“Çai tea Çai tea…” the litany resounds from aisle to aisle in the open deck of the ship, echoed above by the tremulous shrieks of seagulls trailing in our wake. The ferry waiter, immaculate in his white shirt and blue gilet, is walking down the deck with a massive tray full of tiny glasses filled with tea, oblivious to the swells in which the ship falls into. About half a kilometre to our port a red behemoth, a tanker laden with Russian oil, is intersecting our route. Other small ships are busy crossing the same stretch of sea starboard, ahead and behind us. Gradually our speed decreases, and the sea becomes flat like a mirror. Kadiköy, somebody shouts: we’ve arrived in the Asian part of Istanbul.
Tourists overlook the Asian part of the city and, if you have a read at some of the guides they clutch in their hands, you’d be inclined to excuse them for this. I had a look at many pocket guides written by major travel publishers and, if they are to be believed, Asian Istanbul is nothing but the receiving end of the town’s ferries, bridges and rail tunnel, which is a shame.
True indeed, Kadiköy and Haydarpasa might not be able to rival Sultanahmet’s mosques or Beyoglu’s shops and nightclubs, but they are nonetheless worth visiting. Kadiköy hosts one of the most beautiful, interesting and mouth-watering markets in town (Tuesday and Friday in Fikirtepe), while Haydarpasa hosts the grand and basically deserted Haydarpasa Terminal, where the iconic Baghdad railway aligned, and the beautiful Campus of the Marmara University.
However, my favourite part of this half of the city is Moda. Moda is the Italian word for fashion and I’m convinced that the borough’s founding fathers knew about it for this is one the city’s best kept corner. It lies south of the Kadiköy ferry pier and it’s a maze of narrow roads lined with trees, restaurants, shops and cafes. Walking its streets it’s easy to forget that you are in Asia, on the same landmass of India, China and Siberia: there are as many churches as you can see in a Sicilian hamlet and it seems that the locals’ favourite past time is to sit at a bar with a tiny glass of Raki, looking at the world going by.
Moda is that part of Istanbul that hasn’t been told yet that the city is now a giant with 16 million inhabitants, a borough where everyone seems to be knowing each other for ages, one of those places that, if you walk at midday, is deserted and the only noise you can hear is the clunking of cutlery against porcelain tableware.
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