Anybody, who even spends short time visiting Istanbul, agrees that it's a city of cats. They own and rule our streets. But then again,once in a while especially on an early summer day like this, one gets the urge to look up. And there, one discovers a whole other world in existence above our heads, a kingdom of it's own, cruising the skies, defying gravity. Watching them fly, I cannot help but think, that freedom is NOT just another word for nothing's left to loose, but so much more...
Like lives of cats have been transforming our street-scape, roof-scapes of the city are altered with dynamic lives of seagulls. Among the invisible waves of media between endless satellite dishes and old antennas, on top of cracked chimneys and broken tiles, they make their home. They fly off to far distances, dive into many adventures, but they do keep territory, like we do.They come back every night. Some "lucky" city dwellers with rooftop terraces can differentiate between seagulls by their early morning chatter..Thus the coexistence of street life takes a whole new shape on rooftops..It's less dependence on one another, more cohabiting same special altitude, when they have the need to touch ground, that is. But those shared moments are mostly about bird being bird and flying away, man watching behind urging for the same. We tend to associate flying with freedom, as if it is the earth's pull holding us back. Remember what Peter Pan used to say " Think of happy thoughts and then you can fly !"..May be it is rooted in our childhood tales and dreams that flying inspires happiness..And there, in happiness, lies one's freedom!
As magical as the seagulls are, they are not the only ones dominating our skies and roofs. A city away from water will be without seagulls, but there isn't any urban center that doesn't host flocks of pigeons and crows. Crows are the smartest and most effective in their survival - they hardly need us around. They observe, they learn, they move on.
Pigeons on the other hand seem to be more social. Both among themselves and with us somehow. They hang out on our balconies, terraces, window sills, roof eaves, walls and public plazas. There are many famous spots for their gathering, which in their own right have even become tourist attractions around the city. You pay the old man a lira and you get to feed the pigeons by hand. They show no fear, they swarm you.
What defines Istanbul isn't only it's seven hills and the busy skies they touch, but mostly the sea that runs through it. The Bosphorus, the amazing strait connecting Blacksea to Marmara, has not only been offering a passage for city-size-cruises and cargo ships of varying sizes, but also a unique habitat for a diversity of fish and birds who hunt them. The fish and the fishing culture of this city is an entire topic for another post, but this post about the urban-city-birds won't be complete without the mention of cormorants. The cormorants of Istanbul are the true citizens of it's seas. They spend most of their time in the water, diving in and out. When they are not, they are to be seen on floats or wave-breakers watching life go by and drying out their wings. As long as we see them going on with their rituals, we'll know the life in our waters are somehow still holding up despite all the urban waste we are flushing in it. All that nature we are lucky to have live in the city is here to remind us that we need to pay more attention, admire their resilience and be inspired by their co-existence.