How can I love more there than here? How can I feel foreign more as mine?Oh, but I can. Istanbul. Istanbul. Have we met before? A long time ago? Because, you got me.
Taksim square and Istiklal Caddesi
I arrived before they wounded you. The bus driver left us with simple: „Welcome to Istanbul“, and my first thought was: I am so lost. In the middle of a huge roundabout I saw people going in one direction – Istiklal street.
It is more than just a caddesi. Peppered with pedestrians, housing a huge variety of shops, Istiklal is more like a song. It can be loud and stressful or whispering silently. The message is same in both ways: FEEL. COME ALIVE. GET INSPIRED.
“A crowded street
Someone’s pushing, someone’s breathing
Looking at me with a tired glance
I’m not smiling…”(Light in Babylon: Istanbul)
I stopped and stared. I was… Smitten! A different world unraveled before me. Turkey. The East. Islam. Warm wind blowing from Bosphorus… All those people bumping into each other, laughing, playing instruments, colliding… I saw big neon lights. Christmas lights in Fall! Noise and intense colors coming from everywhere. Covered ladies with beautiful eyes… And I fell for you. Right then I knew it will be impossible to describe yet impossible not to try.
With hostel directions in one hand and doner kebab in other, I took a breath and opened myself up to adventures hidden in your labyrinths. Like water flowing down a hill, I was flowing through three kilometers of a road where yesterday is not like the day before. Where you can listen to Light in Babylon LIVE at one moment and flee from “Polis” in another. Where you can pet a cat inside the bookstore and haggle for about anything and it’s normal.
“And if it’s me that you love
Free me from the pain
And let me go…”(Light in Babylon: Istanbul)
Crazy is good
You are seductive. Macho. Chaotic. Bad to the bone yet, in your chaos I write poetry.
A week later I realized you stole my heart. My starving inside knew. Above in a plane, peeking through the window, I told myself: Look at you! I am going to love you forever…
So I did. Again and again. And you embraced me like a mother does to a child.
Some tried to convince me that you are dangerous and too different. When exactly did I say I want to have a boring life? Of course you are crazy! More than 15 million souls are breathing you. Your traffic is chaotic yet with time I would no longer hear the honking of car horns. Crossing the street was like going into war – open your eyes. Wait. Wait. And then – Go!! I would throw myself out there swerving while crossing the street narrowly avoiding upcoming traffic. I thought I was dreaming when I saw motorcyclists riding in the wrong direction. But I loved it. God, I loved it! I don’t pay attention to possible danger. It has been around me yet I stretch the next morning.
Whether I was exploring chocolate stores and tea shops with new friends or eating Balik Ekmek beneath the Galata bridge or beneath the shadow of the Süleymaniye Mosque, I felt beauty all around. I was able to wander your numerous streets for hours, climbing the hills, discovering another fascinating spot. “Oh, this is amazing!!!”, I would say after seeing something that would make me shake my head in disbelief.
Look I’m not scared
True, I don’t have to
Love you…”(Light in Babylon: Istanbul)
I could not stop wonder your beauty.
My senses were wide open and it was deliberating me unimaginably. I could reclaim my inner peace by finding beauty in watching everyday life of local passengers, fishermen on the bridge and other travelers. Their everyday was shaping mine.
Hair full of spices
Resting my eyes over your lights after dark was the most charming thing to do. Carrying the scents of spices in my hair, even more. When entering a bazaar, all my senses would be attacked with aromas coming from every direction. Turkish delights! Pistachios! Black tea! Indian curry! Chocolate baklavas! How much? Tamam, tamam…
It is your non-top energy that keeps me breaking and jumping until I feel free. The warmth of your people is with me long after I leave. I could talk endlessly how much I love you and Nergis would agree.
Though your unpredictable movements scare a lot of people, and Hido tries to convince me I don’t see the whole picture, I see you. I see your bad colors. I love you anyway.
“Come here Ivana. Time is enough for Croatia”, Simge wrote me and confirmed my decision that I found a home for years to come. I am sure of that as I’m sure of my golden retriever snoring beneath my feet while I’m writing this. Siya Siyabend is making me company and black tea is boiled. Only thing I miss is sugar in cubes. I can’t have it all.
“Smog opposite autumn flowers
Are the sights of the west
To which I don’t belong to…”(Light in Babylon: Istanbul)
Istanbul. Istanbul. Have we met before? A long time ago? Because, you kissed my soul and it will never be the same.
A note to a traveler:
Istanbul makes no promises. It is powerful and knows it. It’s an invitation to love life. It is a dream. A wild beauty. I could get lost endlessly into haunting melodies coming from its ancient mosques. Istanbul won’t beg you to stay, but in this city like no other, where adventures are at every turn and atmosphere is rather unearthly, you will awaken something uncomfortable within yourself – insatiable fire. A fire to live. To love and to be. As an unknown author wrote:
“Maybe it won’t work out. But maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever.”
Are you ready?
Most of the photographs by Ursa Kimovec.