Reflecting on Istanbul

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


The Blue Mosque at sunset from above

Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly raving about our travels and destinations on this blog and I hope it doesn't come across as disingenuous but I write what I feel and lately I've been feeling really grateful for the path Joe and I have chosen and the ability to see so many cities & countries.  It's been teaching me that a positive outlook often leads to positive experiences and my raving is a reflection of that and certainly not insincere.

With that being said, Istanbul... Wow.  We arrived to a sort of organized chaos in Ataturk International Airport and as we weaved in and out of taxis making our way to our prearranged transport, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about this destination.  We've grown quite accustomed to the shiny, comfortable kind of travel to fully developed European cities and we were immediately reminded that this was going to be different.  Not completely different, but different enough to notice.

Istanbul was unfamiliar enough to feel slightly exotic and exciting without going so far as to feel strained.  We found found ourselves wandering through crowded streets filled with both pleasant and nauseating smells and then later, down deserted, cobblestone paths to funky caf├ęs fit for any cosmopolitan city.  One minute I'd be pulling my scarf up to cover my hair and bare arms to step into a mosque and the next, shopping alongside girls in miniskirts.  We'd be awestruck by magnificent architecture standing strong and beautiful through hundreds of years and the falls of empires and then climb staircases of a derelict building still home to several families despite its complete disrepair.  It's clear that Istanbul straddles more than just two continents.

Joe and I were in wonderment for the duration of our five days in Turkey's (and the world's) largest city.  Each morning we were anxious to explore more and then collapsing into bed exhausted yet exhilarated after a full day.  When Sunday rolled around and our return flight to Norway loomed, neither of us felt ready to leave Istanbul.  There was so much more to see, learn and eat.  That city dug a place in my heart even if it wasn't all shiny and perfect.


20 comments:

  1. Sounds like exactly how travel should be Jay - lately I've been feeling a bit too pampered with only European travel and especially moving to London. Everything is almost too easy.

    Cannot wait to hear more, especially about the straddling of two continents - having worked in Brussels for far too long, I really only know about Turkey from the divisive political perspective and that does not seem fair.

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    1. I know that 'too easy' feeling all too well - in fact, I'm constantly feeling that about this expatriation to Norway.

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    2. Sometimes "too easy" isn't a bad thing, though I find that places that are rough around the edges speak to me more. They lend something real and tangible to the lives being lived there. I say this as North America is "too easy" in so many ways, which means it's also fun, inspiring and a welcome blessing from some of the other places I've lived (no water or electricity cuts? Score!). Yet, I still can't help but feel there's a river of emptiness that runs right under the surface. There are hollow things and forced things that feel a bit unsettling. I don't know if that makes sense, but I'll leave it at that.

      Moving on: I love your photos and look forward to seeing my beloved Istanbul through your eyes! As for gratitude, the more you give thanks for/give up the more you get back. The universe is so bloody fabulous that way. ;)

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    3. Easy is definitely not a bad thing. It's funny - when on the other side, we crave easy. When things are easy, we crave the roughness around the edges. I'm happy living in the easy zone for now which makes traveling to less easy places more enjoyable.

      (Sheesh - that was a lot of 'easy' in one reply. My apologies but my under the weather brain is not feeling particularly inventive.)

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  2. Love this post Jay. Beautiful piece of writing and reflection :)

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  3. i just went over a little bit about istanbul in one of my geography classes :) so cool that you got to go there :)

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  4. So glad you liked it - it was the first place I'd visited where you hear the call to prayer. I loved hearing it - it would always make me realise just how far from home I was.

    As a former expat & frequent traveler, I hear you on the gratitude you have for the choices you guys have made. Istanbul is an incredible city.

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  5. Amazing! And your sentiments so true about many countries in the Middle East... totally such a combination of so many contradictions. This is very similar to how I felt in Morocco. I know I need to get to Istanbul soon!

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    1. It's ranking up there as one of my favourite city trips! I hope you get to visit soon!

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  6. Istanbul has been my favorite city to wonder, probably because it is so different as all European markets look the same to me now. I can't wait to read more about your trip. Istanbul is such a treat.

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  7. Beautiful writing! And photos of course :] I want to go to Istanbul sooo badly, this post really just inspired me even more. My boyfriend is Turkish...I keep nagging him to just take me already haha.

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  8. that first photo is breathtaking!

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  9. I felt exactly the same about Istanbul... such a wonderfully complex part of the world. And I have to agree with Nicole here... that first photo should be on exhibition somewhere... It's amazing. Sometimes I also worry that I'm too positive on my blog... but it really is a place I prefer to be positive and I tend to love almost everywhere we travel :) I can honestly say you never come across as insincere though. You offer a perfect balance. xxx

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  10. That first photo totally took my breath away!!! Dying to get to Istanbul!

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  11. That first photo is just perfect, Jay! Great job!

    I often feel like all I do is praise places on my blog, too, but I just haven't gone anywhere I haven't liked yet! Everything is still so new and exciting - I can't help but want to share it all!

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  12. I felt the same way about it - such an amazing place!

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  13. I was there in August and didn't know what to expect! Loved it but it definitely felt overwhelming with the amount of people at times!

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  14. Beautiful! I can't wait to discover Istanbul..it's high on our list. Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

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  15. I'm so inspired! Thanks for sharing your beautiful story x

    nouveau | a londoner's lifestyle blog

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