*This article first appeared on Yabangee.com – go there and read more awesome articles*
In a few days my wife and I will be leaving Istanbul after living here for three years. We have had an incredible time living in this country and have met some amazing people, ate some incredible food and had some awesome experiences. There have been bad things as well but the joy of travelling is that when you leave you don’t have to pack the bad memories with you. You can leave them behind like that pair of cufflinks I can’t find for the life of me. Before we leave, though, I wanted to write my top five things that I will miss when we leave Istanbul.
5. Dog Chaperones
In Etiler, the neighbourhood I live in, there are a lot of big fat dogs. The biggest, fattest dog lives outside of our apartment (we named her Mama Fat Sax). She doesn’t move around a lot and has spent the past three years looking at us as though she is the landlady of the apartment and we are always overdue on the rent. She is just one of many dogs that roam the streets around our apartment and who, we have discovered, will follow you to your destination when you go for a walk. We don’t know why it happens but we decided that they must be doing it to chaperone us. They want to keep an eye out for us just in case they need to protect us from other dogs or something. It seems to happen especially when we’re walking through Bogazici University and each time it will be a different dog who accompanies us (including occasional visits from Sosis, the long, chubby dog that huffs and puffs alongside us down to the water and then walks back up the hill.)
One night we were out and it was biblically snowing. We were only five/ten minutes away from our apartment so we decided we could walk home through the snow. As we started walking a black and white dog ran over and started following us. He would run ahead and play in the snow then track back to walk alongside us. His tailed wagged constantly and he ran in circles around our little group all the way home. When we got back he sat outside out our apartment under a small shelter all night and when we woke up he was gone, never to be seen again. Some say he’s a legend, some say a myth. To us he will always simply be Snowdog.
4. Turkish Breakfast
Breakfast in any country is usually amazing. However, only in Turkey is it an art form. The first time I sat down in Kale down in Rumeli and the dishes started arriving on the table, I knew I was onto something good moving here. It is social eating at its finest. No one is huddled over a single plate ignoring their fellow diners. A Turkish breakfast is a communal thing, shared with friends and family. The conversation is all about which dishes go well together or which ones need to be tried. When my family comes to visit my dad’s first thought is of kaymak and why he isn’t already eating it after being in Istanbul for an hour. It is also an excuse for extreme, socially acceptable gluttony, which is probably the best kind of gluttony. I like breakfast so much that I even wrote a terrible song about it.
3. Turkish Barbers
I hate getting haircuts. I find it a boring and annoying necessity that makes me long for the days I used to have a shaved head and could just get one of mates to do it while I watched Doctor Who. Here in Turkey though, I love it. I purposely let my scraggly, patchy beard grow for as long as possible so that I can go to the barbers and they can spend a good amount of time pampering me until I emerge like a baby-faced butterfly from a chrysalis.
The same goes for haircuts. The barber will shampoo you, massage you, clean your ears, cologne you, and shampoo you again. Every trip to the barber is like a mini spa day. I get the feeling that when I return to England I will not receive the same treatment every time I go round the corner to the barbers for a short back and sides.
2. The people
The friends I’ve made here have been incredible and the past few days full of goodbyes have each been heart-breaking. The beauty of living overseas is in meeting new people from all over the world and sharing their experiences. I won’t miss everyone I met but I’ll miss enough.
I’ll also miss the Turkish people. Their hospitality is unparalleled and their patience with my broken Turkish borders on the saintly. With events last summer the Turkish people showed their poetic souls and pride in their country and its ideals. It was inspirational and I hope that I can honour that example in my own life when I am no longer in this country.
1. The Bosphorus.
Amazing how a body of water can have such an effect on a person’s mood and demeanour. Kale, our favourite breakfast place, is our favourite breakfast place because you can eat with a view of the water. You can be dipping bread into egg yolk and looking out of the window as huge container ships glide along the water at the same time. A walk along the Bosphorus is easier than a walk in the city. It feels like being that close to the water gives you energy or makes you younger.
My wife and I are such big fans of the Bosphorus that last year we got married on it. My wife being Australian and myself being English we had long discussions about where to have our wedding and how we would transport one family across the world. One day we were on a Bosphorus cruise and inspiration hit. What better place to unite two families from separate continents than on a body of water that is between two continents? We made arrangements and on the night of the wedding the Bosphorus didn’t disappoint. We were dancing on deck while fireworks were launched from the shore. Ghostly container ships moved around us in the dark and tiny fishing boats bobbed in their wake. Other boats passed ours blaring music while the people on board shouted congratulations and we held up our glasses to toast across the water.
If it was possible to take the Bosphorus with us I would. It would nestle snugly in my case next to the friends we have made here, the first time I had a Kale breakfast, Snowdog, the feeling of burning cologne, the sound of the mosque near our apartment, the smell of fresh simit in the morning, and all the other things we have to leave behind.