05/09/2019 - 05/20/2019
Here’s a photo essay of the Istanbul and Cappadocia I explored in roughly 10 days. I went during Ramadan, thinking it would affect my trip in some way, shape or form (but it didn’t). It couldn’t have been more relaxed. I couldn’t have blended in more (I believe I could’ve been mistaken for Kazakh…). I learned a lot about Turkey’s recent political & economic scene and felt the anxiety from locals about their re-election at the end of June.
Egzi, a tattoo artist in Kadiköy, told me about the Gezi Park riots in 2013 (which I had no idea about) & the shift of bringing life from Taksim Square over to the Kadiköy area - now that’s a conversation I’ll never forget.
I will never forget the importance of the soccer (football) game on May 19, 2019, where the underdog neighborhood team won against the team funded by the government. The happiness Ekin’s boyfriend and all the new friends he made on our ferry back from Burgazada was beyond a sports fan-type happiness. This was the type one would think they’d only experience if they were watching the game in person. It was also a big screw you to the government, and the fact it happened on their Independence Day (Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day) was a double whammy. (Though Ekin’s boyfriend did bet on the game so he was incredibly elated to have won his bets as well). The city was on fire all night, horns honking and people cheering throughout the streets.
It’s not a trip for me unless I meet up with old friends and make new ones! I had such great conversations with the people I interacted with on this trip. For me, even if we only have the opportunity to hang out for X amount of days, I cherish those specific memories/they remain very vivid in my mind for a longer period of time.
Only when you set foot in Turkey and see it for yourself will you finally understand the fascination around cats in this country. I didn’t watch Kedi before going to Turkey and honestly, I think it was actually more beneficial for me to watch it after. I was able to pinpoint some locations and imagine myself back in the city, absorbing all the sights, sounds and smells it has to offer. But true to the documentary, I did see so, so, SO many cats. And even better, witnessing the kindness of people in the neighborhoods taking care of the returning cats made my heart swell ten sizes. I saw fearless cats watching people pass by, accepting any and all the stomach rubs and head scratches. I heard them meow for food and succeed in getting fed. I saw them laze on the couches in a hammam and befriend tourists in a hostel, being passed around from person to person. As I was walking on the streets of Istanbul with another traveler, she told me the best way to find friends is to carry cat food. She taught me how to feed cats without scaring them (although I don’t think cats in Turkey are scared of anything, if you were to ask me) and by the end of my run, I had grown used to seeing little heads pop up from every nook and cranny. That’s something I’ll miss seeing in Toronto.