Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nostalgic Nomad

I am currently sprawled out on my giant bed (after 3 months of single sized beds in hostels and hotels and homes in Shiraz, this queen sized mattress feels fit for a Sultan), in my room in the apartment I have rented in Istanbul Turkey. Listening to Canadian 80's music, eating nutella and feeling nostalgic and lonely and happy all at once. The past week of apartment and job hunting has been hectic and stressful, and now I can finally just  relax.

I first visited this city 3 years ago, as part of my inaugral European backpacking adventure, and fell in love with it instantly. The narrow hilly slightly decaying streets, the spiral staircases and everpresent feline friends; the tiny tulip shaped glasses of tea and spinning doner kebap stands on every street corner. More importantly, it sparked my general interest in the Middle East, when I took an overnight bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia (in central Anatolia), and awaking at dawn I realized I was no longer at all in Europe. Something hit me that morning, seeing the strange landscape scattered with minarets as the sun rose, the occasional camel staring at me through the dusty windows... and I never really recovered. I don't know why or how, but visiting Istanbul definitely changed my life.

When I left here on that first trip (tearfully boarding a train bound for Romania), I felt like one day, I somehow had to come back and live in this city where Asia meets Europe. I made a little promise to myself and admittedly, it feels good to finally, after 3 visits, actually be *living* here, for at least a month, maybe longer if all goes well.

My apartment is in Cihangir which is a perfectly located residential area, near Taksim square and Tophane tram station. I share the old high ceiling-ed suite with a Syrian film-maker, and another Turkish girl. Antique shops, cafes and fresh fruit markets litter the streets. Art Galleries and quirky designer shops selling goods I most certainly cannot afford on my 35 lira-a-day hostel job taunt me on my daily strolls up and down the hills. This is where the hip and intellectual set of Istanbul come to drink their Cay (tea), play cards and gossip while rolling their own cigarettes. I, of course, observe it all like a fly on a wall, and am loving it. Orhan Pamuk's famed Museum of Innocence, which I still have yet to visit, is nearby.

I don't know how long I will be here, as it all depends on what jobs I am able to find. Currently I am working mornings at hostel reception, which is always fun, and teaching a weekly conversational English class to 3 middle aged Turkish men in a Starbucks at the mall. Nothing too fancy...but the city in all its nostalgic Huzun-ridden melancholic glory makes up for it.

Yesterday I walked across the Galata bridge at dusk and went to the spice bazaar where I spent a mere 5 lira on a giant box of Turkish Delight, the freshest most delicious lokum I have ever tasted.  Every other evening I go for late night tea and sit on tiny uncomfortable stools in jammed little alleyways and people watch. I can hear sea gulls and the call to prayer out my westward window as the sun sets, as well as the jams of an acoustic Turkish band who practices beneath my window. I am happy, even though I am alone a lot of the time, when I'm not at the hostel.

I've been trying to draw and somehow create things out of the overflowing amount of inspiration this city gives me. The layers and layers of history here are addictive ; the more that you learn, the more you want to peel off new endless layers and sink deeper.


  1. Love reading your blog posts, even if it takes me a while to get around to it. Always nice to see your pics and hear how life is treating you a million miles away.