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Across the Sea of Marmara

Updated: May 4, 2023

Say Istanbul and a seagull comes to mind
Half silver and half foam, half fish and half bird.

— Rahmi Eyuboglu, Turkish painter and poet (1913-75)

I can't say why exactly, but I have always associated Constantinople and Istanbul with seagulls. Perhaps it was Stephen Lawhead's Byzantium, a historical novel I read in high school, that left the impression on me. Or maybe it was something I read in Dr. Diller's "Middle Eastern History and Politics" class in college. Either way, my imaginings were correct: Istanbul—and especially the Sea of Marmara—is full of seagulls.

After spending the early morning at Fener and Balat, my guide and I took a ferry from Sirkeci to Kadikoy, a bustling area on the Asian side of Istanbul. As we took off from the Sirkeci terminal, and then again from Kadikoy later on, we were surrounded by the sea birds. I didn't mind them, though. I love being on the water, and they only added to the experience.

Galata Tower
The Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace

Like looking at the world from a plane—when everything becomes miniscule and you remember how small you really are—looking at the world from the water brings new perspectives, too. This is particularly true in a city as old as Istanbul, where you're looking not only at land, but also at time.

Selimiye Barracks in Scutari or Üsküdar

Take the Selimiye Military Bararacks at Üsküdar, for example. During the Crimean War (October 1853 - March 1856), Florence Nightingale and 38 other nurses traveled to Istanbul to organize a nursing unit to care for the wounded from the battle front. Upon their arrival, they found 2,300 wounded Turkish, British, and French soldiers in the barracks. Within weeks, that number rose to more than 10,000. Miss Nightingale believed that soldiers were dying as much from the ward's poor sanitation and overcrowding as they were from their wounds. During her two years in Istanbul, she organized the hospital and laid the foundations of modern nursing.

Haydarpasa Train Station

The Haydarpasa Train Station in Kadikoy is another example of Istanbul's past. The railway station is Turkey's largest and most magnificent railway station. German architects Otto Ritter and Helmuth Cuno built the station in the early 20th century as a gift to the Sultan from Kaiser Wilhelm II. The inauguration ceremony took place on August 19, 1908, just after the proclamation of the Second Constitution. Unfortunately, the structure was damaged in a fire in 2010. It is still under renovation and its future is uncertain.

Çamlıca Tower

Even more recent structures exemplify the passing of time. The Küçük Çamlıca Tower is a tele-communications tower on Little Çamlıca Hill in Üsküdar, on the Asian side of Istanbul. At 551 feet (168 meters) tall, it is the tallest structure in Istanbul. The tower was built between 2016 and 2020 as a way to hide numerous antennas and towers that previously stood near or in its place. It was inaugurated in May 2021 and is a popular tourist spot today.

The Kadikoy Markey

And then again, some places represent both new and old. The Kadikoy area of Istanbul dates back to the Chalcedon of the Megarians, 635 BC. Later, it stood opposite Byzantium before it became Constantinople. Today, Kadikoy is full of restaurants, bars, stores, and parks. It is famous for its market area, pictured above. I would have loved to have spent more time here. Alas, my guide and I only had enough time for lunch and a little wandering before heading back to Sirkeci.

The Kadikoy Terminal

Really, though, what appealed to me most was the feeling of freedom of being on the water. The wind at your back and the sun in your face, the salt in the air and the fish at your feet. There truly is nothing like the sea.

The seagulls definitely agree.

The seagulls swarming our ferry in Kadikoy.

On the way back to Sirkeci.

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May 08, 2023

Beautiful writing and descriptions, as always, Jessica. I especially love the photo of Galata Tower ~ with the water and etched history of the building, it is easy to let the mind wander between the present and past of such a cultural city. It makes it easy to keep dreaming :-) Wishing you well on your continued adventures, be it in Knoxville, Cali, or wherever you find yourself in this world :-)


May 05, 2023

Jess, some of your best "traveloguing", if there is such a word to describe writing travel experiences poetically. i enjoyed your writing even more than your beautiful photography. Keep it up!


Hi Jessica,

I don't mind gulls. They always appear whenever I'm eating hot potato chips (French fries for North American readers). I loved the photograph with the single gull in the top right corner. That was a great shot.

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