jetty was replaced much for the better six months ago. And new ones (all identical) have cropped up along along the Asian side shoreline from Kadiköy way past Bostancı. It would probably be easier if I hadn't been so spoilt elsewhere!


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