© Carolien Geurtsen

Looking around corners – Üsküdar Istanbul


View Üsküdar and Istanbul from Mado terrace

Today plans are not any further than a walk around the corner, as a figure of speech that is, as it actually was the corner of the block, which still is a 10 minutes walk away. But compared to the 3 to 4 hour walk I intended to do, it was not the real thing of course.

The weather was great, dry and sunny, so I wanted to plan my little trip while having a quick tea at Mado’s Café,  which apparently has this tremendous view over the Üsküdar waterway and Istanbul which I wanted to check out.
I only had to pass by the Vodafone shop on the way as my Turkish Sim gave up on me, or, as it turned out, actually my Dutch smart phone, as it was blocked for use with this particular Sim card.
Normally you can use it for a period of 3 weeks, a month, before this action is taken – automated I guess, but as it happened I am one of the ‘unlucky’ ones, so my renewed membership turned useless after only one week. Bummer!
Our Turkish (bought in Turkey) telephone was still at NL home as our son had not been able to spot it in time. Buying a new one was less attractive than trying to borrow one from friends or activate the special travel offer from my Dutch abbo.

So I ended up at Mado’s, on the terrace overlooking the Bosphorus,  with a tea, and informing my friends via their WiFi with various Whatssapp, Facebook and email messages that via my Turkish number I was out of reach.
After that I enjoyed the indeed really amazing view and kept myself amused with shooting endless picture of skylines and roof-scapes, not to forget the seagulls flying into me, or so it seemed at times.

This is when I heard people speaking Dutch at the next table, more actually Flemish (from Belgium), or so I thought.
It turned out that I had the region totally wrong. They come from a much more Mid-Eastern part of the Netherlands called Drente, (so not Belgium at all) with a variety of reasons: one is actually studying here, the other permanently  living in Istanbul, and the brother and friend of the student are here for Holidays.

We got to talk about reading and writing and in the end one of the guys asks me if I maybe would want to proofread their Dutch translation of the book he is writing, because they want to get it right, so we exchange e-mail addresses and I am looking forward to the first chapter indeed.
View form cafe Mado Üsküdar, Istanbul

After taking at least 50 pictures I decide to walk back, as it is already 14.30 and neither time nor energy enough to go for a good stroll.
I enjoy every second of it, especially after I moved to the best spot of the terrace. So yes, yet another place to come back to.

Via the Pilav House and a nice plate of rice with chickpeas and some beef with the inevitable salty yoghurt drink or Ayran, I find my way home, really taking my time and making pictures from the herbal store  Tarihi Üsküdar Baharatçisi and actually right in front of it. I guess I spent another hour there. They answer my question whether they have a Facebook page with an: not yet, but tomorrow we will!
I love it, the new generation will put yet again another 2.0 shop on the map. Then I actually see the big screen, high against the wall, basically not in any direct view. It says:  Welcome in the digital world and I say: then we have a deal*.

*me the nice pictures and them as well via a tag on Facebook.

Down on the corner from CCR – was one of my first albums.
In this yearly top 2000 of December 2012 it found its place on nr 1276 – and I am all too happy it is actually there, as I make an effort to connect the post of the day, its story with a song from this huge list

It’s in Dutch but to get an idea

I can’t seem to get away from you – Istanbul

6 2 12_sm
I like nothing as much as slowly starting to find my way in an unfamiliar environment. To recognize shops, restaurants, street-vendors or even skylines where I have passed by before, gives a great sense of getting used to and gaining more confidence to actually find my way around.
It is not so much about really feeling in control and knowing all details of the place but rather starting to relax that much that I trust I will be okay, ending up sooner or later where I want to be. And so it seems that time is stretching and gives me the space to look around, take photographs and talk with people I meet on the way.

When I was just leaving the Füniküler – an Underground connecting Kabatas, where my Ferry from Üsküdar arrives, with Taksim Square – I realized ‘I was suddenly there’ and for the impatient me I know myself to be, this was quite a revelation.
I got rather philosophical and thought: Time is really passing quickly when you are not waiting, and that struck me all of a sudden as rather comforting an insight.

I know myself as a very impatient person when I have to wait, either to get somewhere or for somebody else to arrive, but it seems that my burn-out really had an unexpected positive side-effect on me: My inner understanding of ‘time’ seems to have changed. Maybe at first only to survive the high stress levels but now seemingly integrating into something new altogether.
Not very practical at times, for sure not if I have an appointment that matters, (and don’t they all), but these days there is hardly an occasion where I ‘wait‘ in the sense of focusing on that what is meant to happen in the near future instead of  ‘spending’ my time with something else while it is passing away. . (are you still with me?).

It also means I can lose track of time very very easily, even if I am actually up and prepared hours before the act of leaving the house for that matter, because I get easily side-tracked. And like the example of this morning in that underground means of transport I will call the F-word, I arrived on my stop all of a sudden and was ever so happy the vehicle wouldn’t go any further.
Because yes, I could easily forget to get out, while watching people, or reading, etcetera.

This Dutch song is rather appropriate: “I can’t seem to get away from this place”, it is called – and so it is with me, already since 5 hours reading and writing and processing pictures, with the regular talk in between with a seat next to the window so direct view on Istiklal Avenue.
I am a happy girl.

More photographs | 



Istanbul Asian side – with Marc Guillet

kadikoy Istanbul


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.

Enjoy Istanbul

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..

Atatürk loved his raki

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!

Congratulations Marc.
Great to meet you and let’s keep doing that!
Marc Guillet is @Turkeyreport on Twitter