This sense of doubling back on ourselves in time and space captured the essence of this week. On Wednesday, we left our now dear Istanbul – a city which prior to our 2014 stay we had barely known, having spent only five days there with our friend in 2010. We headed south to Stellenbosch – a city we knew only from the 6 hours we had spent here in 2012 with our daughter.
Leaving Istanbul – Just a week ago, on a crisp but sunny Sunday afternoon, we finally garnered our courage to trust the sea gods and ride the tiny 15 foot feisty sea taxi across the Bosphorus. For many months, we had watched with fascination as passengers leapt across the sea wake into the tiny boat or waited to the exact right moment to catch the up pitch of the boat to secure their landing. The “dock” was a set of crumbling cement steps that led down to the waterway with no railing or rope. The boat was protected against smashing into the wall at high seas by a half dozen tires lashed against the sea wall – but there were no pilings or pins to tie up to. Once, we had seen 20 Istanbulites unbelievably cram themselves one by one into the tiny taxi, which then with an inch or two of bow clearance, set out to cross the major shipping lanes. The taxi was a David to the Goliaths that carried oil, lumber, and containers from the Black Sea to the rest of the world. Our fifteen minute journey took us from the European town of Emirgan directly across to the Asian town of Kanlıca. Sharing the trip with an infant in a stroller and a toddler with a scooter didn’t make me feel any less brave. Once in Kanlıca, we did what was expected of us with great relish: a fish lunch at one of the many restaurants close to the harbor (with Rakı of course), a walk uphill to a park with a view spot looking south on the two bridges, and a dish of the famous Kanlıca yogurt piled high with powdered sugar (Rich) or honey (Pat). We returned home as the sun set and the bridge lights came on. The taxi played chicken with a 400 foot container ship and won, crossing what seemed to me way to closely across the bow of the giant. At last, we checked the last Istanbul “must – do” off our list. We were done!
Monday – Tuesday – packing, cleaning, laundry and mailing packages, and then a plane ride out on Wednesday.
Interlude: On the Air France flight to Cape Town from Paris, we watched, with some trepidation, a couple move into the center 4 seats with their 2 year-old and 3 month old children. Let’s just run the numbers for a minute:
12 hours. 3 month old. 38,000 feet. 11pm to 11am.
Fortunately, the parents had come armed for the struggle, and the airline came through with the truly magical bulkhead bassinet. The 3-month old was quiet the entire flight (thanks largely to mom’s attentiveness and the bassinet), and the 2-year old slept for most of the night. We were reminded of both the worried looks that greeted our arrival with Sarah 25 years ago on a trans-atlantic flight, and the grateful looks at the end, as the same style bassinet soothed Sarah into her longest sleep ever.
Thursday 2 PM — We have arrived in Stellenbosch!
We will always think of this town as our daughter Becca’s domain because of her study abroad semester here in 2012. While older daughter Sarah was the first Blatchly to visit and fall in love with Capetown and Stellenbosch in 2011 in a post graduation extravaganza, we hadn’t been able to join her. During our visit in 2012, Becca had shown us all over the Cape, but we visited Stellenbosch and ended up at an amazing restaurant at Tokara Winery. We were so impressed with the imaginative food on that visit – that we vowed we had to return. It was that visit that inaugurated our collection of sayings entitled “Things We Never Thought We Would Ever Say.” The comment that started it all was Rich’s question to the waiter at Tokara “Which wine would you recommend with the springbok?”
You will all be happy to hear that we just returned from Tokara where we celebrated Rich’s 60th birthday, and yes, he did have the springbok, again. It was even better than he remembered – and we ordered a bottle of the same wine we had had two years ago and it was delicious, again. In an amazing coincidence, the winery – perched just east of the city on a pass over the mountains with a sweeping western view over Stellenbosch and on out to False Bay, Table Mountain and Cape Town – is on the same road as our new Cottage in Stellenbosch.
So we travel in circles, rediscovering places and people, opening up to new places and people, knowing that our journey will never be linear or unidirectional. No re-visited place is ever the same because we change, as do the places. No friend left in one spot is the same when we return or even when we leave. No stranger remains one the second after we meet them. Our challenge will be to learn from the present, and prepare for the future.