From Üsküdar to Kadiköy
Back now to wandering in a city I don’t know that well in a relaxed state of mind. A perfect example of trusting which some would maybe call dangerously naïve: Yesterday evening, after a meeting with Marc Guillet , I more or less know where the Dolmus (minibus) to Üsküdar will be departing, at least I am told it is, and I ask the last one in a cue in Turkish if it is indeed the right one for Üsküdar. After a yes, I stand in line for 3 minutes and get in the little mini-van without actually looking on the window shield where destinations usually are written. I realise another 3 minutes later that I might as well be on my way to infinity or to the airport but I decide to try my luck, and, that is where the trust comes in, without any tension at all. I prefer to go with the flow, even when it will bring me somewhere else than intended. In that same spirit I decided to get out of the bus when it was not moving either way because of heavy evening traffic and, even though it was dark already, I tried my luck and hoped I wouldn’t have to walk miles to get at my temporarily home.Where this might sound like a perfect sane thing to do for someone familiar in that area, for me, who is not, it is a rather new quality, a zen-like state of mind I really love to experience.
Marc Guillet is a freelance correspondent here in Istanbul who decided to take up residence in what he calls the capital of Europe, about 7 years ago. Moving from New York where he worked 7 years for a Dutch newspaper, there was no other chance than to start as a free lancer if he wanted to fulfil his dreams for his near future residence. Finding a place to live in a rather short time, as his furniture was waiting, was a challenge indeed, and together with his wife they decided to go for a house in Kadiköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. So that is where we decided to meet. He sent me this message on Twitter: Next to the Old pinkish building of the conservatory close tot the harbour, there where the Roma women sell there flowers. Perfectly clear if you know your way around, which I did not, so that really got me curious. Before take-off I let myself be explained whereabouts the Dolmus (mini-bus) would leave for the Kadiköy harbour and off I was. Of course the fact that I do speak the language that helps a lot.
Social Media connects although our Queen thinks differently
We know each other from Twitter, Marc and me. Him tweeting about Turkey and Istanbul, me having a close connection with Turkey – I lived there for more then ten years, so hey, nice to be kept informed. With only a vague Ava (mini-picture on Twitter profile) as a means of recognizing, and although there were tens op people on the meant square, I knew immediately who was who: An apparent European looking man, who was standing there waiting while not-waiting, being busy with his phone. We looked in each others eyes, mentioned each others name at the same moment and simultaneously started laughing, which set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Apart from writing for several news agencies, Marc is busy with informing people about Istanbul in general, with reviews of restaurants and great places to visit or good walks to walk while you are here.
Enjoy-Istanbul is his website and it breaths his knowledge of history and culture of Turkey and especially Istanbul, so it was a joy to walk with him through the streets and the Bazar (street market) of the Kadiköy district. Every now and then he was shaking hands, tasting bites or having a quick chat, while at the same time pouring out all those details about our whereabouts. Thé example of a storyteller pur sang. Look up, he said, otherwise you will miss the real history of the place, and of course he was right.
Raki and Red Wine
This was the chance to check with him what information I got so far about the Asian side of Istanbul.
Some members of the Photography Storytelling Workshop from Thatcher Cook I attended last weekend were trying to assure me that ‘the other side’ is by far more religious and traditional in its population mixture and atmosphere and therefore less ‘friendly’ for foreigners to either live or dwell.
No offense of course but I wondered whether they really knew what they were talking about, as they are all ex-pats living on the European side.
Nonsense, Marc cried out loud, absolute nonsense, when i asked him for his oppinion. The CHP is in charge here (the oldest political party of Turkey, the Republican People’s Party, and therefore secular) as you can see here there is alcohol being served in all the restaurants –
Which for insiders is an absolute clue, where on the European side in some districts many a restaurant took alcohol off their menu in the last couple of years, with the AKP Prime Minister Erdogan smiling in the background, or at least so is my personal impression..
At last, after a lot more of shacking hands and me taking a picture of a lovely photograph from Ataturk, one of the rare ones where he is holding a glass of Raki in his hands, as the current public domain is not too keen on the association, we sit down in a café which is called ‘the Hidden Café’ and order a Red wine and a Raki to continue our talk with.
This pub is a lovely, easy-going place, which according to Marc deserves this name as it is not known in any of the tourist guides, in order to safeguard it for the locals, whether Turkish or Import. I of course wonder if this is really the case as I do not know any business which would not want to have more customers than it has.
The place is maybe a tidbit more cozy as the Mephisto Café where I do my usual writing, and for sure I will return at both places in the coming days. With a: you go right here, all the way down and then to the left, we said goodbye, knowing we would most probably see each other that same night at Bar Montreal near Istiklal Avenue, which I already call Holland House Istanbul.
It is the monthly meeting residence of the many Dutch people who live here. And we would celebrate his birthday that night!
Great to meet you and let’s keep doing that!
Marc Guillet is @Turkeyreport on Twitter