Tear gas, fun and boats; a weekend in Istanbul
Ok, so you may have noticed that I've been MIA for a few weeks. As well as having a small breakdown over where my life is going, an early bout of mid-life crisis and a couple of art shows, I've been teaching a lot of yoga and trying to get my head around my next art project.
Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to share a few of my traveling stories with you to keep you distracted whilst I work on my art stuff...
My posts might not be super regular but they will be interesting and funny and heartbreaking and all things that a good story should be! Here we go ...
Gasping for breath, we stumbled down the stairs of the restaurant. Our sleeves pulled over our hands and clasped firmly over our mouths in an attempt to block out some of the choking fumes that hung in the air. We passed an elderly woman being helped up by two younger waiters, trying to get to the refuge of the first floor, just managing to slip around her as she vomited spectacularly over the steps.
The smell of sick mingled with the stinging, smoky air as we pushed our way towards the glass fronted shop exit. Dashing out into the crowded, noisy street, we ran as hard as we could away from the shouts and pelted, coughing, towards our hotel, where the sealed windows offered some small respite from the tear-gas infested street.
We had thought that the ice-cream store on the main drag, just off Taksim Square, would be a safe haven from the riot police and demonstrators, so when the owner had assured us (with the air of a man who is thoroughly fed up with all this and is desperate not to lose any more customers, thank you) that it would all be over soon, we had taken him up on his plea to go upstairs and wait it out. However, it soon became apparent that Turkish demonstrators aren't easily dissuaded and when the police had chased them back past the door for the third time in a row, each time getting more heavy handed with the tear gas, we decided to make a break for it.
Traveling to Istanbul is like going to an awesome party at a crazy ass dude's house! You have an incredible time and would love to go back but the host drank way too much and bummed everyone out by throwing shit around, insulting the guests and setting the place on fire.
On the one hand, everything is very cosmopolitan. There are high end stores and little juice bars where you can get a freshly squeezed juice of your choice. There are fantastic restaurants, wonderful architecture and the modern art gallery, nestled on the river bank, is filled to the brim with contemporary art from world renowned artists. It is safe, relatively clean and the people are cheerful and friendly.
On the other hand, there is an element of tension in the air that hangs, palpable and heavy over the city. You can sense it in the ominous police presence and almost constant low level rioting and demonstrations. The people of the city seem to be in a state of alert watchfulness and at the slightest sign of raised voices or chanting, disappear quickly into their shops, pulling down shutters and locking doors, all the while advising those nearby to do the same.
Our hotel was down a little side street just off the main drag near Taksim Square, where Turkish delight stores sit alongside high end clothing outlets and the smell of baking hangs in the air. It was a beautiful little place, fitted out in traditional black and white Turkish style decor. The night manager seemed sympathetic to our plight and even offered to change our flight for us so that we could get out if we wanted to.
We thought about it, but decided that, even though we are massive scaredy cats and literally just got tear gassed on holiday, we would wait until the next day and see what happened.
The next morning dawned bright, clear and warm and the only signs of the riot the night before was the discarded gas canisters lying around in the streets and a few burnt placards.
The people seemed to have forgotten all about it and were bustling about their daily routines, sweeping away the remnants of the nights activities with a cheerful, businesslike attitude.
We spent the day wandering around the city, taking a boat ride along the river (highly recommended, by the way) and exploring the museum of modern art. Extremely glad that we hadn't followed in our fellow hotel residents footsteps and changed our flights.
If we had simply run away (we considered it in great detail, not gonna lie) when things got a little rough, we would never have discovered the amazing art and food of the MoMA, or gotten lost in a decidedly dodgy area where women hung out of dilapidated houses, shouting and waving down to us and men eyed us suspiciously from under bushy eyebrows.
We would never have found a beautiful little mosque and seen the prayers. We would not have taken a wonderful, windy boat ride along the river and seen both sides of Istanbul rising out of the choppy waters. We wouldn't have wandered through the Grand Bazaar, gazing at all the wares for sale and basking in the smell of Baklava and fresh leather.
It seems that sometimes life tests us about what we really want. If we are willing to sit in a little bit of discomfort, the rewards we reap are tenfold.
We simply need to be sure of what we want, to accept that even if we are a little bit out of our comfort zones now, it won't always be like that ... if we are willing to ride out the storm, we will see the blue skies and sunny weather of our dreams manifesting right before our eyes! **Too many poignant metaphors for ya?! Ok, I'll quit it now!**
And if it really gets too much ... we can always bail out! That's the joy of life ... there is always a plan B :-)
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As always, love and hugs