Even as I congratulated myself on making the morning crossing with three minutes to spare, the phrase “overcrowded ferry” sprang to mind. People were peering out of every window, jammed up against the railings, standing in the aisles, sitting on the stairs, sitting on the floor with their children, dogs, suitcases, strollers and bicycles. Apparently going to the island of Heybeliada on a holiday Monday was a great idea.
A bilingual announcement assured us that life jackets were available under the benches inside as we set off, listing noticeably to starboard. When we reached Kadıköy on the Asian side, about twenty people got off and two hundred more raced to get on.
After a few cups of tea in the lively market in Kadıköy, which also features one Greek Orthodox and, a block down, one Armenian Catholic church, I found a ferry to return me to Karaköy, near my flat.
Like a packet of picture postcards laid out end to end, there were all the wonders of İstanbul stretched out along the horizon: from the huge cargo ships at anchor in the Sea of Marmara to the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Topkapı Palace in Sultanahmet, to the Galata Bridge marking the entrance to the Golden Horn, across to the Galata Tower and houses on the steep hills of Beyoğlu, down to the huge cruise ships anchored outside İstanbul Modern and sparkling all the way down the Bosphorus to the 600 metre facade of the Dolmabahçe Palace, to the skyscrapers of Levent and, in the distance, the thin white line of the Bosphorus Bridge. At $2.50 for the return trip, this most spectacular ride should not be missed by any visitor.
For the trip up the Golden Horn, or Haliç, one must first find tiny Terminal #6, tucked behind a parking lot in Eminönü for serious travelers only. I found four of them waiting when I arrived, and I wondered why they didn’t jump on the once-per-hour ferry when it docked.
On board I discovered it was because the ferry was in fact going the wrong way. After a free ride out on the dancing blue waves while the wind played with my hair, we turned around and I enjoyed the complete experience of cruising up the natural harbour of the Golden Horn, just as Byzas did in 657 BCE.
Back on my street, I was playing with my favorite fat grey kitten when two boys and a little girl with round glasses that made her eyes seem enormous approached with lots of incomprehensible questions. The children had assumed entertaining the kitten when a small chubby boy came over.
“What time is it?” he asked.
After too long a pause I enthusiastically replied, “TEN!!!”
The boy began to run away, either to make his bedtime or for an extra half hour of street playing, when he stopped and looked back.