No, not a river–the label that the majority of my students reach for when trying to name the rushing, heavily trafficked body of water separating European from Asian Istanbul. Not a sea either, but a strait for our geography buffs. Perhaps the most famous and most polluted also holds the title, in my heart at least, (and I am pretty sure as well in the hearts of all Istanbul) as the most striking and beautiful. People may think that after more than two years it would get old, but every day it still strikes at me. Something that demands to be looked at. Saying: ‘Appreciate me!’ Here’s why…
1. İt’s a fast flowing tumultous body of water, forever changing, as moody and emotional as women, cause come on girls, let’s admit this is true. When windy the waves chop the shore angerly, danger do not pass she says, and in summer sunshine the surface shimmers blue-green, happy and relaxed. Every day it is different–her own personality. The colors always new the waves never the same.
2. There’s something about boats passing, maybe calling to our inner child. At any time of day or night there can be any number of vehicles and people moving up and down or across her. City transport ships carry commuters and tourists from Kadiköy or Üsküdar to other ports. Cargo ships and tankers pass from the Marmara to the Black Sea blowing their deep-throated horns and leaving smaller fishing vessels to bounce like toy boats in their wake. Even submarines pass, keeping guard.
3. It’s the heart of activity in good weather…I don’t just mean runners, although that’s my preferred activity. People are walking, leisurely or in effort to sweat off some of the baklava pounds. Fishermen cast into the waters–frustrating pedestrians. An abundance of tea gardens and breakfast buffets line the curving path. Nothing quite like enjoying the view and limitless glasses of tea. İn summer, men and young boys swim. Taking over the pathways and sounding like elephants bathing racing each other up and down the currents.
And we care, some care, that she is so unwell with poison from the surrounding city. I saw last fall a mother and her son watching the water. The son finished off his candy bar in seconds and threw the wrapper into the water. The mother’s reaction was swift. ‘Does it look like a trash can to you?! I have taught you better than this.’ The son was soundly ashamed of himself. Perhaps there is still hope. We can reclaim the health of the mightiest straight–our Boğaz.