I was born and raised in İstanbul. The biggest city of Turkey where ten-something million people live. The streets are always busy, the traffic is almost always terrible and the political tension on the streets is always seems to be high. Chaotic, vibrant, fascinating, unique and sometimes smothering.
When we first moved in together with my now-husband, then-boyfriend; he was already living in Yeldeğirmeni, Kadıköy in an expat building so we’ve decided to stay and rent our own flat in the same place. With parties almost every weekend on our communal terrace and meeting so many different people coming from all around the world, it was hard to find something to complain about. Living in that couple of centuries old building surrounded by like-minded genuine friends whom we still keep in touch, we’ve fallen in love with this little neighbourhood.
Exploring the small cafes and treating ourselves for a breakfast outside became our weekly ritual and small walks taken between the streets were our treat. Mural art on almost every corner, international students trying to escape the high prices of Moda area were now turning this Kadıköy corner into a small town bursting with culture, art, peacefulness and calmness… Something hard to come-by in İstanbul.
The day we moved to our second flat only two minutes away from our previous one, between one of my many popping in-and-outs; a woman stopped me to ask if I could take a picture of her and her friends. After posing in front of our not so special building, she has explained that in the 70’s when they were all students at different universities, this was the building that they lived for four years and four more after that. And this was the first time any of them visited it again since going their separate ways. ”Yeldeğirmeni has changed a lot with all these art cafes and the coffee spots now, but the spirit is still the same.” one of them said. It turns out she was there to look for a spot to open her own art gallery just a street away from the very same building where she studied art and dreamed about owning a gallery one day. As fascinating as it is, I suspected this was only one of the many hidden stories surrounding these old walls.
Living in İstanbul and especially in any part of Kadıköy comes with its unique demands. In this case, it is the animals that made these streets their home. Street cats and dogs are part of everyone’s life and if you are one of those who LOVES animals (more than people some people claim), simply going out for a 5 minute walk to the supermarket means stopping at least five times to pet some of them. Preggo Calico, Kuyruksuz, Scratchy cat, Friendly Black, Çamlıbel, Eyeless, Stamppot, Boomer, Perry, Sümük of here, the Bundle family, Kitty cow, Purrito, Miracle Mimi and Huggy cat were our friends whom we would meet and greet everyday. I only hope that they would forgive me for all the weird names that I have given to them. Regardless of their clumsy names, they are and will be the biggest reason for Yeldeğirmeni to be the most special place within all the other neighbourhoods I’ve lived in.
Taking all these into consideration, it was easy to assume that four months after we’ve moved to Doha, when I had couple of days to spend in İstanbul, I was nothing short of happy.
Walking the same streets, going to the same cafes like we used to and more importantly seeing old friends reminds me that 28 is not a young age to feel nostalgia. Guli, whom we met in that first building is married and getting ready to move to Malaysia, just like we’ve moved to Qatar. Duygu, busy as ever with her work but our talks on WhatsApp everyday makes it easier to live apart. Jeff is already back to the United States and still on his search for his true meaning. Sean, living in South Korea with the girlfriend he met in that building. Gizem, moved in with her boyfriend Nik and enjoying the beautiful İstanbul sunset everyday. Kate, Niko, Chrysta, Jack and many others that we’ve shared a drink -or 10- at some point during our time in Yeldeğirmeni may not be there anymore but our memories and some embarrassing Facebook pictures are still there. And my four legged street friends? Some where still there, laying lazily next to a sidewalk or under a car and some were new, replacing the ones that we have lost along the way.
If you would like to see more photos of İstanbul, come and find me on Instagram @crn.spymn !