The Smell of Sea

I remember very vivedly my arrival in Timor Leste two and a half years ago. I had barely slept in some thirty hours, I was hungry, thirsty, and my brain couldn’t handle all the new sensations. In fact, in my memory, everything I saw in those first minutes walking around at the SOLS-boarding school is coloured in stronger contrasts than reality has to offer. And, of course, there was my smile. When looking at the shared beds, the cistern, the ravaged buildings, the dorms (which resembled the prisons in the finale scenes of “Apocalypse Now”), my face could do not much more than put on a grin. I also recall introducing myself to someone multiple times because I was simply inable to focus in those advanturous moments.Today, I arrived in my flat in Istanbul. Different to back then, I wasn’t picked up at the airport, but used the bus from Sabiha Gökçen airport to Kadiköy port, found my street and thus my flat. Long story short: I really like the room and I’m sure I’ll have a good time with my flatmates (two Turkish guys, two German girls).

Exploring Kadiköy with colleague and friend Ayla (single).

Exploring Kadiköy with colleague and friend Ayla (single).

What do I like about the room and about Kadiköy? Well, first of all, they seem to be super central. Everything in Istanbul can be reached by taking the right bus from this station. But there’s more; sounds weird, but I think it’s the smell. We’re incredibly close to the water, the air is humid and it’s hot. The result is a sweet and all too familiar note. In combination with the white tiles, resembling the tiles in the only actual building in Timor Leste’s SOLS-boarding school, my mind regularly drifts towards Dili. Okay, to be fair, I think about Timor’s capital and my time there almost every day. Usually, though, memory usually crawls around somewhere in my subconscious.

Is it just me or do other people also connect places so intensely with smells? When walking around in Bielefeld, for example, there’s this one spot where my mind suddenly made a jump to East Timor several times, also due to a scent of which I’m yet to discover the source. Maybe it’s a restaurant. Or maybe it’s a trash bin that often has exotic things dumped into it. There’s also a certain smell I connect to Budapest, but so far, I only experiences it in, well, Budapest. Oh, and I’m pretty sure when there’s the first snow in Istanbul, my mind will be all in Siberia again.

Narrow, busy Kadiköy.

Narrow, busy Kadiköy.

My first impression of Istanbul? Well, it’s big. I like Kadiköy because it’s very lively and because of the small streets (hell for drivers). There’re some cozy and rustic bars how I like them, stuff is cheap (except for alcohol), a bunch of alternative shops and places. But so far, I didn’t see the best parts of Istanbul. By my flatmates I’m told that Turks go out after work to eat or drink somewhere with friends every night. If you don’t go somewhere after work, you don’t have a social life. At the same time, Istanbulians don’t seem to meet at people’s places before going out to nightclubs, but at public places, at the beach or in bars. Is this the inevidable evidence that Turks are more attached to their community? In contrast, are Germans simply dull and boring? Even though the answer to the second question is without doubt “yes”, I could imagine the truth in the first statement depends on the people you ask. Pretty sure many Germans also never have flat-parties, or do go out drinking each day after work, for example to avoid seeing their wives. So, well, to sum up my thoughts on Istanbul; I didn’t see one percent of it yet, so…stay tuned for more from me!

Or, well, don’t.


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