Salt exhaust in the air, sand sticking to my legs, the sweet taste of absinthe going down my throat and the feeling of freedom still stuck in my chest trying to find a way to get out.
We were laughing under the shiny moonlight, talking about the trips we would like to do when we had time, ignoring the fact that we never would find such a perfect moment to travel as now. It was our moment.
Barefoot, kinda tipsy and with the silly smile you have when you are excited, I walked to the hostel at 5 in the morning from the Black Sea shore, in Varna. I borrowed my roommate’s backpack and I heard their disbelieving laughs over and over in my head while I was packing in the shadow my travel diary, a pen, my passport, “The Dharma Bums” and some clothes. I put my flip flops on and I headed to the train station; the sun was going up and I was confident that this crazy decision would change my life…and indeed it did.
The meandering railway drove us through the Balkan mountains upon the rivers and villages. The rattling of the carriage, my own compartment, the breeze caressing my face through the window…I felt like I was going back in time, especially when we arrived at Sirkeci Station at 6 in the morning: old men fishing across the Galata Bridge, women covered with coloured veils and the sound of the boats arriving at the port from the Asian side of Istanbul, the city of the thousand minarets.
I stayed at Melik’s flat, in Bahçelievler’s neighbourhood. I didn’t even knew where it was or what should I expect from my host, I’d met him through Couchsurfing an hour ago. I wanted to be totally immersed in the locale, dive into the culture I’d heard my parents talk about in my childhood, guided by Turks of my age. I ended up drinking beer with 15 Turks, all speaking English. His friends also cooked the tastiest lamb I have tried and other traditional dishes, a homemade gastronomical tour.
The scent of the hot apple tea mixed with the saltpetre and unknown spices exploded in my nose. All my senses were awake and I perceived every stimulus impacting on me stronger than ever before. We chatted about everything while on the way to his favourite places, some empty spots from which we could glimpse the chaos they call home.
Completely wet, slipping on the marble floor at night, wearing a black medical gown, lost and a little bit scared after the dolmuş trip, I realized how far I was. I found myself as a traveller, a young adventurer with a whole world to write about…
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