I still see myself at 15, spending hours skimming the pages of Taschen’s gorgeous book, Turkey: from the Seljuks to the Ottomans. I don’t know why but that country’s history and culture compelled me the minute I started to learn more about it.
I developed a fascination for Hagia Sophia, the famous basilica turned mosque that is now a museum. For some mysterious reason, I felt so drawn to it’s majestic architecture which was so incredibly different to anything I’d ever seen.
Seeing the city of Istanbul became a major goal on my bucket list.
I finally got to fulfill that dream in the fall of 2009, as my boyfriend and I spent a semester abroad in France. During our fall break, we traveled from Nice to Milan, Milan to Athens and finally, Athens to Istanbul (our return trip, via Sofia, Bulgaria, was just as complicated).
There it was. The city I’d been dreaming of for years now. Sure, I’d fallen over heels in love with other places like Barcelona, Paris and Venice, but Istanbul was something else. Something I’d never felt before. Was it the frenzied streets and the sinuous alleys of the bazaars? The sparkling lights of the Bosphorus bridge? The hypnotizing chants of the calls to prayer that rung 5 times a day? I haven’t yet been able to put words on what exactly drew me so much to that particular part of the world.
What I do know is that I have a general fascination with regions of the world where many cultures have mixed over the course of history. Istanbul’s past is characterized by the numerous populations that came and made their mark here. People have been stopping by for thousands of years and this fact is constantly visible, yet, Istanbul doesn’t feel totally stuck in the past like other places with such a large number of ancient monuments.
Istanbul is rich in past and fresh and lively in the present.
I miss it, and I will be there again one day.
Has any city or place you’ve visited around the world ever had such a major impact on you?