"I won't trouble you with a relation of our tedious journey, but I must not omit what I saw remarkable at ... one of the most beautiful towns in the Turkish empire..."Lady Mary Wortley Montague, 1 April 1717, Adrianople
My place of residence for the duration of my stay will be our modest apartment in Sisli, close to the center of town while my daily duties will take me to another part of the city quite far from all the hustle and bustle. The purpose of my extended visit is to study at Koc University for the next four months concentrating on the history of the civilizations and the people that have passed through this unique geography going as far back as prehistoric Anatolia. Having not been a student in this particular country for the better part of thirty years, this promises to be an unforgettable experience.
This past week has been one of orientation... to the city... the transportation system... basically a whole new mindset. The need for orientation arises partly from the location of the school and partly from my own lack of experience in finding my way around Istanbul without a car. Otherwise known as the City of the Seven Hills, Istanbul is actually a big metropolis divided into thirty nine major districts. Koc is located in Sariyer, the northern most district on the Bosphorus where it connects to the Black Sea. The charming fishing village of the past still continues to be Istanbulites' choice for weekend outings, even though it has become one of the most densely populated areas. Turks don't scare so easily when it comes to finding the right place to have their raki and fish, preferably with a big group of friends, and especially on a terrace overlooking the Bosphorus - this, Sariyer can deliver in abundance. In the past, I had taken my place among the hoards to experience the spectacle that was Sariyer too but traveling there daily without the benefit of a private vehicle seemed like a totally new undertaking that had me set off for my first day with a little trepidation.
All my worries over finding my way around the public transportation system turned out to be for naught. Although I was not able to repeat the same trip plan more than twice in the space of a week, the different routes I ended up taking helped me in shedding my inhibitions along the way. The famous Turkish saying "Sora sora Bagdat bulunurmus" (Baghdad even can be found by asking around) became my motto - everyone was extremely helpful, I asked and I found.
Reaching the center of Sariyer is only part of the journey, the final stage being the pastoral drive up and over the hills. We make our way thorough makeshift neighborhoods with ramshackle houses passing rustic scenes with cows grazing in small patches of greenery next to gated developments with million dollar villas, a bistro sharing the same fence as a small wooden house with a garden full of pomegranate laden trees, sighting magnificent panoramas of the Black Sea down at a distance at every other turn to arrive at our final destination, Koc University. Moving around in Istanbul it is perfectly normal to encounter all the varied people, cultures and lifestyles overlapping and forming a cacophony of types coexisting with one another. The ride up to Koc, is a perfect reflection of the many different facets of life present in Turkey. Here, a shepherd's cattle might be grazing in front of a millionaire's villa or a small shack in the hills might call itself a 'bistro', or one might run into a horse-drawn wagon in the middle of the highway- to a Turk none of these are out-of-the ordinary occurrences. These sights and sounds are part of the very colorful fabric of this country.
After reading this, some might think me capricious but my reticence on the outset was not due to whimsy but anxiety over moving out of my comfort zone. Luckily, I am now very well adjusted and am happy to share "what I saw remarkable at Sariyer, one of the most beautiful towns in the Turkish empire..." during my morning commute.