WHERE : Ölüdeniz, Istanbul WHEN : October-November 2014; January 2015 OBJECTIVE : Paragliding the Mediterranean, wandering Constantinople DISTANCE : NA CLASSIFICATION : Wings, Walks
With the windows down, the fall air carries familiar harbor sounds and sea-smells into my cab. I help the driver navigate Cihangir’s winding alleyways, rolling to a stop in front of my friend’s apartment. It’s nice to be back in Istanbul; a sensation heightened by having just left the USA—four months of excruciating not belonging.
But here—back in Constantinople—I relax, at home amongst the muezzin and minarets, though Erdoğan’s efforts to muck up Turkey’s brilliant secular balance are starting to take root. Over the course of my month in the city, friends will point out long-standing customs that have been forced underground by targeted legislation. To my novice eye, though, the changes are too subtle to notice.
As in 2012, my trip focused on paragliding in Ölüdeniz, a drab, built-for-tourism, seasonal town sitting on one of the most spectacular Mediterranean beaches imaginable. I managed a few days of excellent flying on my two new paragliding wings (the one major upside of my working visit to the USA) before the weather set in, but the Air Games themselves were a wash-out. Of the literal variety.
Even the Turkish Airforce took a raincheck (though we got one nice fly-by). They were, in any case, otherwise occupied along the nearby Syrian border—a situation given a jumpstart by my own country’s disastrous, interventionist meddling in the region (an all-too-familiar tune, that one).
Back in Istanbul, things are as the ever were. There have been a number of protests in the news of late, but I see little outward sign of it as I walk down Istiklal Avenue. There are a few police in riot gear lingering near their headquarters, but this is a common sight–Istiklal being the most common location in the city for demonstrations. You would see more police, with heavier weaponry, on the streets of New York City on a day with planned—or anticipated—demonstrations. This was scarcely noticeable window dressing on several wonderful weeks exploring new areas of the city, attending some wonderful concerts (Balkan music, Iranian music) and dancing and drinking with new friends.
Since things did not go as planned, I found other ways to challenge myself. I acquired a used Olympus PM-1 before leaving the States, and now set awkwardly about learning to use it during my afternoon walks—a different neighborhood every couple of days. Because it fascinates me, I focused on street art and graffiti, for which Istanbul is justifiably famous and which can be found (and celebrated!) all over the city.
This was also my first taste of being a digital nomad: I had picked up some part-time, no-guarantees work for a company in the USA, and now spent the first part of every day holed-up in a coffeeshop writing code and enjoying the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. A liberating idea which led me to spend the holidays in Morocco—my first visit to Africa.
If this all seems aimless, it was. Wonderfully so.
May you be blessed with a Mountain of Aimless Wandering,
January 20, 2015
Wandering the streets of Istanbul had an unanticipated effect: it awakened in me a love of graffiti, street-, and urban art. Even my limited outings in Beyoğlu, Kadiköy, and Karaköy uncovered a stunning variety of work.
Before heading to Turkey this time, my friend Zach provided me with a used Olympus PM-1 and two lenses, which I had no clue how to use. These afternoon strolls–in search of graffiti–were my Photography 101 classes. The only real lesson I learned during this time was always shoot in RAW format. And it was a fantastic lesson. Why? Two years later I revisited these images with some newly acquired Adobe Lightroom ninja skills. Thanks to the information in the RAW files, I was able to salvage many otherwise-terrible images and the memories that went along with them. (This was even more true for the pictures I took in Morocco.)
The moral of this story, Boys and Girls? Always Shoot RAW!