[ Istanbul, Turkey ]
The day is dreary, overcast, drizzling; cool but not cold in the Istanbulite neighborhood of Cihangir. District Beyoğlu. For seventeen days and counting, I have made this my provisional home; its narrow winding alleys, myriad sidewalk cafes and restaurants; its convoluted urban kinesis—youthful cliques, world-weary merchants, shiftless travelers, yellow cabs, businessmen & artists & musicians & other such aspirants to the world’s great stages.
I have friends here. Routines. Favorite haunts for work and play. I know shortcuts and back ways, ferry schedules, where to get the best tavuk döner, the nicest kokoreç ekmek, and how to get from the Anatolian side back to Taksim Square at any hour of the day or night for 5.50₺ via dolmuş. (I also now know what those words mean; a significant first step, that.)
These days I settle in with surprising alacrity.
Over the course of days, I wander aimlessly through neighborhoods with names like Karaköy and Kadiköy and Sultanahmet; past minarets, graffiti, street art and handbills (“Kronos Quartet”); signs for hamami juxtaposed with those of giant international retailers; I’m swept up in claustrophobic, consumerist throngs on Istiklal Avenue; I cross Galata Bridge into Fatih & brave the Grand Bazaar. I see great wealth and crushing poverty side by side, the latter an all-too-readily accepted byproduct of the former in our “advanced” modern nation-states. (The term kleptocracy inevitably comes to mind.) In this ancient port city on the Sea of Marmara–gateway to the Black Sea, keeper of the Bosphorus–I lose myself in seasmell and harborsound.
On some days, I spend time on two continents. Tomorrow, when I depart for the north African Kingdom of Morocco, I’ll spend time on three. It will be my first visit to Africa.
Today will be Europe-only; a last chance to get some work done, pick up a few travel supplies, pack, and spend time with new friends in my favorite metropolis.
Next up? Rome, then Marrakech.
I like how that sounds.