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istanbul & the bosporus

To be travelling through the middle of a city as great, historic and forlorn as Istanbul, and yet to feel the freedom of the open sea - that is the thrill of a trip along the Bosporus. Pushed by its strong currents, invigorated by the sea air that bears no trace of the dirt, smoke and noise of the crowded city that surrounds it, the traveller begins to feel that in spite of everything, this is still a place in which he can enjoy solitude and find freedom. This waterway that passes through the centre of the city is not to be confused with the canals of Amsterdam or Venice or the rivers that divide Paris and Rome in two: strong currents run through the Bosporus, its surface is always ruffled by wind and waves, and its waters are deep and dark.
Istanbul - Bosporus - 1

Istanbul - Bosporus - 2

A defining feature of the city, the Bosporus splits Istanbul - and Turkey - into its European and Asian side. Who better to evoke its unique appeal than Orhan Pamuk, who in his 'Istanbul, Memories and the City' describes the city's tumultuous history with equal doses of melancholy and pride, eastern tradition and western modernity, and always the Bosporus in between, as both a border and an escape.

Istanbul - Bosporus - 3
If you have the current behind you, if you are following the itinerary of a city ferry, you will see apartment buildings and yalıs, old ladies watching you from balconies as they sip their tea, the pergolas of coffee houses perched on landing stations, children in their underwear entering the sea just where the sewers empty into it and sunning themselves on the concrete, people fishing from the shore, others lazing on their yachts, schoolchildren emptying out of school and walking along the shore, travellers gazing out to sea through bus windows while stuck in traffic, cats sitting on the wharves, waiting for fishermen, trees you hadn't realised were so tall, hidden villas and walled gardens you didn't even know existed, narrow alleyways rising up into the hills, tall apartment buildings looming in the background, and slowly, in the distance, Istanbul in all its confusion - its mosques, the poor quarters, the bridges, minarets, towers, gardens and ever-multiplying highrises. To travel along the Bosporus, be it in a ferry, a motor launch or a rowing boat, is to see the city house by house, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and also from afar, as a silhouette, an ever-mutating mirage.

(Technically, the first two images were shot from the Sea of Marmara, but they fit the city "as a silhouette", with minarets and "ever-multiplying highrises" competing on its skyline.)


the black book

This post is not about Paul Verhoeven's film but about Orhan Pamuk 's novel ' The Black Book ' ('Kara Kitap'). As a caleidoscopic, metaphysical detective novel, 'The Black Book' is something like Paul Auster's ' New York Trilogy ' m… Read the full post »

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