I’m walking along the coast road by the Marmara Sea, alone with my thoughts, a fierce wind in my hair, the sun on my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy in a diving suit come out of the water, and another guy in a diving suit dragging a bag of mussels on shore. Then I look again, walking down to the water. Am I really seeing this? Yes, I am. I thought I had already seen the whole city passing by this afternoon, but apparently I have to add ‘guys in diving suits’.
I started my walk from the train station of Kocamustafapasa (KM Pasa) and walk back to the harbour at Eminönü. Quite a few kilometres, but it’s a wonderful walk. A large part of the route consists of parks, right next to the seaside. In this part of the Marmara Sea, dozens of big ships are anchored and it’s a wonderful sight. To the left, there are old parts of the city wall, a noisy street, and behind that, old Istanbul neighbourhoods with people living a rather traditional lifestyle, but many African immigrants as well. This city life is reflected in what you see in the parks.
Women totally covered in black leaving only the eyes open, African immigrants trying to make some sort of a living by selling fake perfumes and watches, and many Turkish families. It’s not that warm, but there are two families having a barbecue picnic, others are getting exercise on the sporting equipment the municipality has installed around the area. Young men bike here (it’s flat!), couples have tea on small plastic stools. On the big boulders between the park and the water, men are fishing and some of them immediately frying the fish. Here and there, men attach balloons to a wire and people pay to try to shoot them with a gun or a rifle – while I have a cup of tea to watch the shooting, a father teaches his toddler son the basic principles of gun usage. The simit seller passes by, and another seller with a wooden cart loaded with bananas. I pass the fish market at Kumkapi, and, well, I see some guys in diving suits harvesting mussels.
Sometimes people who come to Istanbul ask me for tips on where to go. They want me to name monuments they can visit. But if you want to get a real taste of Istanbul, you just have to take a long afternoon walk, for example between Kocamustafapasa and Eminönü. To get the most out of it, take the old train from Istanbul Sirkeci Station (the one close to Eminönü harbour) and get off at the fourth (Yenikapi) or fifth (KM Pasa) station and just walk back to where you came from. You will have a great afternoon, I promise.