// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.
ISTANBUL Istanbul turned out to be a lovely city, and good thing as I ended up being stuck there for ... a long time. But more on that later (and special thanks to Turkey for allowing me to overstay my visa without penalty). Though settlements here probaby go back more than 8000 years, the modern day city was officially founded by the Greeks in 660 BCE (2600 years ago) as Byzantium. In 73 AD it became part of the Roman Empire and was eventually renamed Constantinople in 330 AD, becoming the new capital of the Roman Empire and at various times over the next thousand years was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe. The city became a flashpoint during the Crusades and was later conqured by the Ottomans in 1453 AD and made capital of the Ottoman Empire. After their defeat in WW1, the modern secular nation of Turkey was declared in 1923. Today Istanbul sits at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, infact, a river literally divides the city between them, the couple in the photo below is sitting in Asia with a view of Europe.
THE CATS OF ISTANBUL One thing immediately clear when walking around Istanbul is... there are a LOT of stray cats. No one truly knows just how many street cats live in 'Catstantinople' but estimates range from 150,000 to more than a million. Old ladies (cat aunties) walk around with cat food in their pockets, and deposit little piles in front of every cat they pass, like offerings given to a holy shrine. Cats wonder into cafes and take up seats and refuse to budge. Cats hang around mosques. There's always at least one standing in front of every butcher shop. Sometimes they even sit outside your house, meowing until you let them in, even though you've never met them before (but more on that later).
QUARANTINED IN TURKEY Well, so a global pandemic happened. Arriving from Qatar, I had intended to stay in Turkey only two weeks before taking an overnight train to Bulgaria, where I had prebooked an apartment for a month to rest and finish some work. But then, rather sudden, all Turkey's borders closed, the airports shut down, and even buses within the country were suspended. So my two weeks turned into more than five months, nearly half a year. I spent most of that time in a nice little studio apartment in the old Jewish quarter of the city called Balat. Balat is a great neighborhood of traditional families and children playing in the streets, old ramshackle homes being remodeled (including my own, which is the second photo below), and a recent influx of artists and quaint cafes. The neighborhood sits between the waterfront where I went running every day (first photo) and the thousand-plus year old city walls (photo further down). There were also a suspicious number of cats who would congregate outside my apartment (though sometimes when I wasn't looking, they were actually IN my apartment, sitting on my couch napping). Anyway, I enjoyed my life here, going to a cafe every morning to work (you can see the cafe below), running along the river during the evenings, getting lost in the medieval streets (especially when I first arrived), and visiting the outdoor markets for fresh vegetables (photo also below). And of course petting all the random cats.
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