I leave Istanbul in a few hours, and even harder to make it here, is to go away. I arrived almost 2 weeks ago, and exhausted as I was I ended up in Nesli’s b-day party in a little cafe nearby Nese’s house. Last night we went back there, so that I could meet my new friends and say goodbye. It felt like a full circle, there I had my first turkish coffeee read to me, and there I had my last. Lonely Planet would probably not agree that I have been to Istanbul as I have not gone to a Turksih Bath, or to the Grand Bazar, or even to the Souleimane Mosque (it was closed), or many of the other Turkish experience “essentials”. I did do some touristic things, I visited the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Sistern, Sulthanmet. But what I enjoyed most however was walking the random streets and learning about the life of the people I encountered here.
Not the life as we sometimes imagine abroad. Not the veiled and conservative life. I met the activistists, the gay community, the artists, the architects, the painters, the yogis, the musicians. I participated in a body awareness and dance workshop and not understanding the language made me so much more aware of it all. All the while listening to the traditional turkish music and observing how diferently bodies from other cultures move than mine.
I was in numerous cafes and bars. The coziest places I have ever been to. Places like those that you only find if you know someone who knows the secrets of the city. As they are always hidden in little streets, behind staircases, taking an elevator. These places are magical, as behind mysterious doors they exist just a few steps from your awareness. So making it to these places, following those who know them is an adventure in itself. It’s like being given the chance to see other worlds that exist without you knowing about them. And there seem to be so many different worlds co-existing here.
I will write more later. Now i would just like to say that Istanbul for me are the people I encountered. And in this crazy interaction of people making the place, and the place making the people, I found out a lot about me. As when far from what is known looking inside is easier. So amidst a lot of smoke, an enornous human warmth, a contradictory tolerance to difference lies Istanbul. Like that, divided between eurpe and the Middle East. Between the liberal and modern, and the conservative and religious. And by crossing from one side to the other, observing, enchanting, keeping to itself so much of those that pass by here this crazy city creates itself. And I feel that in this incoherent, dichotomous place and space I exist.