Snow Days Istanbul

Snow days never lose their luster. The great thing about snow days in Istanbul is that there doesn't even have to be much snow for a snow day to be called. When it snows, the city's hills make it difficult for school buses to get around, and so even the meekest of snow falls gives teachers the opportunity to turn off the alarm for a few more hours and get back to bed.

Yesterday turned out to be one of those wonderful days that started with a rough sketch of a plan and fleshed out into a day of random encounters and new adventures. Gabby and I had planned to go drawing at Haydarpasa Gar, the city's oldest train station dating from Ottoman times in 1872. We took the ferry from Karakoy, well bundled against the piercing wind. We walked to Haydarpasa Gar and settled into the front entrance hall to draw. Like many places in Istanbul, stepping into the gar feels like a step back in time. The entrance hall is stately, but warm, with curvy floral motives lacing the arches. Yellow and red stained glass adorn the windows, filtering the soft, gray winter light into a golden glow, and old clocks keep time, even though no one is rushing to catch their train, since services stopped in 2013. The gar felt largely deserted, though it still houses some offices. Aside from a few workers clicking by and the occasional tourist snapping photos, it was just us and the cats.

There is even a barber in the station, a detail that I love; you wouldn't want to start on your travels looking less than your best!

Like most places in the city, the gar had a few cats who seemed to regard the place as their own. One came to us, stepping on our sketchbooks until we gave him his due attention.  

Start of a sketch... too cold to finish!

We sketched until the cold crept to our bones and our feet felt like blocks of ice (hardcore, I know...), and then decided it was time for a break. We walked around the outside to the gar's meyhane for something warm to drink, and bumped into two friends, the only other customers, looking for the same fix. After a round of Turkish coffee and catching up, our friend suggested we go get Uzbek manti at a place she knew of in Kadikoy. We layered up once again and waddled towards the Kadikoy Iskele, wincing with each gust of wind. The place was called Mantik Manti and we ordered a mixed plate of their plump dumplings filled with spinach, chickpeas, walnuts, and meat, which we washed down with a cup of cay. 

Uzbek manti

After lunch, we hopped back on the ferry to Karakoy, headed to yoga, and then out to dinner, where we sat at a communal table and met a great bunch of people. The day continued to roll on as we met with other friends later on. It felt like we were on vacation in our own city. That same night, we got news that the next day would be a snow day as well and we made plans to go sketching again. Here's hoping for three in a row!

Sketching on a snowy day

Snowy street in Karakoy

Mural in Karakoy


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