Impressions of Istanbul Part 1

Back from Istanbul and I was so busy I decided to hold off on long posts until I could sit and gather my thoughts properly. So here’s how it begins:

I’ve never stood at the edge of Europe and looked at Asia. I’ve never arrived in Asia and looked back towards Europe. Actually if I start to list all the I’ve nevers for my time in Turkey, this post will fill up instantly.? Istanbul and its 12 million people was a place filled with things that I loved and things I think no one loves, even Istanbulu’s themselves.

As the 5 euro bus pulls out of the airport area and rides along the sea, I’m fixated at what I see in the water. Enormous tankers, transport ships of all kinds, lined up almost side by side, facing me.? They were like ghost ships haunting the sea side, each of them pointing towards the city, as if they were going to sail right through it.? Further we drove the more ships I saw, pointing at me, like I should hold out my hand and feed them doggy treats.? A veritable boat parking lot; the world’s sea based economy present and accounted for.

Entering one of the many hearts of the city, my attention is drawn to the steep hills, with both happy and sad looking houses looking out over me.? And dotting the landscape, minarets… mosques… it dawns on me.. I have never been in a country with so many mosques. My reaction is to try and sneak a picture of them all as the bus passes.. and then I realize.. there’s no need and it is futile to try and photograph every mosque.? Just as I realized that, the landscape around me became this insane bustling of bumper to bumper traffic, human and motorized.? Streets adorned with all kinds of banners and posters for an upcoming municipal election, I decide to myself.? I try and memorize the url’s of the candidates, as if I’m going to check their sites and decide who I like.

We arrive at the sea, the golden horn I think to myself, not really sure if studying the maps means I know what I’m talking about. I look out along the city scape and I see a familiar site from the guidebooks, the Galata Bridge and its never ending rows of fisherman who seem like they couldn’t possibly be catching or EATING anything out of that water.

Amazingly, despite what seems like neverending traffic, the bus climbs up towards the Taksim square, my destination. I climb out of the bus and suddenly find myself admidst the hustle and bustle that actually looks familiar. Ipods, laptop bags, groups of friends, tourists… yup.. I know a little about this world.? But as I walk past the square and onto the side streets, I meet head-on.. or rather.. foot-on, with the world of potholes, puddles, dirt and 30 different levels of sidewalk.? Right about then I was glad to have the good boots on like a person setting off on a hiking trip.? I try not to look too impressed with everything, keeping my ipod on and the guidebook hidden away in my pocket.? But the truth is, everything IS impressive and I’m stopping every few minutes to sneak a picture until finally I stop sneaking and carefully aim the camera and stare at doorways and majestic buildings.? I had arrived in Istanbul for the first time in my life, and I was hungry, somewhat lost, and enjoying every bit of it.