Sleep is not easy to come by. At least, it isn’t when I want to get it. Technically, I slept right about when I normally would. I got in and settled from my flight around 3:30 AM and was asleep about an hour later. Back in NY that would have been 9:30 PM. I then slept, and slept and slept until almost 1PM. Again, that is 6 AM back in the States, about the time I am normally getting up. So even though I just ended a two day journey, I still got a normal night of sleep at my normal time… not very convenient at all.
Anyways, I was up and about and out the door by 2PM. I have a game I like to play whenever I move somewhere new… it’s called get lost. I can picture you laughing but it isn’t quite what you think. I am getting lost on purpose. What I will do is just start walking aimlessly for an hour then see how quickly and easily I can make a direct line back to my starting point. The first time I went out, it was a piece of cake. The sun was shining, the day was beautiful, and I wanted to get my legs under me and take in my first impressions of my new home and that is exactly what I did.
In many ways, Istanbul reminded me of NYC except much older. In other ways, definitely not. Where NYC has clearly delineated roads and sidewalks, here… not so much. Apart from the major arteries, all the roads are shared. The drivers are just as aggressive trying to manage their way past all the foot traffic but they do not seem nearly as angry or impatient as in the states. On the flip side,pedestrians will generally drift to the sides almost without thinking to let vehicles through.
I have yet to do much exploring on the Asian side but from where I have been in Europe (Besiktas, Beyoglu, Sisli, and a little bit of Fatih) the general rule is that moving away from the water means a quick, steep ascent. I feel like have done more uphill/downhill walking in the past two days than I did in a year of traveling around Binghamton. Hopefully the Asian side is a bit more level because using a bike in this area is completely untenable. This was a sad realization for me but my fingers are still crossed.
There were a couple things that I did not expect but which did not really surprise me. The first of those was when I came to my first park. From the other side of the fence I could hear a familiar, what I would have called American sound of dribbling basketballs. Once I thought about it, I wasn’t really surprised. Basketball has definitely become a global sport over the past few decades and it requires much less space than would futbol, baseball, cricket, rugby, American football, etc. A park just doesn’t seem to be complete without a playground and a basketball court.
The other thing I did not quite expect was the number of cats and dogs I found wandering around aimlessly. The cats, yes. That wasn’t a surprise, but I also have been seeing quite a few dogs wandering around in the streets or lazing about in the sun. None of them were on a leash but every single dog seemed as docile as could be. The cats on the other hand seemed very wary of us humans. After hearing their late night street fighting these past couple nights, I can understand why they might not be as well loved. Next time I come across one of these pests when no one is looking I might just see how far my right foot could launch that. Yah, scream at that, Garfield.
Getting back on point, like I said earlier, my first walk was a piece of cake. My second one… not so much. I came back with the specific goal of locating the nearest HSBC bank so I can begin setting up an account. I found that bank easy enough but by the time I did, it had closed 18 minutes before. I guess “bankers hours” are a global nuisance. I was a little bummed but decided I would play getting lost again since I had launched out in the opposite direction as last time. Now, I like to think that I possess a pretty good internal sense of direction. Beyond that, usually I can look at a map once and the map memory is easily applied to the real world roads I am traveling. Well, Besiktas severely challenged that opinion. Here, roads curve. All of them. All the time. Not only that, right angles are a pipe dream. Streets much prefer merging, converging, and Y’ing off to the grid-like patterns of a much more boring, sterile world. (Springfield) I can honestly say, I was thoroughly, completely turned around.
What set me straight was the sunlight. I thought I had been heading east when in reality I was still moving north, further and further away from where I wanted to be. So I stopped trying to remember the roads in my head. I gave less concern for the path my feet were taking. Instead, I focused on the sun. No matter how turned around my mind might be, no matter how convoluted the roads I travel, the sun is an eternal truth fixed in the heavens that can never lead me wrong. Let me say that one more time in case you didn’t catch it: The sun is an eternal truth fixed in the heavens that can never lead us wrong. It is a light that can straighten our feet and it is a guide that can direct our path. No matter how lost we might feel we are getting, the sun will always help us find our way home.