I awoke to the mesmerizing sound of the call to prayer gently coaxing the city from its sleep. The continual shrill cry of a tea seller, “Çay, çay, çay!” like some uncontrollable snooze function, dispelled any hope of drifting back to sleep. Instead, I wrapped my arms around her warm body, feeling her slow rhythmic breathing, protecting her from the cool breeze coming through the window, allowing my thoughts to drift back to our first day in the city.
Leaving her apartment in search of breakfast, our steps had carried us through narrow streets where elderly men sat playing games, smoking cigarettes, and sipping çai. For as long as I can remember Istanbul had fascinated me; its reputation of mystery and intrigue–of East and West, of grand mosques and cobbled alleyways. A place where lovers, dreamers and travellers come to loose themselves–I was finally here.
Crossing into the bustling Kadıköy bazaar–where fishmongers sell the mornings catch, the aroma of colourful spices fills the air, and fruiterers display pyramids of fresh fruit–I could feel an extraordinary energy in the air, a feeling I had not experienced in other cities, almost intoxicating.
We made our way along the busy, tree-lined streets toward Moda. As we walked, she told me about the stray animals, how the people of Istanbul care for them by providing food and water, and her dream of someday opening an animal shelter on a large piece of land outside the city.
At the teahouse, overlooking the Sea of Marmara, we shared a brunch of gözleme and börekhad, sipped glasses of sweat tea, and talked of famous authors, of dervishes, and her love of Rumi. Occasionally I caught myself gazing wistfully out at the yachts dotting the glassy sea, wondering how the city must look from their perspective. She must have noticed, suggesting we take a ferry ride to the Galata Tower.
On the trip across the Bosporus, seagulls hovered alongside the ferry, crying out for crumbs of bread, which passengers dutifully threw overboard. The view back across the city was just as I had imagined it–spectacular.
In the evening we followed the waterfront path that snakes along the Sea of Marmara, settling on some rocks we gazed out across to the Golden Horn, to where it meets the Bosporus, and sipping beer and wine, watched the sun gradually sink beneath the spires of Haghia and the Blue Mosque. It was in that moment I knew that not only had I fallen in love with Aphraella, but with her city too.