Istanbul: The Coldest Day In 100 Years

I was oblivious.

I had experienced only mild winters in England during my postgraduate year. These winters were snow free and tolerable by warm tropical Caribbean standards. 

It was with this knowledge and experience of winters that I traveled  to Istanbul in late January of 2015. 

Arriving in the early dawn, the brisk wind that swept across my face, was the caffeine needed to wake me up from my drowsy, seven hours of travel, state of mind. 

"Nice," I thought to myself as I got into my taxi and wound down the window. 

"Istanbul, you are off to a great start!"

SULTANAHMET

I began my perusal around Sultanahmet sometime after midday. 

Walking up the small cobble stoned side streets to the heart of Istanbul's best known tourist area, I was never conscious of the wind or the temperature. 

Head down, I was scrupulous about not missing my step on the side of the very narrow road. There weren't any sidewalks, only deep canyons of stairwells, straddling each side, disappearing deep beneath the road. The problem was, that there wasn't any demarcation between road and abyss. No sidewalk, no highlighted yellow bricks, or railings.

I had to focus hard.

Climbing my way out of the side road on to a main Sultanahmet street, I looked up to see a substantial number of people strolling around or sitting at the too many to count restaurants and cafes lining the street. 

Unsure of my exact whereabouts, I got pulled into the tides of people walking.

The natural flow of the majority of people going downstream forced my navigation left. I followed the school like an eager student, impatiently waiting to stumble upon the infamous outline of the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. 

After about a good one mile walk, I came upon the Hagia Sophia first and a very long line of patrons which extended all the way to the courtyard between the Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Dressed in knee high boots, and a puff parker I didn't think that I had to consider the winter weather due to the fact that, after having walked a mile, I had created enough body heat during my steady walk to not feel the coldness.

That temporary insulation of heat ceased after about two minutes of standing in line. There had been wisps of very light rain all day, but by this time it had increased to an evident pitter patter of rain drops. 

Soon my hands and feet succumbed to the elements. The cold pierced through my hands and feet with no conscience. I thought that by marching up and down that I could warm my blood up a bit. 

Closing my eyes I marched up and down quite passionately turning around and around. I looked like an Indian Chief doing a rain dance. By the time that I stopped and come back to my original center, I noticed that a couple had cut in front of me. 

Their sneaky attempt to cut the line deserved a loooongggg stare from the top of their head to their... ballerina flat shoed feet? 

My expression went from: "Who do you think you are?" to WTF!!

To add insult to injury the woman wore a big smile of complete giddiness, Face Timing with her mother, it looked like. The bitter cold seemed to go unnoticed by her. 

My frustration at their actions and attire, was not enough to create any reasonable body heat in my hands or feet. 

By this time, I was so cold that my extremities felt like they were literally on fire!

I started to cry.

Literally. Cry. 

I have never been in so much pain in my life. 

The man behind me, noticed my extreme discomfort and quickly held my hands in the palms of his hands. He conscientiously rubbed them in circular motions as I screamed to him and the entire concourse how much pain I was in. 

The peddlers in the grounds must have heard me, because several of them came rushing at me all at once selling gloves, umbrellas and... flags? WTFF?

The peddler could have said 1000USD, I was still buying those gloves. 

I quickly reached into my purse not being able to feel a thing and gave him the first crisp note of money that I could find. I believe he had said 5TL. I gave him 20TL. 

The man who had tried so hard to offer me some warmth fumbled with me, trying as quickly as possible to put the gloves on my trembling, red as a scotch bonnet, hands. 

You would think that the two of us were racing against time to save the world by putting on those gloves. I couldn't keep my hands still and he couldn't maneuver the opening of the gloves around my shaking hands until he finally pinned my arm between his two arms, holding my hand steady enough for it to receive the heated sleeve. 

"I think I made a mistake coming here today," I remembered saying to him. He smiled back and said,

"I think we all did, dear. Didn't you see the news? Today is the coldest day on record."

Inside the Hagia Sophia: The beautiful amalgamation of Christianity and Islam.

All photos taken by Petra.