Surfing and Dancing Eastward Again (pt.1)
1. Sam is cycling to New Zealand
2. A fisherman releasing a gull that he caught by mistake from Galata Bridge
The Turkish government keeps me from mapping my location, but I am at the ötögar (bus terminal) in Trabzon on the eastern Black Sea littoral of Turkey. I flew from New Delhi to Istanbul on the 8th of July and have since been enjoying a slow pace of travel in good company. The departure from India was probably my most hectic ever involving a mix of my usual erroneous nonchalance towards departure times, a non-functioning debit card, an auto-rickshaw driver with a grinding sense of priority and personal butler service at the airport after a late night stop at Le Méridien hotel. I had left Canada with a functioning backup credit card, but someone I do not know used its numbers to order themselves $4,500 of plane tickets in Winnipeg last month. But, even though the debit card still did not work in Istanbul, the more easygoing manner of Turkish people and their generosity helped me find a solution to eventually leave the airport well-funded towards Beyoğlu neighbourhood.
Cosmopolitan and well-kept Istanbul is a beautiful city full of life, palpable history and human character. It nevertheless took very little time until I began feeling that I had left India in too much of a hurry. In my exasperation with a lot of India’s shortcomings in my last days of travel, I had forgotten to contemplate how real and deeply moving my entire time there had been. I makes me happy though to think that I had been able to become so deeply attached so as to feel melancholy and nostalgia with still so much to discover. India was growth, was patience, beauty that needed discovering, retina-flexing and nostril-flaring, an ear that was a little more open, a gut that was both harder and more compassionate. It is very clear that I am changed and will have to go back to this incredibly vast land that has captured part of me.
If Istanbul itself is a big contrast to New Delhi, I also somewhat deliberately foiled my solitary experience in India with a deep plunge into the world of Couch Surfing once there. For 6 wonderful days, the gateway to the Bosporus was the backdrop to a re-acquaintance with traveling peers, close interested human contact, shared food and living quarters. Yet even 7 sleeping bodies in a 20 square metre apartment and the inhabitants of a hilly city of 22 million are given ample space to be alone in this part of the world. Indians have an incredible capacity to shoulder social stress and thrive, I was not prepared for the disparity in density.
Our host Mehmet explaining how baklava should be eaten bottom-up, good Baklava does not stick to your palate!
I stayed with two hosts in Istanbul, Mehmet and Orçun. At Mehmet’s I met Padelis who studies photography in Corfu. Padelis and I tried to hitchhike our way eastward on the last day, but must have not found the proper spot of the highway for no one wanted to take us. We ended up taking a minibus ride to Ismit and a night bus to Trabzon, a medium-sized pleasant city on the Black Sea coast 10-15 hours from the Georgian border. On the first evening, I took a sunset plunge by the harbour and by the second, we had gone and were returning from an enormous folk festival high in the mountains.
Gaining strength with fresh summer figs