My first visit to Istanbul

Getting lost, finding back and plastic birds

(this text is a translation of the German entry)

I arrive at the Otogar, Turkey’s biggest bus station. It is my first visit to Istanbul. I have never seen anything like that and think to myself: „This must be the biggest bus station in the whole world!“ It stretches over several floors, every floor is home to many little shops, where you can by pretty much anything you need. For example, you can get shoes (because that’s what you buy when you change buses, right?). Or medicine in one of the many pharmacies. Or food in supermarkets or restaurants. Or you can buy tools or whatever you need to build your house. Or you can buy car parts. This I do understand looking at all the buses. Every floor is like a city in itself. The basement, several floors in the middle, the upper floor. Many little cities on top of one another. The only thing that makes them different is the degree of light that reaches down to them.


The Otogar bus station in Istanbul. Photo:

Let’s go and find Kadiköy

My bus struggles through the narrow and winding roads to reach the top floor which greets us with warm sunshine. I get in a small shuttle bus, it brings me to the ferry in the middle of the city, to the ferry terminal which will bring me to the Asian side of the city, to Kadiköy. It is supposed to be more quiet, a little more relaxed, a little more gemütlich, as we Germans like to say.

I quickly jump onto the ferry, the gates close right behind me and I cross the Bosporus. Not even one hour after having been in Istanbul, I have the privilege to enjoy the view of both sides of the city, the great bridge that separates them and the sea in the distance. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, I sit on the top level of the ferry, I take pictures with my phone and enjoy the fact how the ferry sets itself and with it myself in motion. The European part of the city, with its sky scrapers, its dense housing and its hills is getting smaller, while the Asian part of the city comes closer but still remains small. Clear. No skyscrapers.


See you soon, European side of Istanbul!

I am very touched by this piece of earth in between water and sky. My first time in Istanbul: it feels as if I was about to do something big, something important and meaningful. And I do! I cross continents, leave Europe behind me, greet Asia. I am on the Bosporus. For me, this term has always been associated with great distance, with something foreign and exotic, with the Orient and altogether with a totally different world. And now I am right on it. I am a little overwhelmed by my emotions and even a little touched by being so touched. In this emotional state the ferry enters Kadiköy port and passes a building which holds the „Emotions“ exhibition, as we can see from a big poster hanging down the facade. I smile and think to myself: „I get it, universe!“

Food and sleep

Searching for my accommodation I get lost, ask for directions, get lost again. While walking around, I find small eateries, a vegetable and fish market with wonderful colours and smells, and think to myself that losing and finding definitely form two sides of the same coin. Many impressions take me back to Berlin: smells, noises, people. They buy and sell, push through the streets, enter restaurants, eat, drink and talk. Life is going its way. Do I fell lost? Not really.


This was a very nice Lahmacun.

At some point, it seems like a miracle, I do find my airbnb room. The reviews were positive, not many, but positive: Great host, great host, we had a great time! „Great!“ I think to myself. I climb up narrow stairs and knock on the door once I reach my host’s apartment. A young guy, he is a student, I think, opens the door. His friends are there, too. They’re all smoking in the living room. A sweet smell flows through the rooms. „Great“! I think. My room is ok. Bed is comfortable. I shower and take off. Driven by hunger, I walk through the streets and take a seat in a lahmacun eatery. Reminds me of home. I order a lahmacun and an ayran. Once it arrives, I drip fresh lemon juice over the lahmacun and top it off with fresh parsley, which can be found on all tables. I copy this procedure from my Turkish neighbour and feel a little like a local who knows how to eat his lahmacun.


Balik Ekmek and other Turkish specialities.

Plastic birds and fish rolls

Since one lahmacun can hardly be regarded as a proper meal, I take off in the quest for more food. I find a stand with a really long queue and since people say that long queues are a sign for good quality I decide to queue, too. I don’t mind waiting. If I have one thing while travelling, it is time. I can wait. Above all, I can wait for good food. I order grilled fish in a roll and am directed to the grillstand. A woman is waiting in front of me for her fish roll, later I learn that her name is Hacer. She askes the grill man to remove the inner part of her bread roll which she puts away. I must look a little surprised because she tells me: „I will feed the birds later.“ Just in that moment a man passes by, selling plastic birds. This kind of plastic birds that you put in your mouth and when you blow it like a whistle it chirps like a real bird. I say to Hacer: „Look, here is your first bird.“ She looks a little irritated, looks at me for quite a while and answers: „You have a good sense of humour. Let’s eat together.“ So we do. And this is how my first evening in Istanbul starts. With a fish roll and Hacer.


Good night, Istanbul.

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