Chronicle of Istanbul, where going to work is sometimes a trip to the past

Beneath everything, in the engine room, below water level, roaring engines, heat and not a window pane, Nurettin is jealous. It’s unfair, he laughs, because he’s the heart of this ship, or rather the cardiologist, the one who keeps it afloat and going, but the protagonist is always the captain, the one at the top.

I’m the most important person on this ferry. I control your insides. But the captain gets all the credit, even if he’s just steering. Right, left and nothing else & rdquor ;, Nurettin complains loudly. If he did it in a low voice, the roar of the engines would take over his words.

Nurettin is a ship’s cardiologist and ship’s doctor, and his patient for five years is ‘Fatih’, one of dozens of ferries who, like ants following their marked route, they swarm and cross the Bosphorus strait, which divides the city of Istanbul in two. Your work is necessary: ​​in a city of 17 million inhabitants, roads, subways and buses are not enough for everyone to get to work. Some, the luckiest, go to work by boat.

On this day in early December, the “Fatih” sails lazily through the Bosphorus, easily dodging small fishing boats and huge freighters. The following route is the one that passes between the districts of Besiktas and Kadikoy. Twenty minutes each way.

On the bridge, the captain laughs. “Who told you that? With that, only the address… Tell me his name and we’ll solve it quickly & rdquor;, Ahmet said moving slightly, a little sleepy, controlling the ‘Fatih’. “No, but seriously, here we all do our part, and without each other, our work wouldn’t work. We are proud to be able to contribute to the functioning of the whole city, by taking people to work. And what’s more, it’s one of the best jobs in the world. From up there, the views are incredible. You get used to it, you don’t look so much anymore, but it’s incredible, and sometimes I start to look around me, to see where this cargo is going, where this cargo is coming from, ”says Captain Ahmet.

One floor below, Sena doesn’t have as much time to look out the window. Your customers wait, queue, sometimes jostle you. She’s going full steam ahead, now filling the glasses, now getting paid, now cleaning the coffee pot. Sena is responsible, now yes, for the heart of ‘Fatih’: its cafeteria. “I don’t know about the ship, but for the workers we are the most important. We are the ones who dope them every morning with coffee“Sena said.

“I like this job and I ended up meeting a lot of people who go to work on the boat every morning and As I already know what time they will go up, I already prepare a toast and a coffee so that it is ready just as they go up & rdquor ;, says Sena. Sometimes, when everything is calm, he manages to look out the window, towards the thousand-year-old buildings and the century-old minarets of the historic peninsula of the city: “Sometimes, I see the dolphins. One day I even managed to see a seal. Who knows where it would come from…”.

Back to the past

For ‘Fatih’, his companions and ancestors on the road, everything changed in 1973. That year, the first bosphorus bridge, that united Asia and Europe for the first time and created new direct competition with ferries.

“The journey we make by boat is no longer so crucial for the city, because before there was no other way to cross the Bosphorus remembers Captain Ahmet. Now there are the bridges [hay tres], the metro and the tunnel. We have become one means of transport something more nostalgic. The ferry is almost never completely full; before it was impossible to sit”.

It’s already late, the sun is setting and dozens of people crowd the port to enter the ‘Fatih’ and go home. Canan and his two companions get ready: them, guitar and bass drum in hand; she, a microphone, the loudspeaker and, at her feet, a basket with banknotes and coins. “Welcome all aboard, and we wish you a good trip.& rdquor ;, said Canan before starting. Many turn to listen; some pull out their phones to record the views with background music.

“We don’t work in the morning because people are going to work and we don’t want to disturb either, but in the afternoon, many people like to listen to music. When people return home, we enhance their trip. We had a good time, and we participated in creating this idea of ​​nostalgia on boat trips”, explains the singer.

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“We can do 20 minute concerts in which we know that the people sitting in front of us are going to have to listen to us throughout the journey& rdquor ;, says Canan about his “forced” concerts. “So you make a lot more money on the ferries than anywhere else. But we don’t do all this for the money, huh? We do it because we love it,” he says.

It is already dark and the passengers leave the ship. Canan and his companions thank those who give them money. The catwalk descends, the door opens, and all the travelers pour out. For them, the day is over; al ‘Fatih’, however, still have several continents to connect.


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