During this summer’s stay in Turkey, I went off on an unexpected weekend trip to Cappadocia — thanks to the intrepid, infinitely more organised Ren, who’d found a good deal and persuaded me to join her (not that it took much persuading, of course!). So there I was, barely over a day after I’d agreed to the trip, shivering slightly in the cool, crisp 4 AM air in the little town of Göreme, waiting to see if I might be able to board a hot air balloon for the first time in my life. Since the sky in Cappadocia gets too hot for balloon rides soon after sunrise, together with the fact that gauging safety depends on last-minute capricious wind conditions, all of us who’d registered for the ride had to meet at the balloon company headquarters at 4 AM and wait before being told whether balloon rides would be happening at all that day. We were a comical roomful of bleary-eyed, somewhat bedraggled travellers —some of us, like Ren and I, having only just flown in from Istanbul two hours earlier— of all ages and from all over the world, munching halfheartedly on chunks of cheese and watermelon slices in the reception room, all waiting to hear our collective hot air balloon fate (imagine having to simply head back to bed at this point!).
Upon the recommendation of an artist friend who spent six months living in Istanbul last year expressly to paint oil paintings —who would ignore a travel recommendation from someone like that, right?— I set off to have an afternoon stroll around Fener and Balat, traditionally Greek and Jewish (respectively) neighbourhoods of Istanbul. It was a quick bus ride, via the 55T, from Taksim.
An area that has seen better days, Balat’s streets are lined with brightly coloured, often dilapidated (if not outright hazardous) houses. In contrast to the many abandoned and decaying buildings, there’s a strong sense of vibrancy and general ‘neighbourhoodliness’, with its many shops selling household and everyday foods and goods, and countless children running about playing in its streets.
…to be back in Istanbul!
I’m returned to this gorgeous city in the hopes of improving my Turkish. So far I’ve successfully manipulated various unfortunate waiters into having extended conversations, enjoyed more delicious mezes than I can shake a kebab at, and caught breathtaking glimpses of the Bosphorus from unexpected angles while winding through the narrow streets of Cihangir… It promises to be a terrific three weeks.