Tram, Bus, Metro, Ferry... A Day in Motion


Galata Tower in the morning, wrapped in a ghostly fog

Ashkenazi Synagogue in Galata, snuggled between buildings

Fisherman heading to the Galata Bridge on a foggy morning

Yesterday was a quintessential Istanbul day- I rode on four different types of transportation (tram, bus, metro, ferry), walked alongside the ancient ruins of Rumeli Hisari on my lunch break, met a friend for an outdoor çay in the afternoon, crossed continents and back in the evening for dinner, and was back home before the stroke of midnight. 

Riding on public transportation can be an adventure on the best of days, but yesterday the buses were particularly crowded. They were so jam-packed with people that the drivers were whizzing past bus stops, because not one more person could be squeezed into those overgrown human sardine tins on wheels. When I finally managed to get on, I was squashed in a puzzle of bodies near the front door and trying to stay upright with the fitful starts and stops of the bus. 

One thing that I've always admired about Turks is that even when they get on from the back door of the bus, in a situation where they could easily melt into the crowd and neglect to pay, they instead pass their bus card to the person in front of them and send it on a journey spanning the length of the bus, passing from hand to hand until it reaches the person closest to the scanning device at the front of the bus, who the swipes the card and sends it on its way back to its rightful owner. The effect is like that of an electrical current flowing through a neuron to the synapse. I am always amazed at this act of civic responsibility, thinking back on the number of times I've seen people in the US sneak on the bus without a second thought. Yesterday, I happened to be the person closest to the scanning machine and was therefore handed stacks of bus cards continuously throughout the jerky journey, to dutifully scan each one in turn. The students directly behind me laughed as each new stack they handed me was greeted with ever widened eyes.

I finally reached my destination- the çay bahçe in Karaköy- and was happy to get to spend some time with Özlem, who is leaving soon. We soaked in one of the first warm and sunny evenings of the season and got caught up in the moment so much so, that when I checked the time, I realized I had only minutes to catch the ferry to Kadıköy.  I hopped on just in time and the ferry took off, pulling away from one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed. The sky was on fire and changed shades by the minute, while the water tried to keep up, mimicking its beauty. We drifted further and further from Galata and Sultanhamet, dolphins jumped behind us in the wake from the boat, and the sky went from yellow to orange, pink to purple. 

Ferry from Karaköy to Kadıköy

Once on the Asian side, I headed to meet some friends at a Persian restaurant called Şiraz, a bite- sized place, whose large array of meze and mains are listed bistro-style on a large chalkboard. The evening proceeded with good conversation, lots of laughs, and tasty nibbles. And then, once again, it was time to make the journey back on the ferry. Again, I ran to catch the last ferry of the evening and bundled up to sit on one of its outdoor benches, feet propped on the railings. Aside from the churning of the ferry's motor, the night felt very still, as if the city were frozen in sleep. We passed the Haydarpaşa Garı, whose reflection in the water looked like a Rothko painting. I finished the last few pages of the Ince Memed, by Yaşar Kemal as the ferry docked, and was ushered out by a smiling ferry worker, as I hung on to the last few lines. It had been day of constant movement and after traveling by tram, bus, metro, and ferry, I fell back on my most frequently used mode of transportation, and hiked up the Galata hill to my home.

Fiery sky

Galata Tower



Forgotten çay saucer

Hagia Sophia

Topkapı Palace



Hagia Sophia

Haydarpaşa Gar


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