Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

After a long overnight bus from Fethiye and almost three weeks adventures and misadventures in the southwest region of Turkey, I arrived at the huge bus terminal of Istanbul.  I can’t help but brood over the mishaps I experienced along the way – the daunting long road trip from Dalyan to Fethiye, the scary bus ride from Oludeniz to the village on the edge of the cliff that is Faralya, the unforgettable encounter with the spirits of the forest while looking for that solitary beach hideaway in Kabak Valley.   

But all things considered, it was an experience I would definitely cherish.  It’s all a part and parcel of the whole journey that makes traveling joyful and educational.

It feels good to be back to the big city, I like Istanbul.  The first time I came to Istanbul, it was a planned week of stopover after a month-long vacation in Paris but ended up staying for two weeks.  Tourists usually stay for a couple of days but it isn’t enough to soak up and have a feel of the city.  

Istanbul may be metropolitan in many aspects yet it has retained much of its historical characteristics.  Its rich and multihued antiquity makes it unique and fascinating that compel travelers to visit.  

I like its distinctive colors, the nostalgic skyline during sunsets with its slender tall minarets dotting the horizons while observing the locals hook for fish along the Galata Bridge, the children chasing thousands of pigeons flying low around the Ottoman imperial mosque of Yeni Cami beside the Eminonu port, the busy and vivacity of the pedestrian street of Istiklal Cadessi where millions of people parade every single day with its historical red and white tram moving along its stretch from Taksim Square to the Tunnel and back.  I enjoy watching the swarm of tourists flocking in groups around the historical peninsula of Sultanahmet queuing at the entrances at the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque.

The winding steep cobblestone streets and alleyways of Beyoglu district, the melodic and entrancing sound of the call to prayers reverberating all over the city like an ensemble in lyrical harmony, the shrilling cries of seagulls hovering while on a ferry crossing to the other side of the continent (from Europe to Asia or vise-versa) and the sights of occasional small vessels catching fish, the pungent aroma of colorful spices at the Egyptian Bazaar, the smell of chestnuts roasting from the red vending carts or the whiff of sesame from Simit peddlers, the flavorsome local cuisine served at lokantas or eateries.

I could go on and on, and catalogue a lot of things that captivated me but it’s gonna be a long shot.  I know I have not seen half of the city yet or even a small fraction of it categorically speaking, but who does?  Not even a good segment of the local population had explored their very own city which is quite understandable, I have not explored my own city as well. It’s gonna take a lifetime (or not) to delve into every nooks and crannies of the 39 districts of this city. 

I have an Istanbullu friend who has not even seen some of the corners that I have stumbled upon during the occasional “getting lost” spree.  Much less getting around the country visiting towns along the Black Sea or the Aegean coastlines. But at least, a visit to some of the important and popular highlights is quite adequate to have a grasp of its magnificence.

Unquestionably, like any other big city, Istanbul has its unpleasantness but I guess beauty is relative.

For instance, I feel uncomfortable in the business district of Levent in Sisli with its monstrous skyscrapers, massive shopping malls and cold dull character but I did a lot of shopping there.  Conversely for some, it may be works of architectural wonders.  The old decrepit wooden houses along Tarlabasi Bulvari and its neighborhood may be a dreadful sight, and beyond it, the concrete jungle of apartment buildings peppering the hills, the automotive shops alongside sleazy bars and nightclubs at Aksaray Mahallesi, the horrible traffic during rush hours and so much more.  

I guess, one must look at the big picture (let me borrow a line from a Jason Mraz song) “to see the beauty in ugly”.  It’s the cacophony and variability of sights and sounds interwoven all-together that constitute the fabric that make up the beauty that is Istanbul.

In my very own concise description of the city – “Istanbul is a poetry delicately written by history.

Aaah, I get poetic whenever I’m tired and lethargic.  It was a long trip from Fethiye and I’m yearning for a rejuvenating sleep.  Tomorrow, I’ll be going to Sultanahmet district.  Although I have visited most of the sights at the historical peninsula, I miss walking around there.

Perhaps visit some old friends I made in the past at the nearby Beyazit neighborhood and pass by my favorite carpet shop owner who is one of the causes of my diabetes with his sweet apple tea and lokum at the Kapali Carsi.  Goodnight and sweet dreams.


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