First week in Istanbul

We have been living out of a hostel room for a week, our time spent running around frantically in search for an apartment.

No time to process the shock of arrival. No time to relax.

There are small, precious, moments of contemplation though–the eyes settle on something, the ears pick up a sound–and in those moments the most ordinary of things point us to a different context, a different time.

These moments might happen when waking up at 5 in the morning, under a full moon, to the call to prayer, or when listening to the sounds of the seagulls or the fighting of street cats at night.

Or perhaps when crossing from the European to the Asian side of the city through ferry, when realizing that the hazy ghosts in the horizon are actually thirty to forty transatlantic cargo ships, waiting, in line, to cross through the middle of the city into the Black sea and Russia.

Apartment hunting has been an experience. Sites like Craigslist or Airbnb are plagued by agents handling properties specially made for tourists–the prices are sky high and the quality completely unpredictable. Almost all of the listings are for properties in the Galata and Cihangir neighborhoods–central old areas in the European side where artists, bohemians and intellectuals with a lot of money reside.

But even in these trendy areas, we have been in apartments in streets that are practically falling apart.

We have been inside buildings near Taksim square where the atmosphere was boiling with tension. Hot and humid, literally.

As a landowner was showing us one of these places, a voice from a lower floor shouted with a thick african accent “where is my bed warmer!?! Give it back!!”, the sound bouncing up the torn down staircase. After arguing with a tenant behind closed doors to get him to show us the shithole apartment, the landowner closed the door behind him and, when asked when the place will be vacant, rolled up his eyes and said “one or two days, maximum”, implying that the tenant inside was going to get kicked out, by force, soon enough .

Of course, not understanding Turkish doesn’t help. But even if we did, Sahibinden, a Turkish site for rentals, doesn’t show furnished apartments.

But we have found light at the end of the tunnel. After spending the whole day in a cafe looking miserable, a waiter took pity on us and put us in contact with a friend that was looking to rent her apartment. The place is beautiful, located in Kadikoy, a residential area on the Asian side.

At the end of the day the most proven technology of all was the most reliable: word of mouth.

We can’t wait to move out.

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