It was 3 am in the morning and although I felt completely spend following a whole week of late nights out with both Russian and other international friends at the FECAVA EuroCongress, usually followed by early morning runs through the city, I had to catch a flight….
Together with my Estonian friend and colleague, Tiina Toomet, who as a travel companion is in my opinion on par with Michael Palin, I had planned to attend a wedding in Istanbul.
Tiina, multilingual – like most Estonians – and well travelled, is my trusted counsel and advisor in all Eastern European matters and I am always calling on her before setting out to a new destination in this part of the globe, because Tiina has probably been there already….
At this occasion we had been invited by Gizem Taktak, our Turkish colleague, who owns a clinic on the Asian side of the mega-city, to join her on her big day and the only way to get there in time was the first flight out of St.Petersburg.
For various reasons I had been reluctant to visit my probably favourite city in Europe for a while (actually for the last 8 years…), but this was just too great an opportunity to miss.
And sure enough – after changing planes in Moscow and a two hours taxi ride including a crossing of the Bosporus, we found ourselves at an outdoor banquet, just when the sun was setting over the Sea of Marmaris.
The weeding was truly unforgetable and the celebrations were complimented by a nocturnal cruise underneath the colourfully illuminated bridges of the Bosporus following the official celebrations.
While staying in Istanbul – and this time finally finding the time to visit the Hagia Sophia
– I noticed the considerable number of stray dogs and especially cats on the streets on both the European and the Asian sides of Istanbul.
Thankfully they all appeared to be reasonably healthy and quite a few of them were tagged which indicated that someone was keeping an eye on them.
Stray pets are never an ideal scenario and although making for great photo opportunities especially in a Mediterranean setting, they remain both a public health and an animal welfare issue. That said, it was interesting to learn from Gizem that the municipality of Istanbul appears to run a catch – neuter – release programme and that efforts are made to have these animals vaccinated against rabies.
A lot of local residents are not only feeding stray pets on a regular basis (which might not necessarily be helpful to improve the problem….), they quite frequently take them to the local private clinics where they also fund their treatment if necessary.
Admittedly as desirable as the life of a sleeping cat in the sun in this part of the world might appear at times, let’s hope that it in the nearer future will feature only pets with a home and – ideally – with a caring owner.
Gizem and her colleagues on the Bosporus are working on it……