Galata Tower, Karaköy, Istanbul

I have somewhat of an impressive memory. Vast and deep, I can usually be relied upon to remember exactly what you wore when I met you, what our conversation was, and that slight smell of pine on your shoulder as if you were a Jack Black screenplay (“Be Kind, Rewind” is a cinematic masterpiece. So deep. So deep).

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2013 (5)

That said, my ability to creep people out with my everlasting retention of their every nuance sometimes fails me: today as I flipped through my photos of the Galata Tower I realized that I totally forgot about someone:


Sorry Steven.

Let me explain.

I met Steven at the Galata Tower when I asked him to take a photo of me with the view. Then I took one of him. We got into that natural flow of conversation and together we shuffled around the side of the tower taking in the windy day. It had just randomly snowed after an intense rain shower and the wind was a little biting but Istanbul looked peaceful. I was charmed by someone’s laundry hanging on the roof of a building.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2013 (53)

Quaint as a quiche

Steven and I parted ways after swapping our stories. And I’m sorry to say I totally forgot to check in on him after I got settled back home that day.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2013 (60)

This was me before Steven. If the ability to take a selfie one day determined the fate of the free world…sentence fragments would rule.

Forgive me, but uh, this is a note to Steven, wherever he is.

Dear Steven,

I found a picture of you on my computer. 

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2013 (46)

I want you to know that when I met you I happened to be going through the hardest part of my time in Turkey. Things with my work really stunk. This is what I wrote home:

“Last night I had this thought of Treebeard…being asked by the Hobbits, “and who’s side are you on?” [and Treebeard says]: ‘Side? I am on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side, little orc.'”

 Yep. But then I met you and I wrote home about you too:  

“I met this guy named Steven at the Galata Tower. His laugh was so great and he was having an even worse week than me: he came from Minnesota, he was bumped off his original flight, they lost his luggage, and the Turkish people at the airport made fun of him (because he’s Chinese). He was caught in Istanbul with only a pullover during a freak wind and snow and rain storm for his Spring Break. I don’t think he had met anyone friendly in his time here… I helped him out a bit and showed him on his way after listening to him on the tower. I hope he’s okay now…he was having a worse time than me, for sure, but he still managed to be friendly and optimistic and really nice and open.”

You know I might have completely forgotten about this experience. But as I flipped through my files today, I realized that I got your shoulder in one of my “there are a lot of pictures of cats, no wait I think a cat actually photographed this” stellar shots. Had it gone unnoticed, an entire memory would have been lost forever. Thinking about this experience now at the Galata Tower, I’m still trying to piece things together but I just wanted to say thank you. You are an awfully nice person and I am amazed at your cheerfulness. I hope all my advice was not too confusing and that you found your way. Say hi to your folks for me. Thanks again. 


P.S. I really hope your name isn’t actually Stephen. Because then this whole thing would be pretty embarrassing. I’d take it all back! 

Forgive me, but I’m gonna get all metaphysical and connect something out of nothing. Here goes:

The most interesting story about the Galata Tower to me is the story of Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi.

I’m just gonna call him Hezi, but Hezi was a sort of an Ottoman aviator who crafted clever eagle wings capable of actual flight, so the legend goes. The “man of 1000 sciences” one day flew from the top of the Galata Tower across the Bosphorus to the neighborhood of Uskudar as Istanbul cheered him. Watching this, the Sultan grew jealous. Sultan Murat summoned old Hezi. Since he could not execute the popular icon, Sultan instead granted him a gold purse and said, “this man is one to be feared. He can do anything he wishes. The presence of such men is not auspicious.” With that, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi was banished to Algeria where he died brokenhearted.

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2013 (62)

All the way across that Bosphorus

All the way across that Bosphorus

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey 2013 (8)

Ahem, here’s where I Donne it up.

What struck me about Steven was his willingness to fork over more of his precious cash for a view. An awesome view. An experience. What struck me most about Steven was his willingness to do and see rather than waster and gripe. Even more, he was just vulnerable enough to a passing stranger and he was just brave enough to keep going. That’s powerful.

I think instances like this are too often forgotten. Steven might have benefited from my help, I don’t know, but more so his treatment of me was beyond what is often expected: kindness and vulnerability is precious.

I was having a crap week. Things were not auspicious. How easy would it have been to banish the good away. How easy it was to forget.

I think it might be selfish to be a blogger writing about such small joys in my life when there is so much…just…crap going on. Crap in Turkey. Crap in the US. Let’s not even mention the ways that I’m failing as a friend and family member right now.

Is it fair for me to keep trying to write about the lightness and funny parts of my day when I just kinda suck at playing host to my own sister? When as a friend I’m just flailing? I am just playing with frivolity? Am I just being a naive distraction?



I have to do some more thinking later (if you have any thoughts on the matter, please, comment away). But I guess in the mean time, I’m going to keep trying to do what I set out to do: help someone a little more a little bit each day. And occasionally laugh in their face. Post a furtive little photo every once in a while. Pay a little for a view. Say sorry a little more. And try, try not to forget the small little kindnesses we travelers get everyday.



How to get there: There are really confusing signs everywhere. Take the tram to Karakoy. Trust your luck. By all means, do not, unless you have hours, take the tram to Eminonu thinking that you can reasonably walk across the bridge. You will get lost. Can you tell I’ve gotten to be a lazy travel blogger?

Should you go: If you’re pressed for time, really all you’re going to do is get pressed against a rail. It is crowded and very small a space. I was up there for an hour or two because it’s a pricey ticket. Good heavens for the parents of small children. There’s a restaurant and night club, but the view isn’t open in the evening to the public. But my goodness. You too can have metaphysical moments if you try.


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