Just south of Taksim Square, Istanbul

I was reading the Ottawa Citizen this morning and I noticed this small brief on a recent bombing in the centre of Istanbul, Turkey. A suicide bomber blew himself up near a group of riot police in the busy Taksim Square area, injuring 32 people. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, there is concern that it may be connected to the end of a ceasefire from the Kurdish separatist group the PKK.

However, according to a report in the Turkish Daily News, members of this organization have denied their involvement in the incident and added that they would be extending their ceasefire until the next general election. One Kurdish representative commented that the perpetrators of the attack may have been intending to break any positive momentum for peace between Kurdish and Turkish security forces.

My wife and I travelled to Istanbul as part of the final leg of our honeymoon last June. We flew in from Cappodocia and landed at a small airport on the Asian side of the city where we hopped on a bus and travelled across the bridge to Europe stopping at Taksim Square.

I really had no idea where I was at this point. A couple of friends who joined us into the city directed us towards a transit stop and we parted ways from there. Taksim Square seemed busy and chaotic and I could hardly wait to get to our hotel, which we found more than an hour later in the tourist centre of the old city after a trip down a funicular, a ride on a light rail train, and an unnecessarily long hike in the wrong direction.

We returned to this area a couple days later sans heavy backpacks. It lies at the end (or beginning I guess) of Istiklal Caddesi in the Beyoğlu district. This was one of my favourite areas in the city – a three-kilometre-long pedestrian walkway lined with shops and restaurants and a single trolley car running up the centre. It was busy when we got there early in the afternoon and seemed to fill up even more as the day went on. With the amount of people strolling this delightful avenue, it is scary to think that less than a kilometre from where this photo was taken someone decided to blow himself up a few months later.

[Insert clever Arcade Fire pun]

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire at Bluesfest in Ottawa, 2010.

Today, the Arcade Fire released their latest album “The Suburbs” and the critics appear to be pleased. The indie elites at Pitchfork gave it an 8.6, Rolling Stone 4/5, the Globe a 3.5/5 and the Toronto Star 3/4.

I have been a fan of this band for a long time. They were one of those groups I stumbled upon in university and their songs garnered tremendous airplay on my own playlists since then. Unfortunately, I had never seen them in concert and they earned a privileged spot in my list of groups I have always wanted to see live (Radiohead still stands on the top).

Although beautiful, Arcade Fire’s music is somewhat dark, intense and complicated. Despite hearing good things about their concerts, I was always worried that they would come across as aloof and pretentious on stage. I could not have been more wrong.

About three weeks ago, the band came and played at Ottawa’s Bluesfest music festival. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. They seemed so confident and genuinely happy. Full of life and eager to please the crowd. Aloof and pretentious? After the show, members of the band came and jammed with a couple kids who they later invited to the Osheaga festival in Montreal.

The above photo is of the band at Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Oh, and for what it’s worth, as I listen to their new album for the second time, this humble scribe would like to give The Suburbs a 4/5.