To one of my favourite cities in the world,
You, and everyone around you, are getting a pretty bad rap at the moment because of a loud, vulgar, violent minority. People are starting to see you as a danger; a scary foreign land full of extremists. It won’t always be this way though.
I wanted to tell you that I love your vibrancy, and always have. The way your streets course with people from all walks of life like veins bringing life to a beating heart. Colours, sounds and smells fight each other for dominance; from street food sellers offering succulent fish sandwiches and stuffed mussels to shop fronts bedazzled with jewels of lokum, dusted with powdered sugar. Unaccustomed ears are initially pierced with the sound of the calls to prayer though, later, young backpackers happily don the offered blue scarves in order to respectfully enter your famous religious monuments and marvel at the breathtaking architecture.
You’ve welcomed me three times now, and each has offered a different experience. As a 21 year old, having travelled by public transport through the Balkans, I saw Istanbul as the final destination on a road trip. My Turkish travelling companion was, after a year studying abroad, finally home. I visited every tourist destination; feigned disinterest in all of the eyecatching trinkets in the Grand Bazaar, though I wanted them all, and relished in the cool humidity of the Basilica Cistern (we were there in July, it was HOT!). I took pictures of everything, from the meals my friend’s mother prepared for me in their 7th floor apartment in the heart of the city- a stones throw from Taksim Square- to the geometric tiling in the palaces- I’m still determined to decorate my future home in a nod to the Topkapi. 😉
Visit number two was a different beast altogether. I was nervous, given the ongoing (though notably calmer) resistance demonstrated at Gezi park, where my best friend was hit with tear gas as she and others in the community fought for what they believed was right. I was also attending a conference for work, and it was November, though you had lost none of your charm in the dismal circumstances! I was brought close to tears when I found out said best friend had waited for me to arrive to go shopping for wedding dress fabric; yet again I found myself wandering through labyrinthine bazaars, yet again relishing every moment!
Trip number three and I brought friends, Istanbul! Mr and I, as well as Mama and Papa LW booked plane tickets the moment we received our wedding invites. My favourite Turkish Delight was going to be a Mrs and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! It was particularly special for me to visit a local artist and have henna applied for the first time (thanks so much, Melike! Check her out at http://www.facepaintingistanbul.com/), though I did have to fight a very strong urge to upstage the beautiful bride and get full arm designs- they are so beautiful!
It was booked for June, and so we packed accordingly, and it rained. You trickster, you! It didn’t spoil the event one bit though, particularly as there was a very special announcement (and special guest!). Yes, there’s a mini Turkish Delight on the way! I suppose that means we’ll need a trip number four early next year! 🙂
In all seriousness, Istanbul, you will always hold a piece of my heart. Primarily, because you are home to my Turkish “family” who are as dear to me as my own. Secondly, though, because you are the most accepting, multicultural, exciting, hotpot of a city that I have encountered so far.
Keep your chin up, Istanbul, don’t let the negativity win. Keep being your wonderful self and I, for one, will be back!
Little Welsh x