Life can be strange sometimes. Suddenly, I was back in Istanbul after spending ten days in Bangkok. Istanbul, the place where my solo travel started in July 2015 and where many memories were created. Now, I was there in January 2017 and I experienced things differently. A lot of things happened since July 2015 and Istanbul is not what it was like anymore. It was unplanned to be back in the city between Europe and Asia, but definitely not a waste of time.
Istanbul stays beautiful. I love the ferry rides served with a stunning view. Especially at night when the many small lights brighten up the skyline, Istanbul is at its best. And Kadiköy, my favorite neighborhood where my friend Tolga and I visited restaurants with delicious pasta, drank a lot of tea and observed people from the balcony while drinking coffee.
I was back in my old known hostel: Hush Hostel with the most delicious breakfast. White cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and a cooked egg. God, I missed the Turkish breakfast so bad. At the hostel, I met the Syrian Mohammed and hostel dog Gizmo. Together with Mohammed and Gizmo, we walked along the coastline of Kadiköy, where ferries appeared out of the fog and the train station of Kadiköy on the background. We passed by couples in love, people who shivered from the cold, bunnies who can predict the future, and scared stray cats who kept staring at Gizmo.
The last time I was in Istanbul, it was extremely warm. In January 2017, it was cold. The cold temperature felt uncomfortable for me. I had the feeling I have not been in cold weather for years. My slightly cold jacket and my broken fake Vans were either not the best clothing to wear.
I did not feel afraid in Istanbul, but I noticed that Istanbul has changed. The tourists were gone, bag checks at metro stations and police forces in the everyday overfull busses. I watched the news from the Dutch news station NOS with the help of a VPN connection. With a VPN connection, because the Turkish government blocked the news website after the publication of this video showing how the Russian ambassador got shot in Ankara.
Undoubtfully, Istanbul did not leave you alone in the news as well. Several terrorist attacks and even a military coup attempt summer last year. Those impressive events were not on my screen anymore, they were in front of my eyes…
I walked from the Galata tower via the famous shopping street Istiklal Caddesi to Taksim square where masses of people appeared after the failed military coup. People were cheering for their father land and Erdogan, I watched it on TV. Now, the square was nearly empty. With the bus, I passed by Besiktas football stadium where, not that long ago, the umpteenth terrorist attack in Istanbul took place. And Tolga and I drove on the famous Bosphorus bridge which since the military coup listens to the name: Martyr’s bridge. And the night club where at new years eve 39 people were killed by an extremist.
No, Istanbul is nowadays not that happy anymore but not stolen from its beauty. The tears are not dried up yet, but everywhere you can get a smile. Life goes on for the people in Istanbul. It is their home. Where their children live, where work has to be done, and memories are created. If you should go there as a tourist? It is all up to you.