“Beep, beep, beeeeep!” I leap up off the bed and run to the window wondering what in the world is going on 3 stories below me. I’m not on a big highway – I’m staying in a studio apartment on a tiny little one-way street made of uneven cobblestones. I’m startled to hear so much commotion in this simple neighborhood corner of Istanbul’s Galata neighborhood.
I stick my head out of the open window and peer down below anxiously and I see a big giant mess. It looks like a puzzle where the pieces are cars and they are trying to all figure out how to fit together…or more precisely – come apart. There is no accident – it is just a matter of tight spaces and sharp turns around parked cars. Yet in what seems to be a short time and with help from others on the street they seem to get out of the gridlock predicament they are in and they are all on their way.
Soon I hear more beeping and run to the open window again. I have to leave the windows wide open in order to have a chance of keeping the apartment cool on these 90-degree days without a cloud in sight – but it seems I get distracted easily from what’s frequently happening outside my window. I peer out again and there’s a fruit vendor who has parked in the middle of the street yelling something in Turkish. Women start to appear out of the surrounding homes to come to get fresh produce – the store has come to them. I watch everyone talk to each other with familiar ease. I consider grabbing my wallet and running down to get some cherries – but then I remember that I have a fridge fruit already! Fatih, the apartment manager, left me a fridge full of fruit and cold mineral water as a welcome gift – a gesture that surprised and delighted me.
Five minutes later the scene is completely erased and the corner is clear again. This is the ebb and flow of my neighborhood in Istanbul.
I quickly learn that watching out the window of my apartment is more interesting than watching television. It’s a constant hum of activity. The first thing I do every morning when I awake is take a cup of coffee and go to the window and stick my head out to see what’s happening down below. After a few weeks of being there, I realize that there is a pattern that happens – like a regular programming schedule. The fruit truck comes on Tuesday, the orange cat always sleeps on the ledge of the abandoned building, there are a couple of men who always read the paper on the stoop and have tea in the mornings, the garbage truck comes at 9 PM, the neighborhood kids play out on the street starting around 5 PM after the intense sundials the temperature down, and every night at 2 AM during Ramadan 3 boys walk up the street beating a drum and singing letting people know to wake up and eat before the next day of fasting begins.
I love this life outside my window in this local neighborhood. I feel a part of it when I go outside on the street myself. I feel like I sort of know the characters as I go buy milk for my coffee at the little shop below my apartment. The owner and I exchange smiles as our ability to communicate are limited. But the man who sells peaches further down the street has a little English vocabulary and our interaction goes beyond smiles. The woman who sells gorgeous jewelry in the little boutique on the street is often sitting outside when I walk by and we exchange hellos. As I go to the market someone yells my name – it’s the waiter from the little café near my apartment. I am surprised that he remembered my name, but he simply comes over to say hi and asks when I will be back to have breakfast again. This is my little neighborhood and it feels so different from any city I’ve been in before.
My 2 weeks staying in Galata are being spent as a visitor – not a tourist thanks to my little neighborhood apartment.
View the video of my studio apartment and the view outside the window.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Wimdu.co.uk during my stay in Istanbul. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own.