Routine Life as Adventure

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There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

–Henri Matisse

On a recent weekday, I was feeling too anxious and antsy to work, so I got up from my desk to take a cathartic walk. My walking led me into a secluded, wooded city park. I thought I was alone, but sensed movement. I look backward and spot a small, petite, furry brown creature transversing the trail. Then, another one emerges. The little mammals seem unaware or unperturbed by my presence. They waddle across the path, sniff the air non-committally, and then amble, disappearing, into the brush. Were they groundhogs? Beavers heading to the East River? Wombats escaped from the Bronx Zoo? Were they half-baked Pikachus that got loose while Nintendo was still working out the kinks on PókemonGO? The true identity of the small brown creatures is yet to be conclusively determined.

On a Friday night, I rolled into a party 2 hours late and breathlessly spilled to my date, “I spent all evening following the news of the coup in Turkey and making sure my friends were all alive. When I had had enough of that, I headed to Brooklyn. But when I got to Brooklyn I put the wrong address into Google Maps, so I ended up at a construction site. I wandered around the construction site for 15 minutes until I realized my mistake. Then I made it here.” The party host then handed me a mug with a hot liquid, which was either a revolting drink or a flavorful soup, and it occurred to me that priming and perception have a lot to do with taste.

The Saturday after that, at a beach in South Jersey, I collapsed, again breathless, onto my towel. Where were you? my friends asked. “I was on an adventure,” I announced. I explained that I had swum far away from the shore, away from most of the other swimmers on the clothing-optional beach. Then I floated onto my back and closed my eyes. When I opened them, I didn’t know where I was and didn’t see anyone around–the shore nearest to me was an empty strand. I put it together that I had floated out of the clothing-optional area, into and then past the clothed beach, and into some closed-off section of the beach. In order not to get in trouble–possibly excommunicated?–from the beach, I needed to swim against the current, back into the clothing-optional section, without landing on the clothed beach or being sighted by clothed swimmers. Thus ensued a desperate, existential swim against the inexorable Atlantic tide, with each stroke seeming to send me reeling further away from my destination–my destination being the bright white sign announcing “Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Bathers.” But I reached this sign made it back to tell the tale.

For most of my 20s, I have moved to a different city every year, traveling extensively and having the typically adventurous adventures that I have been writing about over the past 6 years: being tear-gassed, fleeing police, sneaking into castles and abandoned hotels, climbing a mountain on the border of Russia and seeing the moon closer and brighter than you’ve ever seen it. Now that I have been living in the same city for almost two years, and I don’t have immediate plans to move abroad, I have begun to worry that my life is going to become routine, quotidian, banal–in short, I will stop having adventures.

Looking back on my past 2 weeks, though, it occurs that adventure might be more of an attitude, or choice, or state of mind, than an external reality.

Istanbul Day Trips: Kanlıca

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Istanbul is expansive–so expansive that the journey and visit to certain parts can consume an entire day in itself. I will be writing a couple of posts describing these out-of-the-way gems hidden in the vastness of Istanbul. In this post I will talk about Kanlıca. Later I will write about Belgrade Forest, Princes Islands, and Kilyos.

Kanlıca is an old seaside village on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, just past Anadoluhisarı in the Beykoz district and across from Istiniye on the European side. Kanlıca can be reached by taking the Boğaz Turu ferry line which starts in Eminönü, or by taking any of several bus lines from Üsküdar–the latter option affords more flexibility in terms of timing but contains the risk of traffic. Either way, once at the pier, there are several cafe/restaurants replete with couples and groups sitting outside, drinking tea, and eating yogurt out of white plastic cups.

To Istanbulites, the name “Kanlıca” is synonymous with “yogurt,” because of the village’s famous yogurt, which is natural (no preservatives added), made fresh daily, and eaten with powdered sugar on top. I thought the taste was more pungent and crisp than that of typical yogurt, although the sugar was a bit too sweet for my liking. Still, it was a nice treat while sitting meters from the sparkling Bosphorus and across the way from the neighborhood full of historic wooden Ottoman-era mansions, which I plan to explore more fully next time I’m in the area.

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About a 20 minute walk uphill from the pier is Hidiv Kasrı, or Khedive Mansion. Formerly the summer residence of a Egyptian king with an interesting back story, it is now a municipal park. The mansion itself was designed in an attractive art-noveau/neo-baroque style, with a large tower and a circular pavilion. Inside the mansion is a classy but affordable restaurant and some cafes.

The front grounds are a lovely manicured lawn which was bursting with beds of  multicolored tulips; several sets of newlyweds were taking advantage of the picturesque surroundings to shoot wedding photos. The rest of the sprawling grounds consist of trails winding uphill and downhill through a forest of lovely mature trees. Local families were taking walks while their children rode little bikes and scooters next to them; others were jogging. Through the branches, large birds and other interesting fauna as well as stunning views of the Bosphorus could be glimpsed, especially from the lookout point directly across from the mansion.

Overall, I found Hidiv Kasrı to be a surprisingly wholesome attraction, and even more attractive and pleasant than Gülhane Park. It is now my favorite green place in Istanbul.

Read more about Kanlıca and Hidiv Kasrı here.