Monday, January 6, 2014

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.
Our friends, Ken and Earl, former owners of Denizen Coffee, hosted our goodbye party. I miss these guys!
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!)

Tagged: , , ,


Julia said...

Always hard to adjust to a new life elsewhere but it seems like you're getting more settled in Warsaw now...Istanbul is just one of those cities that grabs you though, isn't it? Great post. :)

Joy said...

@Julia, doğru, doğru! We certainly are getting more settled in Warsaw, and we just made a list of travel sites to see in Poland for 2014. But yep, I still can't get Istanbul out of my mind or my heart! :-)

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i think it must be hard to leave such a mesmerizing city. exotic places are always the hardest to leave. i guess you need to find poland's magic. i know it is there!

Mavi göz said...

Istanbul is like a drug, once you get there, you will come back again.. on the 1 of January I came back from short holiday in Istanbul to Poland. When I was there, I felt like I have never left this city. Living there is more tiring than life in Poland, but so much more exciting and colorful.. I wish you good luck with learning Polish language, it is crazy hard!

Alex, Speaking Denglish said...

Istanbul is so vivacious, I cannot imagine living there and I mean that in a spectacular way. So many stimulating things. What a special place to have spent those years. I sure hope Turkey can bounce back.

Joy said...

@Joyce, It was hard to leave, and don't get me wrong, I have found some of Poland's magic. I guess I need to do a better job of pointing that out too.

With the holidays and the new year, I couldn't help but look back and think about the things I miss sometimes.

@Mavi göz, love your simile reference! It's hard NOT to fall in love with Istanbul! Hope you enjoyed your visit to Poland. And yes, Polish seems to be much more difficult than Turkish, but I'm going to try. Inshallah!

@Alex, Istanbul certainly is a special place! I hope things will improve too!

Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? said...

I only spent a month in Istanbul, back in November. I'd been looking forward to it for a long time, prepared for the stay with the help of your blog, among other sources, by the way. While the stay ended up being challenging at times (living quarters, human-traffic congestion), I have fond memories of the city and can't wait to go back some day soon. There's just something about it, that special essence that many other places lack.