NEW YORK CITY
NEW YORK CITY, Elif Değirmenci | 05.04.2014
New York is an unusual place. It is so different that you end up just giving in to the vibes of the city, to the extent that it just engulfs you entirely in its splendor. So with this in mind, we set out on the road and arrived in the city around 1.00 AM.
You wouldn’t believe the crowdedness of New York City. It’s not called “the city that never sleeps” for no reason! I think that doesn’t even begin to describe in its entirety. This city never stops, never goes silent and is just constant in every way. The rush it gives you is dizzying.
When I first woke up in the morning I immediately noticed the excitement all around me, and naturally assumed that it had just begun. Only later did I realize that actually that excitement never stops in New York, it never stops or has time to start again in this city!
When you think of America, you have to separate New York from everywhere else in the country. The father of a friend who lives in the US only went to New York after he’d already visited many other states said “I’d assumed the US was only farms and fields until I saw this city. This is “real” America!” New York City really makes you believe that “This is America”.
You can’t see the sky over the top of the skyscrapers when you look up. New York can make you feel the insignificance of humanity compared with its majesty. There’s so much going on, everyone operating in their own sphere.
You have people in suits rushing to work in sneakers right next to homeless people staring you in the eye in ways that suggest they wouldn’t mind if the world were to end at any moment. But still the thing I found strangest was that all these people, regardless of situation, all walk around with cups of coffee in their hands at all times.
You have a Starbucks on almost every corner with everyone holding a Starbucks cup in their hands. Is this some sort of effect of capitalism or is it just the results of a successful product? Honestly, I’ve no clue.
Speaking of the homeless, I’ve heard that some of the ones in New York have enough money to live elsewhere, but live on the streets just because…, so I tend not to reach too deeply into my pocket to help them.
We stayed at a hotel in Times Square in order to enjoy the night as much as the day. This famous square was named as Times Square when headquarters of The New York Times newspaper moved here in 1904.
Times Square has a general mood of a constant evening out. Giant billboards illuminate the night like it’s the daytime. The square is surrounded by massive crowds at all times. Even though there’s no pretty view or ability to relax at all, people flock to the square. I don’t remember how many different languages I heard while I was there, it might have been 8 or 10 or even more.
We sat on the steps in the middle of the square to catch a break but it ended up being impossible. It’s like as if a cross-section of the whole world is right there. Honestly, it felt like the world was just showing its all to me, with its colors, languages and shapes of its people… It was like a movie.
Those famous Broadway theatres are here too. Watch a show if you have the time, you don’t need to speak English very well. Just go with the flow and get into the mood, that’s all!
If you are a shopaholic and have money to spend, the famous 5th Avenue is here too. We went shopping at the outlets. It is essential to know that the US is good for shopping. You can buy almost all quality brand products at very reasonable prices. Bring an extra piece of luggage on your trip to US, though you’ll have to travel out of the city to finds those outlets!
New York Public Library on 5th Avenue and 40th Street has a collection of 53 million items. It is the second largest library in the US and third in the world.
Rockefeller Center is right on 5th Avenue too. Go to the top onto the 80th floor in just seconds and the city spreads out before your eyes. Another great place to see the city is from the top of the Empire State Building but Rockefeller Center offers a wider angle so we preferred it there.
Don’t look for historical spots in this city except for one or two. You know the history of New York and even the country doesn’t go back all that far...
The only people living in the US used to be the Native Americans until the 15th century. Then came Europeans. The first colonialists to New York were the Dutch in 1615, who named the city New Amsterdam. This region then passed to the British and the name of the city was changed to New York in 1664. From then to the modern era, New York City grew through times both tough and prosperous, with both suffereing and passion until the city because the crowded melting pot it is today.
I remember the cathedral in New York called St. Patrick’s Cathedral, stuck amongst the skyscrapers right across from the Rockefeller Center.
And Carnegie Hall. The. Most. Famous. Concert. Hall. In the world. Many have performed here proving they had finally made it. Sezen Aksu, Sertab Erener, Fazıl Say, Cihat Aşkın, Burcu Göker, Hüsnü Şenlendirici are just some of the Turkish performers who’ve given concerts here.
Next is the Statue of Liberty which is one of the most important symbols of the city. This statue is actually a gift from the French people for the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the independence of the USA. The story though goes all the way back to when the Ottoman Empire still existed. The statue is crowned with 7 thorns representing 7 continents holding a tablet on which the 4th of July is written, the day of American independence. The Statue of Liberty is on “Liberty Island”.
Ellis Island right next to it has been the island of tears and a passageway on a journey of hope for almost 12 million immigrants until 1950. According to records 200,000 Ottoman citizens took the road to hope in 1900 passing through these gates. Currently the island serves as the Immigration Museum.
New York City consists of the boroughs of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan but it’s usually Manhattan that comes to one’s mind when New York is mentioned. Actually the island of Manhattan has three regions with the upper island called Uptown (Central Park and above), Midtown (the region between the Central Park and SoHo) and the lower part of the island is called Downtown (lower part of the island between Soho and Battery Park).
We had a proper Turkish breakfast in Manhattan at Güllüoğlu. Yes, you read it right: they have a branch in Manhattan and we found ourselves there every time we needed a break! It is almost impossible to find the right type of bread for the Turkish palette in the US, and the same for cheeses. For us, as it could be for you, this might be a viable alternative.
Central Park is located right in the middle of Manhattan and is just unbelievable. It’s like an oasis in the desert. It feels a sense of peace that has descended into the heart of the craziness that is New York City. The park is full of ponds, animals, trees and plants and much more as far as the eye can see. If you have the time you have to spare at least half a day and take a bike ride through Central Park. Leave it to your last day in New York so you can relax before the trip back home.
Right next to the Park, you have the Metropolitan Museum for all the art-lovers out there.
The southernmost part of Manhattan Island is the world finance center known as the Financial District. Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange are both in this district. Wall Street takes its name after the wall was destroyed in 1699 which was initially built by the Dutch expecting the British to attack the region. You can find the famous bull statue representing the productiveness in the market right in front of the street.
And September 11, 2001. The name associated with the saddest fall in American history. They built a monumental park in the empty spot where the Twin Towers used to be after the attack destroyed them with the name of the people who lost their lives during the attack. We get so deep into our own lives that we forget that each moment of life is so very precious. You understand this more when something like that happens. I remember the words of a master “Race, drive your horses you swarthy cavalrymen, the end of this road curves before the grave.” (a poem by Necip Fazıl Kısakürek) There are so many people at this spot with so many words left unspoken… We left the area praying that the world will never see an attack so cruel ever again.
One of the important symbols of New York is the Brooklyn Bridge. This bridge connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, two of New York's 5 important regions and is also open to pedestrians as well as vehicles. It also has a bike lane. I imagined riding my bike over the Bosphorus Bridge just for second, oh how nice it would be! You can live that dream on your bike riding it over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Harlem, China Town and Little Italy all tell three different stories and mix together within the melting pot of the city and the melting pot of life.
Probably you’ve heard of Harlem from the movies you’ve watched and know it as a place with a majority African-American population. You may have seen thrillers so on that imply it might not be the safest zone of the city. I always believed that this was likely an intentionally exaggerated version, and this suspicion was only confirmed upon arrival in Harlem. As with anywhere, it’s a place of cute children and loving families, with the sole difference being the difference in the color of their skin. You know, racism written into the law of the US as recently as 50 years ago. Perhaps this discourse of fear is the result of an integration not tolerated totally yet, who knows!
I don’t know if New York is a dream or the awakening itself but it seems it’s here to stay in my mind forever …
Some are immersed in the sorrow of a goodbye leaving New York and some find gratitude for the freedom it provides…
Arriving back to my homeland was such a blessing, I wish the same for all of you as well! :)