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Istanbul winds battle over the city

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily New | 10/17/2009 12:00:00 AM | Gül Tüysüz

Though there are many winds that buffet Istanbul, two stand out more any other: The Poyraz and the Lodos.

Istanbul winds are more than the mere sum of their direction and magnitude. For many residents of the city, they are living entities that lend a bit of their character to the city each time they blow by.

A quick inventory of the winds from the east going south includes the Gündoğusu, Keşişleme, Kıble, Lodos, Günbatısı, Karayel, Yıldız and Poyraz.  Ask a seaman like Cevdet Maraş, however, and he will skip the order listed above – not out of forgetfulness, but because the Poyraz and the Lodos reign supreme in the narrative of Istanbul.

And the prominence of those winds is reflected in the lines of Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet’s “Lodos.” Another Turkish poet, Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan, opens his poem “Istanbul Light” with the verses:

Istanbul, the wind

The wind, my love

Sometimes lodos blows from the seas

Oh so warm

Sometimes poyraz blows like a crazed razor

Let your hair down for the winds of Istanbul

You can’t be without love or the wind in this city.

That crazed razor Oğuzcan speaks about is the most prevalent wind in Istanbul. The Poyraz blows from the northeast and hits the northern shores of the city around Riva, Şile and Kilyos. This wind lends its name to Poyrazkoy, a small fishing village on the Asian side of Istanbul near Beykoz, where residents make business decisions by the winds.

The name of the village works on two levels. “Even before the harbor was built, this was used as a natural shelter for fishermen from the Poyraz,” said Özcan Bayraktar, Poyrazkoy’s muhtar, or village head, and a fishing captain. The area is a natural cove, or ‘koy’ in Turkish, and ‘köy’ is Turkish for village, making the name both Poyrazköy and Poyrazkoy, though the sign at the entrance of the village simply says Poyraz. “It cools the air and disperses humidity,” said Kemal Sarıhan, a boat builder from the village.

Poyraz the wind takes its name from Boreas, the Ancient Greek northern wind god, who is one of the Anemoi, or wind gods. In Şeref Kayaboğazı’s “The Natural, Human and Economic Geography of Istanbul and its Surroundings,” the author notes that the Poyraz, which is considered to be a trade wind when it blows from mid-May to mid-September, was referred to as etesiae by the Ancient Greeks. In Turkish, this annual summer wind is referred to as the Meltem. It is considered to be a sweet, cool interlude from the summer heat and the dry Poyraz is welcome during the hot months. In the winter, however, it is a different matter. “It will make your insides shiver,” said Sarıhan. “But it’s reliable weather.” And that is a direct poke at the Lodos, Istanbul’s second most common wind.

“When the Lodos comes, it drowns,” said Sarıhan. “Our elders used to say ‘Okay, you can go out, but be back at 12, the Lodos is coming,’ because where the other winds do one kind of damage, the Lodos does a hundred.”  

Derived from the Ancient Greek south wind god, Nodos or Notus, the Lodos is a dry and warm wind that blows from the southwest. Whereas in ancient mythology, Boreas was characterized as the one having an uncontrollable temper, the Lodos is the most troublesome of the winds for residents of Istanbul.

Ferry services running from Kadıköy get canceled when this wind shows its face because it is especially punishing to the southern coast of Istanbul. “It paralyses the Marmara Sea and the part of the Bosphorus that meets Marmara,” said Cevdet Maraş, second in command to Nacı Akagündüz, a ferry captain with Istanbul Ferries and Fast Ferries Inc., or İDO. Akagündüz captains one of Istanbul’s ubiquitous steel ferries that service the Eminönü-Üsküdar line. “We used to run the ferries even in Lodos weather. It is not a problem getting across. It’s about docking. We used to do it but we would have passengers throwing up or getting knocked about so the city decided not to risk it anymore. We’re not carrying cargo, the load is people, so we have to be careful,” he said. 

Docking during the Lodos will lift the boat hard onto the dock and because of the increase in the water levels during the Lodos, the bottom of the boat will sometimes start to hit the protection along the pier, he said. “At times, we dock in this kind of weather and the passengers will not have noticed, and the docking will be shaky. When they get off someone will say, ‘Where did you get your captains license?’ or something like that, so it’s good maybe that we don’t go out in weather anymore,” he said.

“The seabuses are canceled during the Lodos more than these boats. This boat is strong, it’s heavy set, but the seabuses are lighter and the bottom is hollow so they rock more. Also their routes are in the Marmara, so they travel more in the open sea where the Lodos really hits, so their route is more affected,” he said. “The best port to be in weather like this is Eminönü. It’s naturally sheltered,” he said.

So what is the best course of action when the warm Lodos begins to blow? “If you are in Kadıköy, you should take the dolmuş to Üsküdar and cross from Üsküdar to Eminönü because it is usually the last ferry service to be canceled,” Akagündüz said.

Bayraktar said the Lodos has no affect whatsoever on fish in the sea and that it no longer has an affect on the fish that have been caught. But in the past, it was a different story. There is still a saying, “A fish that has seen the Lodos.” Sometimes it is used to describe actual fish and sometimes it is in reference to people, as in “a person who is like a fish that has seen the Lodos,” meaning “out of it” or “not in good form.”

“It used to be that we would go out to sea, catch the fish and draw up the nets. Back then, there was no refrigeration so the fish would just sit on the deck. And then the Lodos would blow, it would dry the fish up,” he said. “But,” he is quick to add, “now we have refrigerators on the boats and the Lodos is not a problem anymore. I don’t know about people though.”

And all the seamen agree the Lodos is a teary-eyed wind. Teary-eyed? “It brings the rain,” Bayraktar said. But Maraş disagreed, sort of. “Yes, the Lodos is teary-eyed. After this wind, it rains, but it’s not because of the Lodos. It’s the northern winds that battle it. The Lodos comes, and then the northern winds start to push it back. That’s what causes the rain,” Maraş said. True or not, he firmly believes that the winds battle over Istanbul, each trying to assert its own place.

And he rattles off the other winds, carefully commenting on them. The Kıble comes from the south and is named after the direction in which Muslims pray. The Gündoğusu and Günbatısı get their names from the position of the sun and literally translate to where the sun rises and where the sun sets. “The Günbatısı is a good, safe wind,” said Maraş. The northern wind, the Yıldız, gets its name from old Turkish “Yulduz,” and is named after the northern star. The Karayel blows from the northwest and the name comes from the Turkish “kara,” meaning dark, and “yel,” an old word for wind. “The Karayel is rain weather and when you feel it and the Yıldız, you know snow is coming,” Maraş said. “When there is the Keşişleme, you are bound to get a storm,” he said, referring to the southeastern wind that gets its name from Keşiş Mountain, the old name of Uludağ in Bursa.

“But you know, this Lodos we had on Tuesday? It’s not over yet. The north winds cut it off and we had a bit of rain, but the Aegean is strong. It’ll be back soon,” he said.

So the score is 1-0 for the Lodos. And, maybe in the minds of Istanbul’s seamen, that has been the score all along.

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