ISTANBUL __Day 10 in Turkey started like any other, with our alarm clock consisting of a sequence of howling by the wild dogs that roam the campus. To be honest it is a calming noise to wake to believe it or not. After a morning cay (tea) and a tosta (grilled cheese equivalent) we hop onto the green line of the metro and head south 8 stops to Şişane station. On foot we divulge onto the main street of the downtown of the New City and across the infamous Galata Bridge to the Old City. Once there we hop onto a ferry for our 5-stop tour of the Golden Horn, the river that allows Istanbul to essentially be the city it is today. It only takes us 10 minutes to traverse the river and get onto the other side where we find a cool spot of untaken shade and begin phase one of Professor Dale Leavitt’s detailed history of the Golden Horn.
Let’s revert to the early 1900s when the Sultans ruled the land and took daily cruises on the Golden horn. Imagine a waterway 7.5 kilometers long and lined with the most beautiful of flowers on both sides, complete bliss. Now, skip forward to the 1950s where the city of Istanbul was heavily immersed in the industrial revolution. 696 factories now lined the coasts of the Golden Horn in place of the beauty that once lied there. In a short 30 years the water of the river was turned into a thick black muck deprived of any oxygen, thus exterminating any existing life and preventing any incoming life from forming.
The factories and the citizens were dumping tens of thousands of tons of waste directly into the river due to lack of regulations. Not only was the sea life suspended for a duration of time, but the people living along the coast of the Golden Horn were gathering a multitude of deadly diseases.
Subsequently in 1986 the people and the government finally recognized this immense problem and began a multi-leveled restoration of this once beautiful ecosystem that the city was built around. Thanks to Professor Dale Leavitt, I could go on with a detailed explanation of how they conquered this grand feat. We made our way up about 5 kilometers and at our last stop we sat down for some afternoon cay and most all of us gave the ice cream man 3 Lira to get teased and hope for an ice cream (YouTube: “Turkish ice cream" if you’re curious).
On our ride back down the river we all were quite taken back by how much improvement and development the government has done to restore the ecosystem. It was miraculous to see the Galata Bridge covered with fishermen pulling up little mackerel one after another and knowing that only 19 years earlier you couldn’t find a fish in this water, let along eat one. Once off the boat it was just about 5pm and our day was slowly brought to an end. I will most likely finish the evening with an after dinner cay and I will advise you to do the same.
By Max Lopez