Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm listening to Istanbul (Intent, my eyes closed)

“Istanbul is beautiful and your time is very limited” – This is the first thing a Turkish woman told me when I landed at the Ataturk International Airport.

I didn’t know what she really meant till the bus that was transferring me from the airport to the hotel stopped at the Sultanahmet square and I glanced at The Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque for the first time. I knew I was home, I knew I was in love.

The Blue Mosque and The Hagia Sophia at night
Seamlessly blending modernism with a rich culture, Istanbul springs a pleasant surprise at every corner. The city transforms itself from a historical hub with lazy, winding cobbled lanes to a street party with fantastic music, food and wine within hours. It is a city that never sleeps!

In the midst of the dark night a faint tune travels across the city... a musician strumming his guitar, keeping a row of men standing on a bridge with their fishing rods in the sea entertained and amused. Fresh catch is caught every minute, a smoke; a chestnut break is taken every hour till finally dawn beckons on the horizon with a fleet of birds and the call for prayer..........

You wake up to the smell of food and to the sound of music. The whiff of freshly baked simits, Doner kebabs, baklavas and hot tea mingles with the fresh, crisp air. The street cafes switch on local music while they set tables and wait for customers in the bright sun.

Reach Sultanahmet square and you can soak in years and years of history just by standing in the middle of the road and taking a 360 degree whirl. A break from all the sightseeing deserves a nice lazy lunch at one of many street side cafes, all of which have very graphic menus and extra friendly servers. Dig into traditional Ottoman and Turkish cuisine while you watch the world go by or for an exotic romantic setting find your way to many roof top restaurants that offer some great views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

To digest all that food, walk and then walk some more! Stop for some tea and then walk again till you can just lose yourself in the madness of one of the Bazaars.

The chillness of early evening brings in the aroma of sheesha that will find you anywhere you are. Fancy milk or coffee flavoured sheesha? Worry not, the Turks have their quirks.

While birds prepare to go back home, the scene at the dock changes. A sudden buzz, frantic, hurried people travelling across continents. Watch the sunset from a boat and get a chance to feed seagulls that will travel with you, leaving behind a series of mosques towering the sky and enchanting houses you wish you could own.

At the final stop, jump off the boat to jump into fresh fish kebab sandwiches, all that cruising is sure to make anyone hungry!

Night falls on Istanbul and she becomes a beauty with all the lights and glitter she is adorned with. She celebrates her grace by welcoming thousands of people into one street where it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. You become a part of something so much bigger than yourself. You will talk to strangers, listen to a language you don’t understand and in all this you will find yourself one with her.

By lanes going off Istiklal Street are like a chocolate box, you never know what you’re going to find. And whatever you do, will be an experience of a lifetime. Drink up some Raki in a tiny pub listening to some live Turkish rock music, join the gang of locals taking over the street with their dance and back at the tiny table and stool awaits a plate of mussels and a mug of Effes to pump in some energy you sure need to match up with the turks!

.......As the crowds scatter, I walk back on that bridge watching the moon glitter the dark waters and the stars play hide and seek, somewhere close by a guitar still strums and up goes a fishing rod with lots of catch. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and try to encompass everything I have seen and felt into this one moment, a tiny part of her soul merges with mine. And I know that she loves me back.

Till next time.....

P.S - To leave you with a sweeter taste of Istanbul, a few lines from a beautiful poem by Orhan Veli Kanik titled - 'I'm listening to Istanbul' (read the full poem here)

  All images copyright - idle tuesday afternoon thoughts


Related Posts with Thumbnails