Like a blink of an eye phase two of the semester is well underway. Istanbul has taken good care of us these past two weeks. Consumption habits have been adjusted accordingly, replacing cappuccino, cornettos and pizza with that of çay, simit and piles of dürüm. The fantastic exchange rate has personally (but probably collectively) resulted in a massive intake of food. I know some have invested in gym memberships, but my comrade Jake Woll and I have been staying fit and limber at the yoga studio down the street. They teach the classes in Turkish, so we do a lot of watching and learning. We think that we’ll be masters by the end of the semester and also fluent in Turkish yogic terminology. Hopes are high.
I’ve become quite comfortable with my surroundings this last week, now oriented in our home neighborhood of Şişli along with several key areas along the Bosphorus. The city is so vast that I’ve found establishing connections with the landscape is very different than what I was used to in Rome. When grabbing gelato with Ozayr during our last week in Italy he described the city as a “quaint little town” compared to Istanbul. I knew Ozayr would be right, but it was still hard to imagine. After my first ferry ride across the Bosphorus straddling the very throat of the city I began to understand. The mountainous topography itself is breath-taking, making the hills of Rome look meager. A blanket of densely knit structure covers the terrain displaying an urban fabric that is like none I’ve ever seen. You get a sense of how valuable space is here with no surface area is left untapped. The beauty of the skyline is hard to put into words, the new and the old organically blending together, distant skyscrapers projecting themselves into the sky while minarets stud the immediate horizon.
Albeit amazed by Istanbul’s wholistic beauty, I’ve identified most deeply with the city on a smaller scale. I’ve built my strongest connection in the West Karaköy neighborhood, my site for our first project. Bound by the Galata bridge and Tersane Cadde it’s easy to pass by a small community informed by the long-standing port that existing on its edge. The area has changed in form over the years in many ways, but the much of character and function remain the same. Every little shop is a response to the boats at the shore providing them general supplies, marine paint, chains, rope, and endless tools. Scenes and sounds of manufacturing are everywhere, with the most macho-men you’ve ever scene forging materials and welding right on the sidewalk. After several days of exploring the site with my partner Jake T and I have made relationships with our favorite fish sandwich man, the guy who sings the call to prayer at the mosque, and gotten çay out of a van. I look forward to finding more areas like this in the city and to continue strengthening the connections I’ve already begun to build.
Güle güle (bye-bye) for now!