Saturday, May 20, 2006

Istanbul

Istanbul ... once you adjust to the long summer days, warm nights spent on rooftops overlooking the Marmara Sea ... once you recover from first impact Istanbul, you find you enjoy the Istanbul chaos that changes your life.

At first you just watch, amazed by the mess as it explodes all around you, you can't stop it, you're a foreigner, so you watch and you learn.

The shower might be a trickle or the water may go off altogether, or the power; the oven might not work but it's okay, you can cook on the stovetop and later, when your belly adjusts, you eat doner sandwiches, borek, and iskender kebap from kind cafe strangers.

But slowly, as you learn to bend with the city, she will reward you with things never dreamt of.

Once I left New Zealand with 30 dollars in my bag, racing a snowstorm to Istanbul airport... 23 hours in the air ... endless hours and a cold sweat whenever the smallprint travel insurance details worried my mind.

I made it... picked up the cat from the vet's, bought extra water and food, I cleaned, I climbed into bed 8 hours after arriving ... a white world outside.

I climbed into bed almost dead from that tiredness you get when you fly round the world without sleeping and the neighbour started lifting his floor tiles with a drill. His choice of 'snowed-in entertainment' incompatible with his jetlagged Yeni Zelanda neighbour's plan to lie comatose for a few days.

2 metres of snow, and I watched it for days, wishing I could have spent longer in my New Zealand summer where everything was so simple after Istanbul.

Another flight back, this time my old home was gone, my new home was yet to be found. People-promises broken ...

But Istanbul kept her promises ... she was still heaving with people who shouted their way into my quietest moments ... the call to prayer never faltering, going out over the cosmopolitan heads that provide one of one hundred contrasts.

City of scents ... the spices, the fruit wagons, the simit sellers with their sesame sales, diesel-belching buses competing for space in the race that takes place on Istanbul's roads.. yellow taxis. The smell of decay washed away on the Bosphorous; the smell of money when you walk in Nisantasi; the smell of the poor, of the labourers, of the refuse ... the smell.

I adored Istanbul.

3 comments:

Alison said...

We must go soon!

woman wandering said...

We must ... one day when the Belgian government lets Di work.

The Wandering Turk said...

I'll see you there! :-).