For the first two weeks in Istanbul, I stay around Taksim Square, in Beyoğlu District. Even though it is an annoying tourist area, I get a peep of the city: the relationships between cats and the people, the food, and the unexpected bad weather.
First of all, jet lag and possible THC withdrawal are apparent. It takes a week for the body to adjust its circadian rhythm and biochemistry. In the meantime, I slowly orient myself to the area, the cultures, and some of its public transport system.
Cats and the City
The thing I notice right away is street cats (sokak kedisi.) They are everywhere: in the backyard of the AirBNB place (demanding me to let them in), on the streets, in shops, cafés, pubs, etc. They are well-fed and sheltered as you can see their food and shacks all over the neighbourhoods. Many of them are bonded with a household. They feed them, let them in, and play with them. To quote from a shop “It’s a street cat but it’s our cat”. You can sense the love for animals here.
I am intellectually and visually intrigued. The relationship is similar to soi dogs in Bangkok but on another level. Shall I get to know more about them…
Çay and the Food
I have a vague fond memory of Turkish food in Sydney. It is one of the things I was looking forward to the most in Istanbul. But what I consistently have is Turkish tea (çay). I always get two or three with breakfast while writing journals. It just goes well with the morning, the food, hanging out to watch the world passing by, and having the thoughts running through. It is served in a small tulip glass, the right amount that keeps you ordering more.
To have real good pide, kofte, kebab, or gözleme and to have something new like menemen, cheese plate breakfast, katmer, çirbir or lahmacun (I don’t know how I missed this one in Sydney) is a blessing. There is plenty of authentic Turkish food around the area. But there are some places that make you feel ripped off as well, I have to say. Either it is not well-prepared, haggling you to order too much, or trying too hard but not quite there. Nonetheless, this expands my experience of the cuisine. I’m sure this is just scratching the surface.
Cold Winter and the Transportation
It’s late winter and expected to be a transition to spring. But we get harsh weather with three days of continuous snowfalls. That halts me from going out of the area even though my body is finally up for it. There is nothing I can do. Just bad timing. (Not to mention the war that broke out prior.)
So, I haven’t used an Istanbulkart for the city’s integrated public transportation system to get around as much as I wanted.
Tips: get a card at the airport, where you might have some assistance, not in the city. Because it is a nightmare to get one, in a public communication design aspect. At Taksim Metro Station, there is only one ticket vending machine that sells a new card. You have to have a single 50 Turkish lira note or bigger for the machine to accept it. There is no clear sign about it and no one around to inform us, other tourists and me, who are cluelessly hovering over the machines. The machine interface is also messy and not intuitive. How do I eventually get it? It is the security guard, who just wants to get us out of the way, informs us and eventually, sort it out for us himself. But once you get an Istanbulkart, the rest is easy with topping up the cards and so on.
As of now, I am staying on the Asian side for two months. There’s still time to explore more and to grab the DSLR camera for a long photo walk. But I have to shift the focus to billable works that ramp up just after getting away from the tourist area. I can’t wait for the end of winter and spending time in early spring in Istanbul.
Oh, I still am OCD with mask PPE in the city but it is not a fresh series anymore.