The thing about Istanbul is, it’s not an easy place to sum up. I’ve sat here scribbling impressions for a hour and my list is long and varied. From the hundreds of ornate mosques that call the city to pray each day, to the high-end fashion and modern bohemian vibe, it is clear that Istanbul is a city where continents, cultures and contradictions meet. The result of this mix is a heady cultural tonic that makes me crave the madness of the city.
I am excited by the whirring traffic, the surging streets, the scramble of cats and carts and consigners. My heart dances with the sound of gypsy-funk in the metro halls and determined chants of protesters in Istiklal Caddesi. My mind reels with the seemingly nonsensical systems of business and transport, and marvels at the order with which millions of people manage their day. I love that you can go out for ice-cream at midnight and buy almost anything you want in the Grand Bazaar… and that there are just too too many things to fill my time and imagination.
It also turns out that Istanbul is the perfect place for Dave and I to have our almost-mid-adventure ‘rest’. Despite all the delights we’ve encountered in the past three months travelling through Europe, we are both feeling relieved to be in one place for a month; to unpack our bags, get to know the local grocer, and to develop a familiarity with the streets.
I’ve been thinking of this dynamic city since my last visit in 2010, when I first saw the minaret pricked sunset, tasted my first Turkish coffee and had my first hammam experience. And so, as one visit is not enough to know Istanbul, or to even make out the shape of its spirit, I am thrilled to be back.
There is so much to learn and so many adventures to come.