That was my first and last spring break of college where I have two weeks and no plans made for me. I know, what a fate I’ve had to put up with till now. The past three spring breaks have been incredible fortnights of traveling with the Alley Cats, through Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Italy (and that’s not counting the other tours). I am very lucky.
But I was really looking forward to this chance to craft my own adventure, and Charlotte was just the person to undertake it with. We knew we wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been to before, somewhere far away, somewhere that would be a challenge. We also wanted it to be a chance for an art project. Since we were working on producing a play we wrote last semester with our friend Andrew, we felt compelled by finding a place with vast expanses of horizon to film in (the world we were creating includes such flat abstractions). We settled on Tuz Gölü – literally, ‘Salt Lake’, after its huge wastes of salt flats – in central Anatolia, and from there the rough outline of our adventure began to take shape.
The plan: Four days in Istanbul; two days in and around Şereflikoçhisar, a small town on the edge of Tuz Gölü; five days on Crete.
Turkey is an incredible country. It has a uniquely varied history (especially Istanbul), wonderful, generous people, and exceptional food. We didn’t eat a less-than-delicious thing the whole time we were there.
Even months after leaving Istanbul, I still can’t get over how beautiful and surprising it is. I will never forget the feeling of walking into the Blue Mosque for the first time. We had just arrived on our red-eye and in order to adjust to the time we set out for a full day of adventuring, no rest. Sultanahmet, the Old City district, was our first stop. I was verging on that sort of weary delirium, wandering in awe through the plaza and the courtyard colonnades.
Around back to the public entrance, shoes removed, lowered head and wooden doors when this happened.
Well, that launched me into a whole different kind of daze. Which of course, is probably the point. Awe through geometry and nested scales, rather than brute iconography and familiar forms.
We continued our walk, and I couldn’t help sneaking glances back over my shoulder at the receding domes and minarets, fading into the afternoon haze.
We made our way north and west, towards the Golden Arm, the inlet off the Bosporus that separates Sultanahmet from Beyoğlu. Crossing the Galata bridge, an icon and a popular spot for fishermen.
Our energies began to wane as we climbed the narrow, angled streets around Galata. This is where Turkish tea culture comes in handy. Our host made for one of his favourite spots, a rooftop tea garden overlooking Galata and the Golden Arm.
The sun came more sideways, and the temperature was dropping slightly with the light and the rising wind. We wore blankets as scarves and sipped our hot black tea, in the singular tulip-shaped cups. Mixed with exhaustion it all made for a sublime time.
Later in the day I reviewed a few phrases I’d copied in my book on the plane:
Merhaba – hello
Hoşçakal – Goodbye
Bakar mısınız – Excuse me
Lütfen – Please
Teşekkür ederim – Thank you
Ne kadar? – How much does it cost?
nefısti – delicious
hesap – the bill
I needed to be at least somewhat prepared for the big days of adventure (and eating) ahead.