I am enchanted with Istanbul. Coming from a place that literally tears down or throws out any thing in the name of progress, to a city that revels in it’s rich history, I am memorized. From a grey enclave to a landscape littered with the divine, I am sold.
Okay, the traffic is a nightmare in Istanbul; I can’t lie. It makes going up the 5 in Los Angeles a bit of a cakewalk really. And I know for a fact that the Grand Bizarre slick Willy did not ‘make me the best price possible,’ but I really love what I bought. One really also needs to keep an eye out for unscrupulous ‘taksi’ drivers… but what large city doesn’t boast a few of those? The bottom line is, I am smitten with this city.
To begin with, I had my own cozy apartment, courtesy of my friend Maura and her school. I met her at a tech conference and she said I should come visit her and her family… ding dong! That’s just too good of an offer to pass up. Well, like Istanbul, her family is simply lovely. We spent my first day visiting with her husband’s family for a Muslim holiday complete with delicious food and other tasty treats. I pretty much fell in love with Istanbul that day. The warmth, kindness, and generosity of Maura and her family absolutely overwhelmed me – it felt like home.
The next beautiful aspect that I have to mention is the men. Look, maybe I have been in China for too long, but let’s just say that is the real Turkish Delight. Besides my dad, I literally saw two of the most attractive men (in person) that I have ever seen in my life. I am not kidding when I say I fell in love 27 times. True story.
According to a couple of people I met, as a whole, Turkey is becoming much more conservative. I saw many burqas. Look, whether or not it’s okay for me to comment, I just don’t get it… particularly the ones where only the eyes are visible. I understand that in Turkey, this is a choice, but it just seems that it’s such a denial of self and individualism – maybe that’s the point. It just seems extreme to me and always made me look twice. For all I know, they feel the same way about me. The pictures of the women in burqas were taken renegade style – I tried to be as respectful as possible as I took these photos undercover. It’s funny though because I saw one girl in a burqa taking a photo of me… well played lady, well played.
Overall though, Istanbul is enchanting. The buildings are a mix of old and new, ancient and modern. In this city of 17 million, they may not build to code, but they preserve their heritage. Crossing the Bosphorus, one just can’t help but feel the pull of history and wonder about a time way back when. It’s in the air; it’s intoxicating.
I went to the recently opened Istanbul Modern and was introduced to Turkish women artists and discovered a painter Sukriye Dikmen. The next day, I was awe struck by the Hagia Sophia where I saw first hand the recently unearthed Christian mosaics. I looked up in utter astonishment at the beauty, grandiosity, and wonderment of it all. I planned on staying an hour; I was there for four.
I feel lucky with my trip because I got a great taste of the local side of life as well as being a tourist. One of my favorite afternoons was spent at a local coffee house with a perfect view of the water.
If you ever have the chance to go to Istanbul, don’t hesitate. Go. Simply put, it’s enchanting.