09 July, 2010

Istanbul - a fourth encounter of the closing kind

Delivering dad to the airport for his return flight, we had one more night in Istanbul; thankfully my last-minute CouchSurfing request found an answer. Our host Yucel already had two guests, Portuguese women on holiday, and we spent the evening in enjoyable conversation. Then at seven a.m. i saw dad off. 

Returning to travel in solitude was a comfortable feeling. I walked the streets of Rami, a neighborhood near Eyup, near Pierre Loti where friend Osman took me for coffee that first day in Istanbul. It's only been a cumulative eleven days, three months and four visits later, but i feel at home here. Watching buildings slide by on the tram, the city's anonymity is attractive. In four visits i have stayed in six different neighborhoods, in a city that can take hours to traverse by bus. Today it begins to rain, but the grey sky is welcome.

"Bewilderbeast" (from the band Badly Drawn Boy) on the iPod. At a tram stop, the train doors are streaked with raindrops, and as people pour forth one man's smile echoes the music's uninhibited joy at life. Istanbul wears a new hue. Fishermen stand on the Galata Bridge in yellow slickers; in Taksim square and along Istiklal Cad, young men and boys sell clear-plastic umbrellas on the street. The sea of pedestrians is broken by their translucent domes.

Istanbul, what can i say? You have seduced me. City of stories and songs, city of empires, or tragedies and joys. In the final scene of "Anlat Istanbul" (Istanbul Tales, an interwoven narrative of twisted, modernized threads borrowed from the Brothers Grimm), the old clarinetist says:

"Wake up, you whore of an Istanbul, wake up! We were taken in by your fairytales. We wasted our …lives! Wake up, everyone, wake up. The fairytale's over!"

At six, morning light suffuses the rainclouds, giving the sky a warm and faded sepia tone. Trying to reproduce the effect in a photograph, the result (below) shows one reason why Istanbul is known as the Timeless city.   

one last shot: fishermen on Galata Bridge

I don't care if you are a fairytale any more. Today your spell is a different one. I resisted every time, but you are loveliest in the rain.