Istanbul is a pot where one could boil sugar and salt and serve the end result as one of the tastiest hot drinks in the world. Dazzled with influences from around the world, the city brings together both the best and worst aspects of the Western and Eastern world. Even though Istanbul sits on two separate continents, she does not let the two worlds co-exists side by side. Rather she put them the two odd ingredients into to the pot with warming water and as a result we have one of the universe’s most unique cities.
She does not come as aggressive or overcrowded as most Middle Eastern, Asian or Latin American metropolitans. Although even she can have quite a temper and then the drivers, helplessly stuck in the midst of her chaotic mind, attempt to find salvage in the sounds of horns in spite of knowing the jam is there to stay, at least for a little while longer.
Bust most of the time Istanbul is tender, loving and heartwarmingly welcoming who are visiting her. She is a world-known architect whose work keeps bewildering even those closest to her; the bulk of her monuments such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Sultanahmet Mosque are located in the old city what used to be called Constantinople, one of the cradles of modern civilization that we so endlessly admire. She shows us the history we are so blissfully unaware of; the past that is now wrongly used to define the difference between them and us.
Istanbul is all not all about the monuments that tell us about the neglected history. It is about bazaars where you may find anything from golden notebooks to leather jackets; picture-perfect mosques where people rush to pray five times as they hear ever-beautiful calls for a prayer; luxury stores drizzled all parts of the city; sleek men who like nothing like the Turkish we see working at kebab places in Europe; delicious food enjoyed with vanilla-flavored water pipe and accompanied by the sweet Turkish liquor; taxi drivers who are more than willing to rip off anyone unable to speak of English; bohemian neighborhoods who admire Paris to the end of the world; in fact Istanbul is everything else than the history she withholds.
Blissfully gorgeous and ravishing the old city that most tourists never exit during their visit in Istanbul was not what made me fall in love with the city. Instead it was the endearing love of Istanbul that sparked something in me. The kindness in the people who would smile in the streets; restaurant owners who would offer you tea at the end of the meal on the house; a shopkeeper who would be looking for lost boy’s parents relentlessly (and finds them); it was something about the people who made Istanbul seem more beautiful than most other places I had ever been to.
But what I enjoyed the most was taking a stroll at 6.30am in the morning around Istanbul; waking up so early that you cannot even attend the breakfast at your hotel, but this was the last day in Istanbul and I felt I had not seen much after four days. I took my iPhone and put in on shuffle and decided to just take a street after another; in case I would get lose I had saved the map of Istanbul on my phone so although I had no access to Internet in the city I would find my way back.
However what I found was the most stunning side of Istanbul; the first morning prayers of the date sounded even more delightful than the ones you hear during the day and seeing all those people who own so much belief rushing into the mosques; cleaners that you pass-by smiling at you kindly and greeting you in Turkish; the quiet streets that are slowly becoming awake as the sun rises on the sky, the world is pushing away the night and welcoming the brightest star of the Earth with a smile.
I wandered four-five hours without much destination in the early morning and got to know more of her than I had seen during my four days of travel. I met boys and girls rushing to their schools; I met the wasteland where all the people and machines threw trash no one wished to see at their households; the mosques were becoming brighter and more beautiful as the sun got higher and higher; the streets lit up with the people & and the noises turned louder as the clock went ahead. Witnessing Istanbul become alive was perhaps one of the most beautiful events I had seen. Tourists gone, the touts desperately seeking for foreigners to buy their services made no entrance, it was only those who lived and breathed Istanbul every day & everything seemed stirringly ravishing.
Without much doubt Istanbul made you feel like an alien as most of us who us never lived in the pot where all different spices were mixed so well together that it taste like the most delightful meal you ever had in your life. Even though I think I fell in love with her, I do not think she felt the same way about me and it was the first time when I felt I was lacking love back from a city. Usually the cities adore me, but with her I felt that she had been betrayed too often during her existence. She herself belonged nowhere; one side rejecting her for being too much in the East whereas the other claiming she adored and manifested Western characteristics. Istanbul is reserved. Gentle. But cautious.
However, she loves seagulls. They remind her of sweet possibilities respiring in the beautiful sea.