Friday, November 20, 2015

Crossing the Bosphorus

In The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, teenaged Ed Brubeck explains to his friend Holly Sykes about Interrail:
A train pass. You pay a hundred and thirty quid and then you can travel all over Europe, for a month, for free. Second-class, but still. From the tip of Portugal to the top of Norway. Eastern-bloc countries too, Yugoslavia and places. The Berlin Wall. Istanbul. In Istanbul, there's this bridge, right. One side's in Europe and the other's in Asia. I’m going to walk across it.
Like Ed, my friend Shekhar and I once hit upon the idea of crossing the Bosphorus on foot.

Accordingly we travelled to Istanbul (by air, not Interrail), and one afternoon we found ourselves on the Asian coast of the Bosphorus, not far from the bridge. A couple of times we asked people for directions, and they all suggested we take a taksi, presumably because it was a long way. Of course our whole idea was to walk from Asia to Europe, not take a taxi, but we were nevertheless touched by their solicitude.

The last group of people we asked for directions did not speak English, but were especially vehement in recommending a taxi. When we insisted that we wanted to walk, they pointed to a nearby police car, then mimed handcuffs. It was thus that we learnt that one does not simply walk across the Bosphorus: the bridge has apparently been closed to pedestrians since the late 1970s.

Ed Brubeck made the same discovery. A few chapters later, we read a postcard from Ed to Holly:
Today I crossed the Bosphorus Bridge! You're not allowed to walk across it so I hopped between continents on a bus with schoolkids and grannies. Now I can say I've been to Asia.