After seven months and half in Cyprus, it finally came the time to change of scenery. As it says the title of this post, the destination was not other than Istanbul. A trip I planned to make some time ago, but that due to the political and social instability in the last months at the Turkish country, I decided to postpone. After talking with my Turkish friend Erdal and seeing that apparently all seemed to be quiet, decided to buy the flight tickets to go to visit him and to know the city. As I already have commented in previous occasions, the situation of division of the Island and as a result of conflict with the Government Turkish makes that travelling from the Greek part to Turkey it becomes in a problem of time and money. However, crossing over to the Turkish part of the Island and buy a ticket to Istanbul means just to spend about fifty euro for the ticket and an hour and a half away to get Istanbul. So, as volunteer I am, with little budget and time enough, the choice was clear.
The previous days to the trip I made sure to leave everything ready for the day of the flight, as printing tickets, checking the bus station in the northern part of Nicosia, preparing part of the baggage,…but without much stress. On Wednesday of that same week, was held at the European University of Cyprus a youth conference, which I attended with my colleague Benjamin. It conducted a series of workshops dealing with several aspects concerning the new generations in the Island, such as the ever-present problem of employment (or unemployment) or the search for solutions to the “Cypriot Issue”. A very productive day, participating in the workshop “the Cyprus Issue”, in which I learned a little more about the recent history of Cyprus, their most pressing concerns and their willingness to sort out a situation that has already lasted more than forty years.
On Thursday, as usually, I taught my Spanish lesson, and on Friday, having worked the previous Sunday, I took the day off to finalize the details of the trip in the morning. In the afternoon, I took the rucksack and I went to the bus stop where I would go from to the airport. A couple of hours before the flight, as recommended, I was at Ercan airport, and around nine o’clock in the evening, the plane taking off towards Istanbul. The contrast between the departure airport and the arrival one was abysmal. From the tranquility of the first to the frantic movement and feeling of chaos of the second. We were already in Istanbul. At the outside of the arrivals gate, plenty of taxis waiting for tourists and travelers who appeared from everywhere. My first thought just seeing that one picture was “how on hell shall I find my friend Erdal here? After a few calls trying both of us to locate each other in that scenario, we finally managed to do it. A friend of Erdal picked us up and from there we went directly to Erdal´s flat. It was midnight, and we were all tired. On Saturday we would have time to enjoy and to catch us up.
On Saturday, without hurries, we got up, went down (Erdal lives in a fourteenth apartment) to a snack bar next to the building and we took energies to face the morning. We leaded to the metrobus to go to the historical center of the city, before changing for the tram to reach the Grand Bazaar. In the middle of the movement of the city it´s difficult to appreciate the size of which the economic center of the city was during the Ottoman age, but the case is that this market is provided with more than fifty four streets and about four thousand shops. We left behind us the Grand Bazaar and continued our particular route through the streets of the old town of Istanbul to go directly to the Cistern Basilica constructed during the Ottoman period, which in other times provided of water the city. A place between mysterious and relaxing under ground that undoubtedly it was worth visiting it.
The next spot we went was the square that separates the Blue Mosque of Agia Sofia, between two immense colossus that face each other from both sides of the square. We visited without haste both mosques (currently Agia Sofia is a museum) and after contemplating these two wonders, we headed towards the Bosphorus shore. From there I was able to contemplate the beauty of the canal, in spite of the cold and enjoying some incredible views from the Galata Tower ,once we were in the neighborhood of Karaköy, until the Asian part of the city. We crossed the bridge between the flow of people and the tremendous number of fishermen met there to reach Karaköy and to visit the Galata Tower. After climbing the steep hill to reach the tower, we arrived and saw there was a very long queue to go up to the top, so we decided to continue with the route, since I would have time on Monday more easily. From there we headed toward Taksim Square, through an endless street full of shops and even more people. Half way to relax a bit, we went to have a beer and to enjoy (after suffering) the life of the streets full of people.
After the beer, we retook the way, arrived to Taksim square , once full of life, that afternoon not so much, and from there we went to take the tram first and the metrobus then to take us back home. By the night, Penar, Erdal´s girlfriend returned from work and from there went to a Turkish food restaurant. We went back home to rest after dinner, on Sunday more.
On Sunday, with no rush to get up, we said goodbye to Penar, who had to leave for work reasons, and together with Osman, friend of Erdal, we went out of the city to make a barbecue in the forest. A proper plan for a quiet Sunday to disconnect from the routine and the hustle and bustle of the city. On the way, we stopped to buy meat and the necessary tools for the barbecue and there we arrived at the place for cooking and enjoying the day. Around half past five began to get dark, so we picked up everything and went back to the apartment.
On Monday, because of Erdal had to work, I went to visit the city alone. We set off home together and when he got his stop, I farewelled him and I kept going in the bus to reach mine. I did the transshipment from the metrobus to the tram and I got off at the “Sultan Ahmed” stop that drops you right between Agia Sofia and the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque. From there I went to the Topkapi Palace to finally arrive at the Bosphorus channel. I got the ferry that took me to the Asian part of the city, concretely to Kadiköy area, enjoying during the journey the wonderful sights. After several hours wandering the streets of the areas of Kadiköy and Üsküdar, I returned to the Eminönü area, at the European side. Stop for lunch, guess what? of course kebab, was starving and didn´t have too much energy to look for something different.
Eating beside the Galata Tower, next I did was to come up and to delight me with the great views offered from there. A panoramic view of the amazing city. After I left the tower I headed again to the Grand Bazaar and once inside, I got lost. I consider myself as a person with sense of the orientation, but the size of the place and the similarity of the galleries made me get lost. After a while walking around, I managed to relocate and to find the way out towards the tram stop to go back home. it was getting dark and Erdal was already at home waiting for me.
When it´s said that Istanbul has a population of fourteen million, it´s normal to find at rush hour the huge amount of people trying to make a space in the bus or the metro to go back home or to move any other place. Fortunately I survived to the experience and got to Erdal´s home just in time for dinner.
My last day in Istanbul was quite relaxd. I spent the whole Tuesday at Erdal´s place with a friend of him, Mehmet, resting and preparing the trip back to Nicosia. Before that, Mehmet and I went to a restaurant to get some energy before the flight. Just before I took a taxi to the airport, I had time to say goodbye Erdal and Mehmet. Eternally grateful to my friend Erdal for his hospitality and good treatment. See you soon my friend. Around the midnight was back home in Nicosia.
Back to the routine but with batteries more than charged, I kept going with my Spanish classes on thursday and friday we had another “cultural night” at YEU office, this time “Italian night”. My mates Gioia and Luana dealt with all the preparations to make a night full of good moments and good food, with a great participation at the event. On Saturday, I stayed home with some household tasks and in the evening I attended together with several friends from Caritas to a classical music concert, a piano solo played by the Greek composer Christodoulos Georgiades, and when it finished, back home.
On Sunday, my friend Andria had invited me to a party at her conutry house of together with other forty people. There we enjoyed a awesome day making zivania, cooking, eating and enjoying the company. Some friends of Andria brought their instruments and in the afternoon they played traditional music with two unusual instruments (at least for me) such as the santur and the lute. A full day in the countryside with the best company and also the best way to end the week.
See you in the next posts!