We all take trips for different reasons. and going to Istanbul was no different for me. Turkey was simply a voyage of personal discovery. I needed to open the portals of my understanding. Istanbul was simply one of those trips to a cradle of civilization where I searched for personal understanding.
Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was efficient and organized. Customs and Immigration were fast and knew what they were doing. This is an airport that does not talk about service, it simply delivers. I was impressed.
The prearranged trip to my hotel was easy except for the constant stretching of my neck, to see the city. I was in Istanbul, surrounded by 14.2 million people; and in the economic, cultural and historical soul of Turkey. The drive to the hotel along the Bosphorus was beautiful.
The Sultanahment area is a core area of the old city and one’s mind is immediately assaulted by a huge sense of history. The sights and smells of street vendors, old buildings and the mosques are like water overflowing the mind. History here does not unfold slowly, and a special sense of place emerges quickly. Istanbul is a mixture of the old and the new.
Istanbul wraps its arms around my mind. At 6:00am the loudspeakers of multiple mosques began their call to prayer. The various calls blend, into a strange hymn of awakening. For locals, this is a seminal event that gives roots to one’s life. It is central to the core of the Muslim experience. In October, morning is greeted by bright sun coupled with cool and crisp air. It is an indication that today, Istanbul and the traveller will get along really well.
The hills of Istanbul attack the legs and lungs. Then the protests call for a halt at a small sidewalk cafe and Turkish Apple Tea and a new love affair with Turkish food is created. Daily, I munched on fresh pretzels, covered in cream cheese from the street vendors.
When I entered the Grand Mosque my mouth dropped with the splendor of the rich beauty The Hagia Sophia is a visual feast. My dessert was the Basilica cistern and its monument to Roman times.
The Sultanahmet’s enchantment is not confined to historical edifices but the long line of shops selling trinkets, rugs, clothing and local food. My attention was drawn in particular to a very attractive tart, strawberry that is. It was so beautiful that I cannot help myself from making a vow that before leaving I must surrender. And I surely did, and I was held captive.
Turkish people take their faith seriously and enjoy their families. People walk, talk and act with pride, in their very clean city. Already, the mind will start to accept the lessons of history. Already, I am falling into the repetition of daily events as normal and serene. The day starts regular as clockwork, with the call to prayer, simultaneous from countless mosques. Lastly, and let us not forget the best part, “the Turkish sweets, sweet-breads, the orange and rose aromas”. The tongue enjoys the day on a taste journey, rocket ship style.
The wharves on the Bosphorus are a breath of new, fresh air. I enjoyed the constant action and was constantly reminded that I had never seen a port as busy as Istanbul.
One morning, I wanted to return, further explore this vibrant area. I was thinking of following the wharfs to find new vistas. One thing for sure, the wharf is crawling with people selling “ Boat Trips around the Bosphorus”. Two hour cruises for a minimal cost ..I was in heaven.
Istanbul is huge, as we followed the Asian coastline for one hour and then crossed to the European side to return. We were always about 250 meters from shore and the density of life was amazing. I was particularity taken by the beautiful mosques that were built close to the water’s edge. They dominate the skyline. It was striking to see the new and the old, side by side. The blending of the years seems to be the nature of Istanbul.
Coming back to the four corners, where my hotel was located, I entered
the small Turkish Delights Sweets Shop. The owner, who spoke very little English, genuinely greeted me like a friend and shook my hand. I placed my order by pointing and he then gave me free samples.Life is good…..I am very content……. Istanbul is a house with many, many windows, each one opening into a new vista.
The Grand Bazaar is another sensual monument to the greed of the buyer and the seller. Every price is negotiable. This is social intercourse at the purest level. After many tears, on both sides, a price is arranged with smiles and friendship.
Istanbul is not just a location..it is an experience..and now..i have lived at a deeper level.