An island off Istanbul

Since 5 weeks I am living on the Büyükada island about 1.5 hours by ferry from the European centre of Istanbul. The first thing you notice about the island is its quietness and calm. This is mainly due to the ban of combustion engine driven individual transport – in other words, everybody walks, cycles or uses one of the horse-drawn carriages. The posh crowd hovers around on silent electro scooters or has a tiny electric engine strapped to their bikes. A few delivery vans, construction trucks or police cars cause noise and dust, but that’s it. Even the dogs sleep in the middle of the street. Thousands of cats fight with each other over territory or with sea gulls or stray dogs over food.

I came here through Ludwig from Tunel Art Café in Istanbul. He is part of Naya Retreats, a meditation and wellness centre on the island. In exchange for a little good tech karma for his various projects I can stay at Naya and do my work over the Internet. The house (some photos) is mainly empty at the moment apart from Murat the organic gardener, his friend Ayda and me. Because the island is a popular destination for Istanbulians especially on sunny days there are always some visitors around the house. On Fridays I usually go to town to do city things and stay over at my German friends place (hello Cox, Sahide, Lena, Heike, Eike, Lukas!). After a day or two I get dizzy from the urban madness and I go back to the island of the exiled (various Ottoman royalties and Leon Trotsky lived here).

So I did last weekend. When I came back to the island on Saturday afternoon, together with my Lebanese-Canadian friend Lamia, the bike that I left at the ferry terminal was gone. Long fingers there and long faces here. Not the loss of the bike, but the idea of the island not being so peaceful after all made me sad.

This morning I was at the ferry terminal again and had another look at the place where I last saw the bike. There were two police men discussing something, pointing around. I walked up to one of them and said, hey my bike got stolen – right here. He looked me up and down, mused for a moment, and then waved me towards the nearby balustrade to the sea and pointed down. I looked, and there was a red bike in the water. I shook my head, thought ‘ha, that would have been funny’, but nay, this is not the bike I am missing, mine is silver. He gesticulated, have another look, there are two bikes. And, heureka – there it was! I started laughing from happiness, still high from the wonderfully sunny and happy weekend, and about the irony of it all (the last two days I anxiously looked after every silverish bike passing by, ready to jump at the thief). I think the young police people were a little puzzled by me being so happy about someone throwing my bike into the sea. After a short wait help in the form of a boat hook arrived. We pulled the bikes out together, me climbing around the balustrade, 5 police people happy about the action pulling the hook. A person walking by said some disturbed person or some kid does this from time to time. At this spot, and over there at the other ferry. Another passer-by offered me translation.

The bikes were brought to the police station, dripping water from the seaweed caught in spokes and gear-wheels. A report was filled out and under supervision of a police guard with a big-ass machine gun a lower rank cop and me removed all plants from the bikes. The young guy with the gun seemed to have forgotten the purpose of that thing in his hand from holding it all day long. When I asked him not to point it at me, because it scares the hell out of me, he first did not understand but then smiled, ‘Oh, this? Right, sure!’. After a few moments the gun barrel was up at stomach height again, because he had already forgotten my fear and because it obviously is most comfortable to hold it like this. After half an hour I got my ID card and the bike back and there I was, the happiest boy in Istanbul, slowly cycling home, stopping at a bench in the sun, over-viewing the misty sea, eating a simit as sweet as kisses.. 🙂 Trust in the people on this island, humanity as a whole and my reality – restored. He he.

One Reply to “An island off Istanbul”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *