December 9, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….

I recently spent a few days in Istanbul. Those who know me are aware that Istanbul is my first and last love. So I visit Istanbul whenever I  feel distressed and tired, where I can pass some days in a different type of adventure.

Although the word adventure doesn’t really mean “different”, my adventure usually means reliving my past.  When in Istanbul, I try to revisit the first adventure of my life. Way back in 1972, when I was about 17 years old, my father had gone on a different sort of adventure, to travel from Karachi (Pakistan) to Istanbul, with the family, travelling by buses and train.

I am not going into details of that adventure here now, but I would like to mention those places which I had visited during the first couple of days in Istanbul during that wet winter of 1972.

The first place that I visit every time is Hyderabad train station on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. This is the place where we had first stepped into Istanbul on 17th November 1972, after travelling for about 4 days from Tehran, Iran. That evening it was very cold and it was raining. The waiting room of the railway station was the first place where we spent the first few minutes until we got a taxi to take us to a hotel in the Kadiköy area.

Last week when I visited Kadiköy, I could see that the Hyderpaşa railway station was going through major repairs. So I dropped my plan to visit there first. I saw it from a distance from the Kadiköy area.

Every time when I visit Istanbul, I visit the Kadiköy area. That’s the place where we had spent our first night in Istanbul, in 1972. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of that particular area. So everytime I just roam around the area, and pass by a number of hotels, thinking that we may have stayed in one of them at that time.

My next step has always been the most exciting part of my Istanbul visit. That is crossing the Bosphorus by ferry boat. Just as we had boarded a ferry on the early cold morning of  18th November 1972, I boarded a ferry boat from the Kadikoy port, for Eminonu on the European side of Istanbul.

I really love that short voyage. I stand at places in the boat, walk around, trying to recall from my memory, thinking how we had for the first time boarded the ferry boat on that particular day. It was first time in my life and of course the rest of the members of the family, to board a ferry boat. I remember that it was very very cold on that particular morning in 1972, and the sea was very rough. We did not sit inside in the seating section, because we wanted to enjoy the sea, so we had preferred to stand in the middle area of the boat, from where we could look at the sea on both sides. But that was the place where the cold wind was blowing. However, even in that cold weather, rain, and wind, I remember I was so excited to stand at that place, and watch the rough sea around.

So last week too, I boarded a ferry boat and travelled from Kadiköy to Eminönu, I stood at the same open place from where I could see the sea on both sides.  It was not cold, nor windy, yet I could still once again feel the terrible cold and wind that I had experienced on that particular day when I was 17 years old.

The next stop is Eminönü on the European side. I once again stepped down from the ferry boat, and walked towards the Bus Stop. That was exactly how I had walked with my late father on that particular morning, without exactly knowing where the bus stop was. Neither my father nor I knew Turkish, so it was very difficult to find anyplace. However, as a precaution we had already done our homework on detailed maps of Istanbul, so we did have some idea about the location of the bus stop.

Today that bus stop at Eminönü is still there.

But this time I did not board the bus, I walked. On that particular morning, 47 years ago, we had travelled by bus from Eminönü to Eyüp in the north. The distance is around 3km, so whenever I visit Istanbul I walk from Eminönü to Eyüp. I enjoy walking, and that also gives me sufficient time, to revive in my mind the memories of that particular day all those years ago.

We had managed to reach the address in Eyüp, which was given to me by a Turkish person in Karachi, who my father had met just by chance in an art exhibition in Karachi. That address is all that we had when he had reached Istanbul. Unfortunately, when we reached the given address, we came to understand that they had moved to some other part of the city.

A postman, who was delivering mail in that area, had come to our rescue and told us that he knew another relative of the same person, living in the Gaziosmanpaşa locality. The Gaziosmanpaşa, was about 2 km from there. I remember it was very cold on that day, with a light drizzling of rain. We walked along with the postman for some time, when we reached the next address.

So this time too, I walked first from Eminonu to Eyup and then from Eyup to the Gaziosmanpaşa, area, to re-live that particular and unforgettable day of my life.

Every time I visit Istanbul, I travel through the same route, just to re-live that particular day of my life.  I simply love it.

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