Damn, I adore this city. It gives, what most of European towns can’t – never-ending energy that pulsing 24 hours. But also it doesn’t make you tired with its millions of inhabitants, like Asian big cities do. Istanbul has magnificent treasures from the past. But also it gives you the feeling of the present. The perfect combination.
When I came to Istanbul for the first time, it feed me with historical treasures. One of them is must-see Hagia Sophia, which stands on the hill alongshore of turbulent Bosphorus already around 1500 years. Can you imagine? The world had changed, the empires had crashed, wars had passed through together with rulers, but the cathedral-mosque is still here. You may spend the whole day or two inside, or even the whole life, but it is nothing in terms of its age. Impressive.
Luckily, Istanbul switches quickly from sad thoughts about transience of life. You just need to go outside. And here you are: inside the thick of things. The never-ending crowds are like veins of the city that do not stop. They pour energy to ancient quarters and historical winding streets. Here and there they scream “Simit!” (circular bread with sesame seeds) or “Kestane!” (fried chestnuts) –local street-food. Alongshore another tasty word emerges – “Balik, try balik!” For me, this fish sandwich is one of the tastiest meals in the city. Believe me, it’s a crime if not try it.
But the variety of smells in Istanbul is even better than its sounds. Near Galata bridge fish scent is dominant. On the first level of the bridge they cook fish in numerous restaurants, on the second – they provide with supply. Actually, I’m not sure if fishermen sell their hauk. But restaurants don’t complain that fishing rods hang down almost to visitor’s plates. It was surprising to notice young ladies fishing too, wearing paranja.
Almost three years has passed since my last visit. And almost nothing has changed. I met the same fisherman on Kabatas pier. I almost sure, he wore the same cloth. But cats, always begging for fresh fish, were not the same. Because this time a dog accompanied a man. Poor animal – in Catstanbul dogs are minority. The obsession with cats here is just unbelievable. Almost near every entrance there is a pet plate with food. I remember seeing a woman, who carried heavy bags. She barely could open the door. But when she saw a kitten, she grabbed it, while held both bags in one hand. She dropped some food, but didn’t stop kissing it. Or there were an old men, who seemed had nothing, but food for cats. With such mass love for animals people here just can’t be evil.
I think they actually sincerely enjoy life. In the way they spend their evenings on the seafront, arranging family picnics, or in the way they drink coffee or tea. Perhaps, famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk wouldn’t agree with me. In his book “Istanbul” he says that everyone here has ”hüzün”. This is some kind of melancholy and sorrow about the lost past that all inhabitants have in common. At least, three visits were not enough to catch this sad emotion. Because Istanbul allows you to discover it in very small doses. Which makes you feel the very moment of its life. As for me, the feeling of present is the most precious present the city could offers.