I think I was 15 or 16 when I first read agatha christie’s the Murder on the Orient Express, and I had been fascinated by Istanbul ever since (Ali Baba hadn’t done the job earlier with my fantasy, and Marco Polo had too much snow). So I grew up with Istanbul on the top of my list of to-visit-before-I-die places in the world. Then I learned to belly dance and always favored the turkish style (hips up) to the egyptian (hips down). Scheherazade, the magic carpet, the genie…all part of my dreams. So when I learned that Josh and Alex were moving here a few months ago, that was it, the chance of a life time: Istanbul!!!
after an unbelievable 24h journey (3 planes, 2 stops) I had a great time, one week. istanbul seems to be the hot ticket in europe I guess. voted by wallpaper as the hippest city on the planet, by the new york times as the best city in europe and by the spaniards as destination of choice for easter holiday (pascalia), the place was packed.
nonetheless, the view of sultanahmet’s skyline was breathtaking, the sun sets behind the blue mosque (easy to identify because of the 6 minarets) and the pollution makes the light thick ad perfect. there is a bit of history in every corner. I was at the foot of that little tower that is in every school kid’s book illustrating “constantinopla”. it’s a city of 7 hills, and where many seas meet…the sea of marmar leads into the Aegean, the bosbhorus into the black sea. from josh’;s house I see over 180 degrees of all this… on the right, europe, on the left is asia. boats that come in and come out all day long…for over 2000 years.
there were muslims and there were tourists. 5 times a day the mosques call for prayer — all at the same time – and nobody understands a word, not even the turkish… it’s in arabic! on friday 1pm is the big prayer. women have they’re little separate room for prayer. it’s mostly male. the men. many hot-turks and they treat women as princesses. I love it! All machos and very masculine but sweet and soft and other westernized would think womanish. they’re strong, charming, direct, no frills. love it. big moustaches at times, borat-type. pass… women are bland, no big deal.
whirling was – and still is – a means to attain higher union with god. so on easter sunday, after a cruise up the bosphorus to see the palaces and the villages and the black sea, I embraced the whirling dervishes experience. you spin me round baby right round. softcell or marc almond? or was it new order circa 89? Dead or alive!
I walked and walked and at the end of the day either I was smelling like fish or an ashtray. everyone smokes like a chimney. you turk? you must smoke. smoking is probably synonymous of health for the turkish. oh well. turkish coffee. kahve. good kahve. Josh’s co-worker read my cup. He said he saw “spain:”…but also saw island, buldings, water…manhattan, I thought.
Sultanahmet is the Istanbul of postcards and history. This small peninsula has witnessed more history than most countries and was once capital of the world — and it had a million people! when rome become old-fashioned, constantinopla, the city of constantine, did the job. at the tip of the peninsula, there’s the big palace called topkaki (means forbidden); and for at least 400 years was the harem of thousands of women that the sultan kept for their mundane pleasures. women were given as gifts to them, and they’d stay there for life. guards were all eunuchs. but it was a tough gig…highly competitive: whomever had a son had a big chance to become Mother of the Sultan!!! girl fight everyday I imagine….
The Grand Bazaar is the place to shop, and live the orient trading experience. asolutely magic. merchants were all piled up on each other, labyrinth streets woven into each other, little courtyards, turks and tourists and absolutely fabulous merchandise: alladin lams, plates, silk rugs, kilims, belly dance outfits, pashminas of all colors, gold and silver and semi-precious stones, turkish delights of all flavors, baklavas, havla and nuts. it’s a place to go at least 10 times in life. I guess this is the origin of the shopping mall. One must bargain bargain bargain. I managed to reduce the asking price of the bunch of art pieces I wanted in 350 lira (approx 300 dollars) but boy did I sweat it. almost had sex in the little shop. I had about 10 pieces, and everything goes in the negotiation… the mustafa wanted a kiss, I asked for another 40% discount….
every single car has a 34 on the plate. why number them 34 then?? just eliminate it!
no trash cans whatsoever., no concept of customer service. cars and people on the streets on a every “organic” relationship…you think they will hit you but they don’t and you just throw yourself in front of the car and nothing will happen, a close call every single time.
this is long, and I guess I am tired of writing. in short, istambul is wonderful a true turkish delight.