Istanbul: The World Changes

I hardly know where to begin to describe the events of today.

This evening the news came that two hijacked US commercial flights had been crashed into the World Trade Centre, resulting in the collapse of both towers, and another had been crashed into the Pentagon. When S first rushed into my room to tell me, I was completely convinced he was joking, and after two hours watching CNN in their hotel room, it still seems like a bizarre movie. Tears kept filling my eyes, sitting on the balcony of S & P’s hotel room, watching the footage of the second plane flying into the skyscraper, and later the building collapsing and people running through the streets ahead of the walls of smoke and dust.

The world has changed today, and suddenly it seems a very small and unsafe place to be. Who knows what consequences these events will have? Is this generation to be changed by war after all? Does this mean Christian against Moslem, some horrible modern holy war? What is going to happen? I’m in a state of dazed shock, and have a strange fear that events in my life could for the first time slip beyond my control.

Today, before all this happened, we took a ferry from the wharf at Eminonu most of the way up the Bosphorus. The sun was beating down. As we waited for ferry to cast off Simon and I and broke into a few impromptu verses of “on the Bosphorus … here we go … the Bosphorus … don’t you know” set to a ragtime 20s chorus line melody. As you do. We got off at Andolu Kavagi on the Asian side after a one-and-three-quarter hour trip, and ate a lunch of stuffed mussels and shrimp at a seafood restaurant on the water. Then we walked up the hill to medieval castle ruins of the same name, first built by the Byzantines and restored by the Genoese in 1350 and later the Ottomans. North of this were the wooded hills of a military zone, with the narrow entrance to the Black Sea beyond. Here Jason and the Argonauts evaded the Clashing Rocks, according to legend. The flat waters of the Black Sea extended to a haze on the horizon. We lay for a while on the grass in the shadow of the walls after exploring the ruins.

At 5pm, after a drink in a terrace restaurant, we boarded the ferry for the leisurely trip back to Eminonu. As we drew up to the wharf there were spectacular views of the New Mosque and the Suleymaniye Camii.

We were planning to go out for a good dinner for our last night together in Istanbul, and I’d showered and changed, when Simon banged on my door with the news.

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