Saturday April 26th, 2014: Black Sea Excursion


TRANSPORT Rachel Burand

After a ride on the metro, the funicular, and the tram, we made it to Eminönü just in time to grab a simit (only 1 lira?!) before boarding our ferry to cruise up the Bosphorus. I’d say the theme of the day was multi-modal transportation, but wait–that’s every day in Istanbul. Seagulls flew along as our boat made its way up the strait, hoping to catch extra simit any passengers may toss overboard. We spotted a pod of dolphins just as the Black Sea came into view in the distance, and they popped up once more near the boat before disappearing down into the Bosphorus. The boat reached the small village of Anadolu Kavağı and docked there for the next few hours. Our first stop on land: Yoros Castle.

A steep hike uphill brought us to the Byzantine-era castle ruins as well as some breathtaking views of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. We could also see the beginnings of construction on a third bridge over the Bosphorus. Just before the strait meets the sea, two enormous pylons for the bridge are already installed. Towering far above land on either side of the entrance to the Black Sea, the pylons denote a view that is about to drastically change. We spent some time exploring and documenting before heading back down for lunch and returning to our trusty boat.

Our final stop of the day was the Beşiktaş fish market, a project by architects Gokhan Avcioglu & GAD, completed just a few years ago. In stark contrast to the fish market near Galata Bridge on our studio project site, a triangular concrete shell covers this smaller scale market. Surrounded by a busy commercial area of shopping and restaurants, the massive structure is hard to miss. Our day trip ended here in Beşiktaş. Just two ferries, a funicular, and a metro ride to trek back home. And of course a cup of çay on the way.



As the realization was setting in that we had actually missed the boat, we turned around and made a third pass through the length of the Eminonou boardwalk checking one last time for our comrades. Looking around at all the ferries, I remembered how this had been the excursion that I was most looking forward to. AJ, Alex, Spencer and I were five minutes too late to make the boat for the Bosphorous Cruise. Just when I had finally begun to feel comfortable with all the modes of public transportation in this city, we made a tactical time estimation error that proved fatal to our day’s planned activities. But we were determined to make the most of our day, so headed to a nearby juice stand for some fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juice. Surely, this would help inspire the salvation of our day! After our delicious refreshments, we said “Teşekkürler” to the nice vendor man and were on our way into the packed streets of the Old City.

We were far less accustomed to this side of Istanbul, so we allowed ourselves to wander and experience the urban fabric through exploration–my favorite method of learning about new places. We found ourselves in the midst of the Grand Bazaar and it became obvious that Alex’s wallet was in serious danger. We recognized the sign on a storefront called Igüs that Ozayr had recommended to us as the best place to buy scarves in Istanbul. So, naturally, we all poured into the shop and started sifting through the collection looking for gifts to bring home to all the women in our lives… most importantly, mothers of course. Leaving there I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and fair we had been treated, especially after hearing stories of pushy shopkeepers throughout the Bazaar. It goes to show that finding the right places to shop makes all the difference – like anywhere else in the world.

With lighter wallets and full bags of scarves, we continued on and a stand of tiles caught our attention. We started asking some questions to the man standing next to his goods and he ended up inviting us to a more secluded selection of tiles and hand-painted ceramics. We followed him past the hustle and bustle of the main bazaar hallways into a back corridor leading us to three separate rooms of the most beautiful ceramics, stone, and tile work I have ever seen. At his small stand in the main hallway where we had first met him, he seemed only to sell smaller tiles and trinkets for the average tourist, but in this collection of rooms that we had to duck to fit through the doorways, we were met with colors and patterns that represented real Turkish craftsmanship. As we perused the amazing works with our eyes, another one of our senses was stimulated by complementary apple tea–another astonishing first. We sat and talked with Kaan, the shopkeeper, who had worked at this store for 20 years (since he was 9 years old) and his grandfather had run it for another 50 years before that. He brought us into another room–smaller than the other three–that he claimed was his favorite. The ceiling in this room is 650 years old. That means that this room had been built a full 250 years before the first colonists even arrived on the shores of New England or Virginia. As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I was utterly amazed.

Leaving with bushels of gifts and having made a new friend – we decided it was time to leave the Bazaar. We walked all the way down to the water’s edge on the opposite side of the peninsula from Eminonou where we had started our morning. Here we found Yenikapi Sehir Parki – a park that was created by extending the shoreline and filling in the water much like a Dutch polder. In our prep work back in Minneapolis, we were using Google Maps to learn about the city’s layout and our TA Jody Rader stumbled upon this mysterious construction project which appeared to be a massive park being made where land had not previously been. This excursion was probably the most traditionally landscape-centric thing we had seen since arriving in Istanbul, so naturally we were ecstatic. The park offers beautiful views of tankers coming into the Bosphorous as well as some dolphin sightings if you are lucky (we were). Half of the park is still under construction, but after bribing a security guard with a cigarette and a few smiles, gates were swung wide open for us. The scale of the space is indescribable and includes not one, but two helipads. Huh? It also has a poured concrete stage that could fit at least four Justin Bieber concerts, but is already being used more for amplified skateboarding. The Turkish must not be familiar with Dutch Elm Disease because all of the trees are planted in astounding monocultures. Underneath the trees is mowed turf grass. And that’s about it – concrete, tree rows and turf. But that scale though! If you get a chance I highly recommend taking a trip on the B2 bus to the end of the Yenikapi line for a unique chance to feel incredibly small.



The sounds I hear throughout the day in Istanbul identify the city’s vibrancy in ways that I haven’t experienced in any other place. My schedule matches a series of noises indicating the life going on around me.

The morning begins with the squawking and singing of the birds living in the shaft above our apartment complex. Chiming in on occasion, the cats have their own scuffles on the ground six stories beneath. As I eat breakfast, the honking of cars and taxis fill the streets. This generally goes on the entire morning and tells me that Istanbul must be one of the most frustrating cities to own a car. Luckily, after breakfast, we head towards the subway and hear the clump of the wheels of carts carrying fabric against the brick pavement along with more honking cars of course. As we descend to the subway, the whizz of the escalator mixes with the steady march of footsteps of people on their way. Once on the platform, voices carry down the tunnel, but quietly as most people travel alone. The train warns of its arrival by three short honks of the horn and then the screeching of steel brakes overtakes.

Upon arriving at our destination, sometimes the German language can be heard while passing the emergence school. Clinking glasses against the saucer begs us to stop for a cup. Chattering children are found navigating the hills by their parents’ side.  Throughout the day, the prayer call in a language which I cannot understand sounds like a song calling out for the whole city to hear. As day turns to evening and we are out and about, the yell from servers to eat at their, and only their, restaurant quickens our pace. Meat sizzling on the grill in smaller places may just be our dinner that night. The honking returns during rush hour which seems never to end and the impossibly deep rumbling call of a voice collecting recyclable trash goes on through the night. Upon the sun setting, men

The city of Istanbul is woven together by its organized chaos described in sound. Just listening gives you an insight to this place like I would have never expected. From now on, no matter where I am, the earbuds will come out to take in my surroundings even more.