When I hear the word Russia, a universe of memories, stories, people, characters, ideas, emotions and dreams, sends glowing signs to the surface of my mind. That is how much living in a foreign country for three years can impact you. It was not only a foreign country, it was a place for which I was faced with many challenges for the sake of living there. That lifestyle was, to my eyes, an award for my struggle.
Less than a month ago I had concrete expectations that my life would kept that way for a while. I remember, mid February, I was sitting in my study and listing plans in my notebook for the year. On Feb 24th, a state announcement came and stirred my world just like the sound of powerful waves before the tsunami. On the 28th, I was embarking on a plane headed to Istanbul and I don’t know now when I will see Moscow again.
Moscow was not a paradise for me. It had its minuses and if you spent some time with me there, you would certainly hear me complaining about the cold or how much I missed home. Yet, Moscow was a part of the world where I arrived as a complete stranger and gradually, became extremely familiar with it. I had a family of friends there. I walked its streets as if they knew me. I absorbed all sorts of knowledge that only a life in Moscow can provide. A considerable part of my life story was written there and that defines a lot who I am today.
The war, in its literal sense, has not yet touched Moscow. So far, all we see is economic consequences, heavy ones, making Russia’s future unpredictably challenging. Ukrainian, Russian people are doomed to a severe condemnation because of attitudes taken by few individuals. That is very sad.
However, hope is the last one to die. To all those who are Russian, I tell you, my story with this nation is far from finished. I will wait for this horrible time to pass and then come, to gratefully appreciate this country again.
As for what happened to me since the 28th of February, well, that was of great help for me to keep myself strong during this hard time.
As mentioned above, I flew to Istanbul, which was my stopover before flying to Brazil. I spent almost three nights in the fascinating old city with plenty of time to do what I love most. My arrival was marked by the rain that was over the region that day. My first observation, as the transfer led me to my hotel, was the more hilly topography, which developed to densely inhabited areas as we drew closer to the heart of the city. My eyes were also fixated on the mosques that we found along the way, spread all over the territory and being a strong trace of an islamic country such as Turkey. After one hour ride, I was delivered at the hotel. A five stories building with a small reception where I was received by a very kind clerk. We did all the procedure concerning the check in, at the end of which a big fat employee showed up to help me with the bags. The staircase of the hotel raised steeply in spiral, the robust man puffing as he carried my suitcase up to the fourth floor. We had to go one flight of stairs, hop on a lift at the other end of the first floor and then, on the fifth floor, walk out to the balcony across the dining room. We turned right and went in again to meet the staircase. This time we went one floor below and just as I stepped off the last stair I met my door to my right side. Turkey then already seemed to be a pretty peculiar place.
By 6h30 of the following day, my sleep was broken by the chant coming from the nearby mosques. I took a while checking up messages in my mobile, separating the clothes I would for those days in Istanbul and most important, trying to make my whole self comprehend what I was experiencing. About an hour later I went up to the dining room for breakfast. From the balcony one could see the vast urban area sitting on the banks of Bosphorus strait, the connection between Mediterranean and Black Seas. A thick fog hovered the area and made the view look quite different from what they show in travel catalogues, but that didn’t matter for me. Right there I started taking my first pictures, capturing the pedestrians passing by on the streets around the hotel, the course of ships along the water way, the ancient steeples outstanding the rest of the buildings and the sea gulls stopping at the fence edge as if waiting for some food donation. I sat in the dining room for less than an hour, observing the flow of people coming and going. Most of them seemed to come from Arab countries, followed by europeans and Russians, whom later I actually had the opportunity to join for a tour around the city.
The district where I was staying is known as Fatih and, considering what was most obvious, it is a part of the city destined to touristic businesses. The narrow streets are place for an impressive harmony between trams, shops, loads of pedestrians and a crazy traffic of vehicles. Surprisingly to me I wasn’t hit by any tram or motorcycle. The shops were equally sized and had a great variety of products, going from spices, sweets, raw food items to camera shops, caviar and jewellery. Whatever you would like to buy right now, if you would explore those streets, you would definitely find your desired product. The booming streets are yet featured by frequent ancient buildings and walls that might have been put there as early as the 12th century, or perhaps even earlier. Little restaurants, cafes and shaurma places fit among the other shops give the atmosphere all sorts of tempting smells, for which I few times stopped walking and sat for a mug of Turkish coffee, salep or some special Turkish sweet. The sales people working here might be very talkative and use a persuasive behaviour to convince by something from them, just as it happened to me.
As one moves to a more outer zone, reaching higher areas of the topography, the ancient traces become more visible and historical sites may be found. That is how I got to see the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque. I could tell more about the history involving these attractions, but I will let you research on that (click on the highlighted names to learn more about them). I can only say, the history of Istanbul dates back to the Greek empire.
Despite the rush of the streets, exploring Istanbul at no moment looked dangerous. I felt myself in freedom and had great fun while communicating with the people there. I would say, Turkey has very unique traces of its own where one can perceive a distinguished common mentality. As I mentioned before, I met Russians in the hotel where I was and went out with them several times exploring the city. Being in Istanbul could not be more fun. They actually helped me a lot indicating interesting things to be seen, thus it was quite easy to find what to photograph. I end this post with a special thanks to them.
Olesya, Anuta and Sergey. Your company was the best I could have had.