With a new year beginning, I cannot help but reflect on the previous year and our former expat life in Istanbul.
With the current political turmoil happening in Turkey, I’m constantly thinking about our good friends and what the future may hold. I worry. The Turkish lira is at an all-time low. The government kicked off the new year with hefty tax increases on alcohol, cigarettes andfuel. And you must be careful about what you say on Twitter; and, heaven forbid if you wave a shoebox in the air! Every day, I read something more ridiculous in the news.
In some ways, I am relieved we are no longer living in Istanbul. My husband’s salary would have been drastically reduced as a result of the lira weakening while the cost of going out to eat and drink would have increased. During the three years we lived there, our rent had increased by 20 percent. If we hadn’t moved to Warsaw when we did, we would have needed to find a new apartment anyway. Our life is easier and less expensive here.
|Yep, I'm still in love with this crazy, congested city!|
When I returned for visits in July and September, Istanbul’s traffic seemed to only have gotten worse. Traffic jams started at 3 p.m. and would last until 8 or 9 p.m. Just a week ago, it took my friends nearly four hours to get from the Ataturk Airport to Bostancı on the Asian side. I do NOT miss the traffic! Now, it only takes me about 30 minutes to get everywhere I want in Warsaw.
But I do miss my friends, most of all! We made some amazing friends with Americans, Canadians, a French couple and with several Turks. To me, the good friends we made is what made Istanbul special.
|Our going-away party in March 2013 in Istanbul.|
|Christmas 2012 in Istanbul with my girlfriends.|
Together, we celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and more together. We went on trips to Konya, N.Cyprus, Safranbolu and CundaAdası together. I’m still trying to cultivate those same kind of friendships in our new city. It takes time.
|Let's just say our last night in Istanbul as residents included lots of Turkish raki, wine and mezes at a local meyhane in Taksim.|
I miss seeing the Bosphorus. There’s something magical about drinking a çay along the banks of the Bosphorus and watching the world pass you by. Taking a vapur ride and seeing the city’s minaret-studded skyline never gets old.
On the vapur ride to Kadıköy, you'll pass by the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya.
|Breakfast by the Bosphorus in Istanbul.|
I miss my weekly visits to the pazar. Turkey’s fresh produce and the abundance of it is like none other where I’ve lived before. Right now, it’s mandalina and nar season in Turkey. Luckily, I have been able to seasonally find fresh Turkish figs and pomegranates at my local grocery stores.
|Look for these fresh fruit juice stands throughout Istanbul!|
I still miss the pulsating vibrancy and the tantalizing tastes of Eminönü. I think I could have visited this bustling neighborhood every day and always found something new. I cannot wait to visit again during March!
|Outside of the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar) in Istanbul.|
|I must stock up on Turkish pul biber during my next visit!|
I even miss hearing the call to prayer from the mosques throughout the city. Now, I hear church bells from my balcony in Warsaw.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I am learning to love many things about my new country here in Poland, and I’m finally starting to take Polish lessons this month. (Wish me luck!) I always try to look for the silver lining in any situation. Maybe in time, I’ll be able to wax nostalgic about it as well.
Until then and even despite of the current political situation, Istanbul will always hold a special place in my heart.
|Sailing away on the Bosphorus in Istanbul.|
(Dear readers, I'll be posting some more blog posts about Istanbul during the next few weeks!)