This is Part One.
It’s so early that the thin crescent moon is still visible in the clear sky. My eyes move from that bright crescent to its fabric counterpart on the huge red flag flapping gently above the quay. It is the first ferry of the day, so the usual crowd of several hundred Turks scrambling to be the first on board hasn’t woken up yet. (They’ll all be on the next one.) The engines have roared to life, and are now humming in anticipation.
It’s only seven a.m. and this ferry doesn’t leave for another fifteen minutes. I have my reasons for arriving early. Firstly, I want to score a seat on the pretty side of the boat, the one that will soon grant a glorious view of the rising sun over Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. (The other side is still interesting, with its industrial scenes of Haydarpaşa Train Station and the huge storage buildings for the massive tons of cargo that are transported via the Bosporus Straits every day.) Secondly, I want to beat the line at the tea and simit (a sesame bagel-pretzel hybrid) kiosk on board. And finally, I need to look over my lesson for my one-to-one class with the CEO of a preeminent Turkish fashion company. I certainly don’t want to miss the view because of adverbs of frequency.
I climb aboard, order “Bir simit, bir çay lütfen” (“one simit, one tea, please”) in broken Turkish, pay one lire (or about $0.70) and grab a bench by the window. It’s not quite warm enough yet in the mornings for an outdoor seat, but that’s fine. This commute from Asian Kadıköy to European Şişli is the highlight of my day.
The intercontinental cruise takes about twenty-five minutes, depending on the traffic. The Bosporus is one of the world’s busiest waterways. Floating on the azure blue water, the sound of choppy waves is broken up by the chattering of commuters on cell phones. Out the window, the view ranges from the enormous cigar-shaped oil tankers and gigantic cruise ships to tiny fishing boats that look like toys in comparison. Our ferry takes evasive action as it cuts in between these monster ships, small dinghies and the other ferries, each fighting for space in the heavy traffic. Once we pass the legendary Haydarpaşa, former station of the Orient Express and a brownish-gold jewel of turrets and large windows, the attention turns to Europe.
Part Two coming tomorrow…