I arrived late Tuesday afternoon, and as I climbed the stairs from the underground train station, I saw billowing clouds, blue sky and bright evening sunshine. The cool breeze from the Bosporus washed over me, along with the exciting sensation of wide, open space – so much room to breathe. Buildings, mosques, and house-covered hills are broken up by trees, and the blue-green expanse of the strait, which flows to bring life to a crowded and bustling city.
Walking along the shoreline next to the ferries, that transport people back and forth between continents, the streets are teaming with life – cars, buses, taxis, people everywhere – and it’s not even the busiest time of day. But the sense of being surrounded is not oppressive, because there is so much sky and sea to inhale.
Yesterday I took in some of the sights of Istanbul. A ferry ride up the Bosporus, Europe on one side, Asia on the other. A mixture of Ottoman Empire architecture, mosques and modern skyscrapers. The storm clouds were brewing, the breeze was strong and rather cold, especially in contrast to the humid smog of the Bangkok heatwave I came from.
I wandered around the pier at Eminönü with a warm bread ring I purchased for 1TL (about 50c) from one of the many bread vendors stationed there. Following the tramline along the Bosporus I made my way to the old city, with its paved streets, cute cafes, and shops selling baklava, lanterns and all sorts of souvenirs and other things. I checked out the Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque. As I walked into the outer area of the Blue Mosque, the call to prayer rang out across the loud speakers. I sat on the edge, gazing up at the grand domes and spires, reflecting on the history of this place I am now in.
I am enjoying travelling alone – to spend an entire day wandering around a beautiful city, and deciding for myself what I want to do. There was an American girl at the blue mosque that looked like she was also on her own, and I wanted to talk to her, but in the end I was too nervous. I felt the pressure to make myself meet fellow travellers, because after all, isn’t that the fun of travelling that we’re all told about? Meeting random people and having spontaneous adventures etc etc etc. But why do I need to do that just for the sake of doing it? I actually enjoy being alone. But I know that I can become too introspective and need others to pull me out of myself. But I’ll get there. It’s only the first day of being on my own in a foreign city – I have plenty of time, and for me it may take a bit longer.
When I arrived back at the place I am staying, I started to feel that sense of loneliness, maybe fear. I know it’s a dangerous path if I continue to walk down it. Maybe disconnection. Maybe I just need hugs from good friends. The thing is I get that feeling when I’m home as well. I think I’m going to be learning more about what causes it and the balance to keep it in check by dealing with the root causes, not simply ignoring it.
In about an hour I will be leaving Istanbul and the new friends I’ve made, to take a ferry across the Marmara to another town (when the man at passport control questioned me and I told him where I was going, he was generally surprised and tried to convince me there were plenty of better places to visit 😛 ). From there a bus will take me to the farm I will be at until the end of May. A few weeks ago I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be at this point and it felt almost like another me who would be here – I don’t think I quite believed I would get here and do this. But it is in fact me – taking a day at a time and figuring it out as I go.