Walking down to Istanbul's Golden Horn inlet and churning waterfront, I crossed the new Galata Bridge, which made me miss the dismantled and shipped-out old Galata Bridge — so crusty with life's struggles. Feeling a wistful nostalgia, I thought of how all societies morph with the push and pull of the times.
But then I realized that, while the old bridge is gone, the new one has been engulfed with the same vibrant street life — boys casting their lines, old men sucking on water pipes, and sesame-seed bread rings filling cloudy glass-windowed carts.
Strolling the new Galata Bridge and still finding old scenes reminded me how stubborn cultural inertia can be. If you give a camel-riding Bedouin a new Mercedes, he still decorates it like a camel. I remember looking at tribal leaders in Afghanistan — shaved, cleaned up, and given a bureaucrat's uniform. But looking more closely, I could see the bushy-gray-bearded men in dusty old robes still living behind those modern uniforms. On a trip to Kathmandu, I remember seeing a Californian who had dropped out of the “modern rat race” — calloused almost-animal feet, matted dreadlocks, draped in sackcloth as he stood, cane in hand, before the living virgin goddess. Somehow I could still see Los Angeles in his eyes. The resilience of a culture can't be overcome with a haircut and a shave — or lack of one — or a new bridge.
On the sloppy adjacent harborfront, the venerable “fish and bread boats” were still rocking in the constant chop of the busy harbor. In a humbler day, they were 20-foot-long open dinghies — rough boats with battered car tires for fenders — with open fires for grilling fish literally fresh off the boat. For a few coins, the fishermen would bury a big white fillet in a hunk of fluffy white bread, wrap it in newsprint, and I was on my way…dining out on fish.
In recent years, the fish and bread boats had been shut down — they had no license. After a popular uproar, they came back. They're a bit more hygienic, no longer using newspaper for wrapping, but still rocking in the waves and slamming out fresh fish.
About This Entry
You are reading "Bridges Old and New", an entry posted on 14 December 2009 by Rick Steves.