David Pierce // Matematik (Mathematics) // M.S.G.S.Ü.


İstanbul, February, 2004

Originally composed Monday, March 1, 2004

Though I announced to an email-list that I was travelling from Asia Minor to Europe by bus for the weekend, I wouldn't be going much beyond Constantinople. In fact that is just where my beloved and I were going. It was no occasion; we had wanted to go two weekends earlier, but the weather was bad then, and İstanbul doesn't cope well with a winter storm.

We did see plenty of snow in the mountains between Ankara and İstanbul. On the other side of the mountains, the wind buffeted our bus so that, had we been in an airplane, we would have been quite nervous.

In fact we were taking the bus only to the Harem terminal, on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus. I knew that the ferries stopped running in severe weather, but the ferry at the dock was taking passengers, so we got on. After we left the shore, the severe rocking of the boat made us wonder if we should have stayed on the bus and crossed by bridge.

The ferry took cars as well as passengers. When we hit waves, the car at the front of the line was splashed. (Its engine never did start by the time we left the boat.) The ferry steered away from our destination in the Golden Horn, so that we were perpendicular to the waves. That was fine, but how would we ever get to where we were going? The boat turned more and more, as if to return to the starting point; but then the engines reversed, and we preceeded to Europe.

An email friend's first report on his trip to London suggested that he went there to shop. We went to İstanbul to shop for books. Books in English can be found in Ankara, but at a few dollars or pounds more than the cover-price, and the selection isn't great.

From the Eminönü ferry terminal, by foot we took the Galata bridge across the Golden Horn. Then took the French-built funicular railway up the hill to the former Grande Rue de Pera, now called Independence Avenue (İstiklal Caddesi) and pedestrianized.

Homer Kitabevi had a lot of red and green Loebs, including most of the Aristotles, but they didn't have the volume I wanted, with De Anima. Neither did they have Gore Vidal's Julian, which another email friend had suggested a while ago: it is about the emperor whose visit to Ankara is celebrated by a still-standing column here.

However, in Homer, we did find eight books of interest, which we arranged to have delivered to us in Ankara. Thus, like a third email friend, we might experience for a second time the acquisition of these new books. I did keep one book for reading on the journey home: War Talk by Arundhati Roy, which I was told had just arrived. (I had brought with me George Eliot's Mill on the Floss, which I had bought some years before in İstanbul, but was only now reading.)

We ate dinner at our favorite vegetarian restaurant, Zencefil, which is usually jammed; it turns out that they are moving to a larger spot across the street. Good for them. We spoke briefly to an older British couple there whom we thought we might have seen before. We hadn't, but they had been living in İstanbul since September and seemed to be having a good time. (Probably they were academics, but I didn't want to impose on them by asking too many questions.)

We were staying in Beşiktaş with our friends Mustafa and Melda, whose wedding by the Bosphorus I reported on last spring. Their buzzer didn't work, so we had to find a telephone and call them. It transpires that they have been lazy about getting the buzzer fixed, since their other friends just use cell phones to call up. No computer in our home, no cell phones in our pockets; the world is passing Ayşe and me by.

On Saturday I awoke before dawn as usual; I watched the sky lighten, and—not as usual in Ankara!—I listened to seagulls. The sky was turning blue; the day might be sunny.

Our hosts were preoccupied on Saturday. Ayşe and I caught a bus up the Bosphorus, past the two bridges, to the fairly new Sabancı Museum. Sabancı is one of Turkey's big industrialists. He has also founded a university with his name on it, perhaps one day to rank alongside places like Carnegie–Mellon. His museum is in his old family home. His Ottoman calligraphy collection is on display, but his Turkish paintings are currently replaced with a collection of Ottoman memorabilia that is visiting from Italy. Perhaps the most pleasant aspect of a visit to the museum is the opportunity to dream of living in such a house, where one can stand on a balcony and gaze out through the umbrella pines to the waters of the Bosphorus, the ships passing through, and the Asian shore beyond.

We had been a bit early, so to kill time before the museum's opening, we sat at the cafe next door. It was February, but we were out of doors. Many local people had brought their newspapers and were having breakfast in the cafe. A pleasant life. And yet, if one could breakfast in such a cafe every weekend, would the scene not become too familiar? When it is a scene that ought be available to as many people as possible?

İstanbul is a city of ten million souls. Or fifteen; nobody knows. Most of them live in great high-rises, each one like the next, and not overlooking the Bosphorus. But one can meet people by chance in İstanbul. Sitting in the cafe was a high-school friend of Ayşe's from Ankara.

After the museum, the day being so splendid, Ayşe and I walked back down the shore to find a vegetarian cafe that we had heard about. We ended up spending an hour and a half at this walk. We passed remains of Byzantine palaces; Rumeli Hisar, the castle built by Sultan Mehmet in preparation for his conquest of Constantinople; elaborate houses; old wooden houses in need of paint and more; simple apartment buildings; men fishing; boats from which to fish; and always green trees above the houses, great freighters heading to the Black Sea, green hills on the opposite shore, and sunshine.

The cafe was expensive, appropriately perhaps for a place that lets you sit right above the water, but they had some interesting things on their brief menu. We had some sort of sandwich and something made with tofu.

We caught a bus back up to the Grande Rue de Pera, but by this time of day, everybody knew how nice out it was, so everybody was in a car, and the bus crept along. Foot traffic on İstiklal Caddesi also crept along, but that was okay, since we were tired. Robinson Crusoe Books there turns out to complement Homer quite nicely. They had Vidal's Julian.

That's about all that might be worth reporting, but in any case I am out of time for today!

Son değişiklik: Friday, 11 May 2012, 16:16:40 EEST