09 April, 2010

İstanbul, day 2: Moda and Çamlıca

Another famous teahouse; i join my guides for Friday afternoon namas (worshıp) at a small mosque. Then lunch in a restaurant atop the highest hill of İstanbul...

Beyoğlu district

The morning began late, as i tumbled down the stairs from my couchsurfing host's flat. Sebastian was quite the character, a Sardinian who speaks excellent English - with a thick and shifting, usually Irish, accent. Already late to find the ferry terminal it was a painfully slow taxi ride to Eminönü, and then çay and poğaça aboard the boat across to Kadiköy. There Osman was waiting for me with friend Mustafa, heretofore known as Bayram. And a car. Bayram whisked us to Moda, where we walked the shoreline and drank çay at Moda Çay Bahçesi. The teahouse, situated at the end of a long pier, was another of the items on Ege's list, and a popular place for the wealthier youth of Istanbul. The Marmara sea was overcast, the breeze a bıt chilly.

Moda Çay Bahçesi, on a pier by the Marmara Sea, 
with friends Osman and Mustafa

these dogs share my opinion of Galatasaray 

After çay, we walked the shoreline back towards Fenerbahçe district - and paid a quick visit to Fenerbahçe stadium. Then, since it was Friday afternoon and both Osman and Bayram are faithful Müslümanlar, we found a small cami on a back street. The street was crowded with cars from BMWs to taxis. Inside, my friends led me through abdest - washing the hands, arms, face, and feet in preparation for worship. I knelt between them on the carpet (mescid - worship spaces, indoors or out, are always spread with colorful rugs) and followed their motions, bending, then kneeling and touching forehead to ground to symbolize entry into divine presence, closeness with God.

view from Çamlıca, foreground to back: 
Üsküder, Bosphorus brıdge, and the Levent district

Thanks to Osman's suggestion, our afternoon consisted of a visit to Büyük Çamlıca. This 267-meter hill, the highest point in Istanbul, has been a notable place for centuries. During the Phyrgian period, the place became a forest of çam (pine trees, an object of Phyrgian worship) which survived through Roman and Byzantine periods. In Ottoman times, the Çamlıca hills were a site of falconry, devoted to the breeding and training of Peregrines, among other birds of prey. A summer palace was ordered to be built there, and numerous painters and poets have memorialized the sweeping view toward both sides of the Bosphorus. Today, Çamlıca is an important destination for migratory bird-watchers, and the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul (Türkçede, Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi) manages leisure facilities including gözleme and ice cream stands and an Ottoman-style restaurant. It was here we ate, seated on low couches surrounding bright copper tables, a gleaming copper fireplace nearby. Çamlıca is a tourist spot for sure, but in sharp contrast to the throngs of Americans, Europeans, and east Asians ın Fatih, all the tourists at Çamlıca were of Turkish or Arabian origin. The view is highly recommended.