Kadıköy – an unpublished novel – Chapter 1
Prologue – December 1, 1997.
To the new teacher:
Oriel Bey asked me to write directions to the Hac Şükrü apartment
You’ll be living with Brian. He’s a nice guy.
On the trip to Kadıköy, on the ferry boat from Eminönü, you have the choice to sit either inside the hull of the ferry in the airless heat, near the headscarf-wearing, older women or outside on the wooden paneled benches that curve around the boat. Sitting inside, you’ll get off the ferry sooner, but your view is limited. Sitting outside you are close to the water, with only a flimsy rail preventing you from falling in. You are sprayed with polluted, salty mist from the Bosphorus. Plastic bottles, toys and store-wrapping, insulated by liquid waste, bump against the boat. You pass enormous cargo ships that are unloaded by cranes. Little boys flick pieces of bread at diving seagulls that snatch the bread out of the air.
Closer to land, the neighbourhood of Kadıköy looms ahead. To your left is Haydarpaşara, one of the oldest train stations in Turkey. To your right is a gaudy-looking helium balloon—a tourist trap—that you will never, ever set foot on. An immense banner—an advertisement for a local camera company—with a picture of the Fenerbahçe football team is draped on the façade of Yapı Kredi bank. The five-to-seven storey buildings, mostly hotels and banks, on the other side of Rıhtım Street are too close to the hectic traffic and the water. Dozens of exhaust-emitting buses vie to enter and leave the much-too-small bus terminal in front of the ferry iskele. The buildings and buses, and the absence of green areas do not look like a holiday spot.
When the ferry pitches back and forth in its final approach, people squeeze ahead to be the first to disembark. You wait for those sitting next to you to get up, and, hand on the rail you slowly make your way. Portly, middle-aged men, pushy teenagers and young carefree children ignore the planks laid out for people to cross and jump from swaying ferry to platform, careful not to trip on the thick ropes that keep the ferry from floating back into the Bosphorus.
You are one of the last to get off. You take one last glance back at Eminönü and the European side of Istanbul and are amazed that the city sprawls as it does, and that even across this expanse of water the Aya Sofya and the minarets of the Blue Mosque stand like shadows against the grey sky.
You leave the terminal and are swarmed by dirty children selling packs of tissues and bubblegum. The smell of diesel. Seagulls everywhere. Invisible exhaust particles, intensified by this heat, get in the sweat near your eyes, causing you to wipe your face with a napkin. In the square in front of the iskele (terminal) you take a few unmolested steps before
crossing the street and enter the fray. Ordinary folk run for their bus, while men in suits climb into cabs. English Fast, the school you will be working at, is north-east of here, near busy R ht m Street, and a three minute walk uphill from the water. You’ll be living in Moda, fifteen minutes in the other direction.
The Osman Ağa Mosque is a bungalow hidden in an alley covered with purses and T-shirts. You are startled by its call to prayer on Başçavuş Street, a major artery into the middle of Kadıköy. A second, competing call to prayer from another mosque somewhere near, and then a third gives you goose bumps. Seemingly few men have left the street to pray.
From here you have two options: Başçavuş to Bahariye, or the back alleys off Guneşlibahçe Street.
If you decide on the first option you walk up Başçavuş Street, past its gold-jewelry shops. After one hundred metres you come to a statue of a life-sized bull, Altıyol, meaning Six Ways. By heading straight you’ll get lost in the Salı Market (on Tuesday), and eventually stumble on Fenerbahçe stadium. By taking a right you walk up steep Bahariye Street, a cobblestone avenue without cars (only a solitary line for a streetcar that rarely rolls by). There are expensive clothing and perfume stores, hair salons and cafés that occupy the bottom of seven-storey buildings. Further up Bahariye are a boy’s private school, Beyaz Optik—an optical store—and movie theatres like the Atlantis, and Moda; restaurants: Yıldız 3 Köfte Salonu, Asl Börek and Süt Tatl lar .
On Bahariye Street the pedestrians are window-shoppers more than anything else, dainty teenagers pulled along by their thick-bodied, scarf-wearing mothers. The cobblestone gives this part of Kadıköy a European feel, but it’s hard on your feet. You take a break at the nearest fountain.
At the top of the hill there is a cul-de-sac with an inactive fountain in the middle. Standing on your toes you see the blue water of the Bosphorus. All streets go downhill from here. There is an old Byzantine church one street south on Hacı Şükrü Street. Beside the church is your apartment—a two bedroom flat on the third floor of a five-storey building. 15 Hacı
Şükrü Street, apartment 3.
Back on Başçavuş Street the other choice is to take a right turn on Guneşlibahçe Street, which is filled with tables for the Hacıoğlu Lahmacun restaurant and Şelale and Taş fish restaurants. An arbour of creepers and vines gives people a dry place to sit when it rains. Men with trays of mussels walk up and down the street yelling out prices, beside white Christmas lights strangling one-hundred-year-old trees. Further on are stores that sell both used and new books. Alleys off Guneşlibahçe Street serve as market places with owners selling knapsacks, sweets, vegetables, fruit, and fish. You walk past a man hosing off a fish, which flops off the counter and onto the interlocking brick path. Your progress here is slow because you are walking up an even steeper incline where all around you, people are playing backgammon and drinking beer and rakı, the cloudy-hued, local aniseed alcohol. And because both the men and women wear skimpy tops and bottoms in the summer—unusual in Istanbul, which has many conservative neighbourhoods.
There are many twisting alleys leading to your apartment—filled with used-furniture shops, second-hand guitar and piano stores, bakeries that sell the ubiquitous white, stale-after-one-day loaves of bread, and, of course, the pubs: Karga, the Hera, the Vagon Café and the Isis. One alley has stores with stoves and refrigerators. But they all share certain characteristics: lots of people everywhere, stray dogs foraging in the garbage, and little green space. The safest bet is to go uphill, but even then it is possible to get lost because these streets are not straight, so an alley that begins by heading uphill can twenty metres on veer down toward the Bosphorus. But by doubling back and continuing uphill you eventually will find the Byzantine church at the top of Moda and the apartment (15 Hacı Şükrü Street, apartment 3) where you will be living for the next while.