December 29th, 2011
AN ISTANBUL VAPUR. THE MOST CIVILIZED FORM OF PUBLIC TRANSIT IN THE WORLD?
What would Istanbul be without the Bosporus? The Golden Horn? The Black Sea? The Marmara? To be honest, I don’t want to know.
One of the great pleasures of this city is the ability to travel by water. Not only can it be a lot more efficient than using the automobile-clogged intercontinental bridges, it feels refreshingly unhurried—moreover there’s something about being onboard that alters your mindset. Sure there are people chattering on mobiles, plugged into iPods, but the overriding experience—stewards carrying trays full of piping hot tea glasses clattering on porcelain saucers, massive Russian freighters blotting out the mosques, yalis and seaside palaces that fill the landscape, and the quiet indifference of the passengers reading, talking, sleeping as it all slides by—that somehow alters my perception of time and space.
The sense of wonder onboard overrides any form of creative block I might be experiencing. I simply hop on a vapur, order a tea, and read the stories on the faces of the passengers who make the crossing between continents part of their daily ritual.
COMMUTERS ON THE WAY TO EMINÖNÜ.
You start to notice odd things too. Like the fact that dolphin pods prefer palaces. Twice now I’ve seen them, once below Topkapi and the next time by Dolmabahçe. You’re also reminded of a cityscape unlike any other in the world, something which is no less than epic.
KADIKÖY TO KARAKÖY.
You also have the choice of being inside or out. In the hotter months, particularly after a sweltering day in the close streets, clearing your head on deck is the sort of relief that no air conditioner can provide.
MORNING TRAFFIC CONSISTS OF FISHING BOATS, FREIGHTERS, TANKERS AND OTHER FERRIES.
UPDATED FOR THE 21st CENTURY, AN ISTANBUL VAPUR STILL LOOKS AND FEELS MUCH LIKE IT DID IN EARLIER TIMES.
It’s hard not to get inspired. If you let it, the blasts of briny air, the clatter of the gulls, the huddled couples, the curious looks help clear the chaos from your head, and let your thoughts wander where they need to … not something that ever happened when I was crammed into somebody’s armpit on the bus.
Can you imagine a more romantic form of public transit?