DAY 4 FRIDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER 2012
Rainy morning in Istanbul.
Even though it was raining we took to the streets and walked down to the area of Besitkas on the edge of the Bosphorus. On the way down the hill we passed through one of the affluent suburbs of Istanbul.
Streets through the rich end of town run down to the Bosphorus and where there is water in Istanbul there are fishermen and people out strolling the promenade. One can sit for hours watching the everyday lives of ‘Istanbulites’.
The biggest fish I saw caught was around 150mm long.
Up a side street on the way home we decide to have a beer.
There are few moments on the road when everything is just perfect. This afternoon was one of them. The setting sun was warm, the location was off the main road so there were no cars and the owner of the café was friendly. When I think about the magic moments they are always associated with warm sun, beer/tea and good company.
Soon after the beer was served a couple of blokes rushed off and returned with a TV, hooked it up on a bracket above our heads and set it going. Maybe the TV was to encourage us to stay a while longer.
This afternoon nearing home we passed a very old overgrown cemetery and at the entrance were dozens of cats warming themselves in the late afternoon sun. A lady approached and invited us into the cemetery where there were dozens more, all anxiously awaiting her arrival.
I’m sorry to be going on about cats but they are part of the Istanbul street scene and regardless of wether you like or dislike cats one has to admit they are interesting when one understands their origins.
The cat lady not only feeds the cats but looks after their wellbeing. She does not care for the cats thinking it might increase her chances of getting into the afterlife, she does it because she loves cats.
Recent genetic studies indicate that all cats in the world are descendants from five native cats that lived 8000 years ago on the island of Crete. Egyptians, like many other cultures, worshipped the cat, mainly because of its ability to survive life-threatening situations and its knowing look when it stares through its slit eyes.
The Crete wildcat had big ears like this cute pussy. There are still native wild cats living in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.
As readers know, a cat can survive falls from heights and that’s because they have the ability to right themselves and land on their feet. The righting ability is put down to the extreme flexibility of their backbone. The minimum height a cat can right itsself is 300mm. The righting ability leads to the belief that a cat has nine lives.
Cats domesticated themselves and this meant traders, fishermen and farmers utilised them for their own benefit and spread them around the world. Farmers and fishermen used them to control vermin and traders sold them as they travelled the trade routes of the world. If I had a large live-aboard boat I would have a cat because they keep the seagulls away (gulls turn your boat into a guano island when at anchor) and also they keep mice and rats at bay. Cats can also detect forthcoming storms; they head for their bolthole well before the barometer begins to fall.
The average lifespan of a domesticated cat is twelve years. A cat in the wild lives around five years. A cat called Cream Puff holds the longevity record living to thirty-eight years. If the cat derived its name from the fact it lived on cream puffs maybe the dieticians who tell us such food is not good for us might be wrong.
Cats, I believe, have their place, which is not in the Australian bush as they are killers and have attributed to the extinction of many Australian mammals and reptiles. In early days of settlement in Australia farmers dumped cats in the bush near rabbit warrens to control rabbits and at one stage the railway department threw cats out along the railway line in an attempt to control rabbits undermining railway tracks. No wonder we have a feral cat problem in Australia. The best feral cat is a flat one!
An interesting fact to close on is that the plant Catnip smells like a female cat’s sexual activity pheromone and this is how the plant derived its name. Have you ever thought why the cartoon cat was called Sylvester? Probably because the scientific name for the domesticated cat is Felis silvestris.
After our encounter with the Istanbul cat lady we headed back to Ferruh’s, footsore and weary.