Saturday, June 07, 2008

Levent to the Rumeli Fort, Istanbul

Yesterday Lisen and I took the back streets, wandering from Levent down to Arnavutkoy - which translates to the Village of the Albanians - a really cute little village on the edge of the Bosphorous, rumoured to have one of the best fish restaurants in the city. I'll let you know ...

Many of the houses in Arnavutkoy were built illegally in the hope that at some point those in power would legalise their presence. And it often works out for the builders. The gece kondu houses (translates to landed in the night, referring to the fact that they are built in the night) were more normal than I had expected that type of building to be. As we strolled through the narrow streets, past houses with beautiful gardens and noisy with family life we agreed we could easily live there.

Crossing the main road, Lisen and I walked next to the vibrantly alive Bosphorous. For me, the Bosphorous has always felt like a living presence; a feeling I also had when I stood at the edge of America's Grand Canyon or sat on the shores of New Zealand's Lake Manapouri. It's as if the power of Nature sometimes translates into a feeling that this body of water or that mountain is a powerful living being or presence.

The Bosphorous was a deep turquoise blue yesterday, roiling with power, playing gracious host to the huge ships that sail between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Fishermen were dotted along the pathway, there was a small smoky cooking fire on the grass and further along there were cooked corn cobs for sale ... it was a little like walking through a huge and happy picnic area, with buckets of the small silver Istavrit fish everywhere. The English translation is horse mackerel and they are fish that have been caught here in Istanbul since forever.

Our destination was the Rumeli Fortress up on the hill past Bebek.
Built between April and August back in 1452, it was located at the narrowest point on the Bosphorous so as to control the sea traffic and conquer Constantintinople - today's Istanbul. It covers an area of 30,000m2 and seems almost completely unrestored.

For 2 Turkish lire, the equivalent of 1euro, you have the freedom of both the grounds and the ruins. Sitting up on the stone battlements overlooking the Bosphorous, Lisen and I talked of how good it would be to simply wander in with a book and a picnic, spending the day lost in the serenity of its space.

I had to smile, New Zealand's health and safety inspectors would immediately close it down ... but I think sometimes we need to climb ancient stone stairways without handrails to hold onto and towalk across wooden planks that cover deep holes and to realise halfway across that the odd squeaking sound is actually bats directly over your vulnerable head.

One of the things I love most about Istanbul is this ... it's that you can wander from ancient to post-modern in the blink of an eye. I suspect that Istanbul is one of the only cities in the world to have achieved so highly at both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in-between and so it was that we left the peace of 1452 for coffee at 'the' Starbucks in Bebek. 'The' because this one is the one to be seen at, as it's not the only one here in the city.

I took photographs from our table there, as we sat next to the wide-open window on the edge of the Bosphorous ... simply because it was felt so good to be there.

The call to prayer started up just as I came to the end of this. It's so good to be back in this city I love!

Gule gule from Istanbul.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eat it, smell it, feel it, hear it and bring it all to us when you 're back. When I'm writing this Gert must have arrived. Hope you're enjoying it both.
See you soon!