’We want three’, she said holding three fingers up in the air, ‘for ten’, showing ten fingers. She giggled, as did her friends. Dutch, I heard clearly from their English accent. The salesman accepted the offer with a big smile. He handed them three pieces of bread with fish and some salad, they sat down on the edge of the sidewalk. Wind in their hair, the Bosporus water splashing up high enough for some drops to reach them. Sun in their faces, the wide view of Istanbul right in front of them.
These days, I rarely walk along the Bosporus shore in my city part Üsküdar during the day. I usually come early in the morning, around 7.30. I’m still running, you see, and in summer it’s too hot to do it during the day, so every few days I get up early to put on my running shoes. The great thing is, I have recently for the first time connected my two running routes. They are both alongside the Bosporus: one from the Bosporus Bridge to the Üsküdar harbour, one from south of the harbour at Üsküdar to Harem bus station. Both stretches are almost 3 kilometres long. Only now have I been able to connect them. Why?
That has everything to do with construction works. The Marmaray tunnel is being built and the construction site blocked the coastal road, but just recently the road has been opened again! I first saw if from the boat: people were strolling along the water’s edge and fishing on a part of the shore that has been closed for years. I’ve never seen it open, and I came to live here in the summer of 2007. One of the first things I thought was: Wow, now I can run from the bridge to Harem!
So I did that a few times. But when I run, I hardly look around. I need to look at where I put my feet, for safety reasons – the pavement is not flawless, so to speak. But today I took a stroll. No running clothes, but slippers, a skirt and a shirt. Many Istanbullu’s and some tourists were doing the same. And I realise: I should do this much more often. It’s a great walk from the harbour to Harem, and there is so much happening and so much on sale – to eat and drink, mainly. It shows so much of Istanbul life. Simit salesmen, fishermen, families, fish-and-bread salesmen, fishing gear salesmen, women and men chatting on benches, sunflower seeds and tea salesmen, and in the meantime ferries and cargo ships are passing by, seagulls screetching, and I saw a few guys swimming in the Bosporus.
And now, with the construction site getting smaller – Marmaray will be opened in October 2013! – you get a glimpse of what Üsküdar was. When you approach the harbour from the Harem side, the view of the fountain and the huge harbour mosque has been restored. Behind that you can see one of the hills Üsküdar is built on. Even though besides all these things there is a bus station at the harbour and quite some traffic going on on the coastal road, this glimpse of the Üsküdar how it used to be, just took my breath away. I don’t know what the municipality plans for the area are exactly, but my wish: make it all it was and can be, with as much respect for the past as possible.