'Not bad!': Istanbulites swimming between continents

More people are holidaying on the shores of Istanbul because of the economic crisis

More people are holidaying on the shores of Istanbul because of the economic crisis. AFP/Ozan Kose

ISTANBUL -Every morning, his skin bronzed by the sun, pensioner Metin Cakmakci rushes to grab a deckchair under a parasol on his local beach on the Asian side of Istanbul.

"A sea like this for a gigantic city such as Istanbul -- it's not bad," the 74-year-old smiles, pointing to the crystal-clear water facing the Princes' Islands on the Sea of Marmara.

Istanbul, a bustling megalopolis of 16 million people between two continents and two seas, does not immediately bring to mind images of a beach resort.

But just like the locals of New York, Beirut and a handful of other global cities, Istanbulites can swim all summer long and return home on the metro with sand trapped under their sandals and salt layering their skin.

"In the old days, you could access the water anywhere," Cakmakci reminisces.

"Now, of course, you have buildings everywhere. The coastline has changed. We all now live on top of each other, in a way."

Istanbul has 85 bathing spots along the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara and Bosphorus Strait

Istanbul has 85 bathing spots along the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara and Bosphorus Strait

AFP | Ozan KOSE

Istanbul officials have added a hundred extra sun loungers to Cakmakci's beach, creating room for 300 people under 170 parasols just 25 minutes' walk from the pensioner's home.

Istanbul has 85 accessible beaches or bathing spots between the Black Sea in the north, the Sea of Marmara in the south and the Bosphorus Strait in between.

Public or private, some attract a more traditional clientele who cover themselves up in veils, while others come out in bikinis, merrily exposing their skin.

Like Turkish society itself, the two often share the same space.

Istanbulites covering themselves up in veils or exposing their skin in bikinis often sunbathe side by side

Istanbulites covering themselves up in veils or exposing their skin in bikinis often sunbathe side by side

AFP | Ozan KOSE

- Bosphorus bathers -

Finally, there are the bathers of the Bosphorus, who swim between Europe and Asia under the serene gaze of the city's grand palaces.

Eren Tor and his friends meet every morning in Bebek, an upmarket neighbourhood on the European side of the continental divide.

"It's a privilege to be able to swim between two seas and two continents," the 64-year-old pensioner says.

The water reaches 23 degrees Celsius in the summer, dropping to 11C on average in the winter.

But every day, "even in the winter, even in the snow", Tor says he comes out for his morning Bosphorus dip. He scrolls through pictures on his phone to prove his point.

Source
AFP

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