Vapur Friends

Living on one of the Princes Islands you cannot help but spend many hours on vapur. When I leave Istanbul I think it will be the these trips that I remember most. The hour and twenty minutes it takes from Heybeliada to Kabataş is a chance to just be. There is nothing to be done but look out at the water, the pursuing seagulls, the fishing boats, the birds drying their feathers on the pier near Haydarpaşa, the changing skyline and the familiar silhouettes that have stood through centuries. You can drink tea and eat tost and feel your eyes closing.... Unless of course you have children. Our memories, and others memories of us, will be of rhythmic pacing with a baby, usually another child trailing behind. Matti's homework being done on the Sunday return to the city. Anton's cars lined up precariously on the stairs that for him are roads. Endless stories read to save fellow travellers from too much exuberance. And the occasional delicious moments when everyone is simultaneously sleepy. On the vapur I am very visible. People I have not noticed have told me how they love watching my children, when we have finally made acquaintance. They will remind me of incidents I have forgotten. Through the winter when daytrippers are scarce the commuters become a community. Everyone on the boat knows everyone else and vapur friendships are made. Many of the people I have come to know on Heybeliada spoke to me first in the companionable confines of the cafe deck. I love the holiday atmosphere of the 6.30 boat home on Friday, and the young men from the naval school sleeping, leaning in rows, on early boats. I love how early on weekdays commuters walk on and lay down to extend the night. Islanders have their own spot, unspoken and not worth a dispute, but true nonetheless. I love setting off in the darkness and arriving to sunrise illuminating the peninsula, unloading the kids into the bright morning air. On the days that I travel home sitting on the stairs, the vapur crammed with tourists I look forward to the conspiratorial nods of sleepy vapur friends next winter.

Vapur at dusk
Vapur at dusk.

Ville reading to Anton on the vapur.
Ville reading to Anton on the vapur.

Mehmet, a vapur friend, and his son.
Mehmet, a 'vapur friend' and his son.

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