In the morning I took Mo to the airport shuttle, to thank him and say goodbye. I am so happy that I have someone like him. A friend, as there are just few for me in this world. In the six years when I shared my life with him almost 24/7, I never stopped loving him like a brother. And I hope that it will continue. Thank you Moritz, that I can count on you as an integral part of my life. MoSchi forever!
So I was on my own again. Well, as a traveler you are never alone. And certainly not in Istanbul. Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world. I think I've even read that the city is ranked 4th in the world. Depending on the calculation basis. 14.7 million inhabitants is written on the sign at the city entrance. Incredibly many in any case. Almost three times as many as in complete Norway, just to name a comparison. And here the tourists are not included. But many tourists are not around. Although I entered Turkey in the beginning of the off-season, the country is shunned by very many tourists from current events. Anyone who lives from or with tourism, complains about it. Many Turks were deprived of their financial livelihoods and are now struggling to maintain their living Standard.
What really surprised me, the day after Mo left, another familiar face turned up in the hotel. Daniel (D), with whom I climbed Mt. Olympos in Greece, came to Istanbul for two nights to flirt with the city and wait for his flight back to Hamburg. We talked about our experiences and made our way through the metropolis. The individual sights and attractions that make the city a modern world city, a historical and exciting story-teller and a religious center, will not be discussed in detail here. But, of course, I spent a lot of time exploring the city from all sides, expanding my horizons through history, economic and social connections, and exciting religions.
So I spent a few nights in the hostel until I met Senem (TR). Senem is my age, teacher at a secondary school and lives in Istanbul for six years. We met Couchurfing and she offered me to stay with her for a couple of nights. Couchurfing is, I think, a great opportunity to dive into a strange culture. Away from mass tourism and sight seeing. And who can not help better than a teacher.
It is very exciting for me to experience this crisis-stricken Country and the city that has been haunted by terror. Senem himself is going through very difficult times. The pressure of the government on the teacher grows day by day. Educational plans are expected to be welcomed by governments and parties as well. Resisting teachers are withdrawn from their licenses and headed by school leaders with positions in the party. So Senem told me about it and I think it is, of course, very critical. So a lot of the educators have come together to strike a few days before my arrival. For a single day, they let down the work and choosed the democratic right to protest. One evening she told me, that on that day an inspector of the school system interrogated all striking teachers to examine the background and the teachers personally. It is, unfortunately, quite possible that Senem also loses her license to teach her profession and her passion. If the strike were to be judged as a criminal offense. Of course, she could sue and demand her democratic right. However, due to Erdogan's convening of the crisis state, there‘s is currently no possibility to initiate the legal process against the regime / the authority. She would have to wait at least another year. Until then she‘s. This is just one example, one of the many stories I have learned about the current situation in Istanbul. Frightening. Overall, my trip has been very interesting in terms of politics, society, justice and solidarity. A true educational trip through the countries of crises: Greece and Turkey.
Apart from general insecurity, displeasure and financial pressure, the people of Istanbul are very warm, cosmopolitan and friendly. And not just if they want to sell you something. They are just ordinary people. Like you and I. People who, like all, simply aim to live a happy life. I have always felt safe and welcome. There was also a lot of police and military presence as well as the motorcycle bomb in Yenibosna. I have experienced the city as very beautiful, exciting, interesting, varied and loving. To be honest, it pleases me even better than Athens. Well, it can’t reach my current favority city of Stockholm.
We took a guided tour through the Hagia Sofia. Daniel and my personal guide, which was by the way less expensive than an audio guide, gave us a lot of information about the building, its characteristics and history. But even more about the history of the Turks. Starting with the migration of Turkish tribes from Asia to Anatolia, their distribution in Europe, intra-Turkic cultures, conflicts with Persians and Greeks, information on the Kurds and the Ataturk revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. Many of you may know that the Finnish and Hungarian languages have a common origin. Do you know, however, that this was the result of the Turks' immigration? Hungary is derived from the German "Huns" (Turks). The Finnish language is called "Sami" in the Scandinavian countries. Sami is also a term for Turks who immigrated to Finland.
As you can see, I've learned and seen a lot. Unbeatable and exactly what I expected. I got on to some individual sight-seeing tours. On foot and with a lot of reading, I visited the Topkapi Palace, entered the Sultanahmet Mosque, captured the Galata Tower with its fantastic view, took a boat trip across the Bosporus, got on the cableway to the hill of Pierre Loti (named after the writer),
entered the ancient cistern with> 300 columns, and finally, as an inspiration for the coming weeks, the Miniature Wonderland Miniaturk ", with models of the most valuable sights of Turkey
and the surrounding area. I walked many kilometers and was very pleased about the perfectly organized public transportation. And I even took more than 1.000 photographs. As I said, in photos I go to quantity and filter out quality. But I am very happy that slowly, so I believe at least, I’m getting better using my camera.
The bridges across the Bosporus are particularly striking. The bridges, which connect not only one city, but two continents. The largest of these bridges, formerly known simply as the Bosporus Bridge, only recently gained sad glory. On July 15th of this year, about two months before my arrival, military men were responsible for a coup attempt. These renegade military units were battered by police and civilians. Dead and injured were to be lamented on this day. 179 Death victims among civilians are now heroized by the population and politics as martyrs. Everywhere in the city are columns with pictures and information on the history of each fallen person. A few weeks ago, this bridge has been officially renamed as the "Bridge of the Martyrs of 15 July 2016". It is a crisp, extraordinary feeling beeing in such a place that has currently witnessed a sad, bloody event.
My last days in Istanbul I spent on the Asian side. Here Yagmur (TR), also from Couchurfing, invited me to her home. Yagmur is 24 and works in finance. She lives in a well-guarded apartment district in the east of the city. It took me five hours to move from the west part of the city to Yagmur's district. From there I visited Büyükada, one of the Prince Islands in the Marmarian Sea, where no motorized transportation is allowed, and Yagmur showed me her favorite spots of the Asian side of the city and taught me the coffee future telling. Lot’s of fun.
After 11 days in Istanbul, I took one of the well-organized long-distance buses to Bursa, which is a three hours' drive south. Bursa is the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. The first three sultans ruled from here and are buried here today. The city, which lies at the foot of the Uludag mountain, exudes history and Ottoman culture. The fact that the >2 million city does not have a single hostel, was very surprising. So I got some privacy, at least. This time I did not book a hotel in advance, but I was looking for something that just ran over me. I got into a small, cute, family-run pension only about 5 minutes walking from Bursa's old town center with the "big mosque", the landmark of Bursa.
In Bursa I spent some time with the sights, of course the great mosque, the tombs of the sultans, the tower and the many Ottoman buildings. I liked the Bazaar Bridge. One of only five ancient bridges worldwide, built with buildings as a marketplace. The ocher-yellow Ottoman buildings are very good renovated, and the crafts that can be acquired on the same is impressive. Otherwise there was very little going on in Bursa. Some hotels had already closed for the winter. I enjoyed the tranquility and did some shopping. I have a few new companions named "headphones, power bank and computer mouse".
The main reason, however, why I have taken the road to Bursa is the landscape. The Uludağ mountain is the highest peak in this region with its 2543 m and therefore my next project. Unfortunately I was not particularly successful when I was preparing to climb. Hardly any literature on the Internet and hiking maps are available. Later I will see, that it wouldn’t make big sense to buy some. Because if there are no paths, you do not need maps that describes them. But of course I did not know at this time.
So I went to the mountain, without knowing what to expect, with enough water & food. With a Dolmuş, the mostly privately guided mini-buses, which can be found almost everywhere, I drove to my entry. Well, this time I had some support. The west side of the mountain is used as a ski resort and so I took the world's longest one-rope cableway, up to the tree line. A very nice ride. The autumn colors in the woods, the view of the city and the bright blue sky promised me a wonderful day. On top at the final 4th mountain station, I was shocked at what tourism has done to the mountain. A sad backdrop. If you have ever seen a ski resort in the summer, the rolled and partly spattered slopes, the ghost-hotels, the abandoned asphalt roads and the sad lifts. I'm not a winter sports enthusiast and I hope that there are more ski resorts organized in harmony with nature than this one.
And here I stood. Just following my nose, I started looking for something that could be like a trail. Without success. There are simply no trails up to the summit ... no marks at all. But I think of myself as an experienced mountaineer and most of the time, when you want to reach the summit, you have to go uphill. So I just followed my instinct. It is always astonishing, how often it seems that it’s a dead end, but then you find a way. A nice lesson that the mountain taught me. Thus I struck myself over the stone paths of an abandoned quarry, wild slate fields, peaks, boulders, and steep walls, up to the foot of a summit, with a weather station (shelter?). There was - again - no way to recognize. Just a steep wall up. There MUST be a way, if they have built a house up there! From the other side? That’s too far away. But finally, after 45 minutes try and error, I found a way up. I‘ve done it. I was on the high plateau from which various peaks were easy to climb. For about two hours I was straying east on the plateau. Gladly I wanted to climb the highest summit "Zirve".
Three times I have delayed my "point of no return“. And finally, a flag opened up on one of the peaks. This has to be the highest point! Quick step up the summit and actually: I did it! Without a plan and completely on my own. A glimpse of pride flowed through me. I had the summit and by the way the whole mountain, all for myself. No other person has crossed my path and I enjoyed the peace, the solitude, the wind and the view. After the last few weeks in the millions cities, it was just the right thing for me. After the summit, I had to motivate myself to make the descent. Over a few further peaks I went back to the weather station, the steep wall down and back to the winter sports resort.
After 9 hours of nerve-racking hike, without great breaks and always with respect to the mountain and its dangers (I was completely alone on theway) I was physically and mentally fatigued.The ropeway came just right. In the cableway, I had to convince my legs to carry me back to the hotel. With some chocolate I bribed them and I felt successful, content, proud and shaky legs to bed. What a great day!
Now I’m on my way to Izmir. To the Turkish coast of the Aegean Sea. Let’s see what’s waiting for me over there.
- Big mistake. I set up a public trip in the internet to announce that I come to Istanbul and that I’m looking for a couch to sleep. ... in one of the largest cities in the world. I‘ve received hundreds of messages.
- Related personen to the fallen of the 15th of July may use the personal transport of Istanbul for a year free of charge... a weak consolation with the title: Martyr widow card.
- In complete Istanbul and Bursa was no charging cable for my tablet to be found. I have spend hours looking for it. And since neither Amazon nor eBay exist in Turkey, many helpful local people had to throw the towel as well.
- In Bursa there are only plumps. All over! In malls, in the hotel and in the restaurants.
- In Bursa, a friendly restaurant owner, due to his birthday, handed out a sweet soup with nuts and dried fruit to everyone. I was almost forced to try. Very tasty and very nice.