Istanbul: It’s A Love Thing

Attaining the peaceful, laid back Mediterranean lifestyle we now indulge in has been a long-time dream for both of us. Countryside or seaside, we weren’t fussed either way, just as long as our lives were free from all things hectic. Oh, and just as long as we were in Fethiye, too. But give us a roof over our head, access to local markets, trekking and a decent bar at the end and we’re happy people.

So what is it that keeps enticing us back into the big, sprawling cities; the antithesis of all we’ve strived for? For a short time, on two separate occasions, we lived and worked in Manchester in Northwest England and we find ourselves jumping in and defending the city vociferously if anyone dares to mumble anything derogatory about the place. Why should we be bothered so much? We’re not even from Manchester!

Castlefield In Manchester

A former short-term home – Castlefield in Manchester

And then there’s Istanbul. Istanbul, the city that is just there in the back of our minds and barging its way to the forefront if we don’t manage a visit at least once in a year. Whenever we’re toying with any travel plans for the year and dividing out the budget, Istanbul is the overriding voice in our heads. ‘Yeah, you might want to go there or check out that place but I’m here! You know you’ll be back.’ And while we always try to visit at least one different place each year, another place will always be once again relegated to the back burner for another 12 months just so we can get up to Istanbul again.

One of our close Turkish friends is originally from Kayaköy and has the quiet life ingrained in him. He even grumbles about the size of Fethiye these days, complaining that it’s more of a city than a coastal town. ‘And why do you keep going up to Istanbul?’ he’ll chunter as we announce our plans to return. ‘You’ve seen it. What do you find to do there?’

What do we find to do there? We bask in short-lived, overcrowded, relentlessly noisy bliss, absorbing all that is Istanbul and, the more we visit, the more we know we’ve barely even started.

Galata Bridge In Istanbul

Galata Bridge – never short of noise or crowds

A first visit to a new city is usually a dash, guidebook in hand, around all those famous sights that have been on your must-see list for an age. Our first visit to Istanbul was a zigzag rush between all the usual suspects: Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque) and a tour of Topkapı Palace. Then we came up for breath before squashing in as many other sights as we could such as Süleymaniye Camii, Galata Tower and a Bosphorus Cruise before hopping on the bus back to Fethiye.

Did that mean we’d seen Istanbul? That’ll be a definite ‘no’ as far as we’re concerned. All cities have their own personalities and characteristics and it’s impossible to discover, take in and understand all of these in a single visit. For us, cities like Istanbul are for dipping into – choosing or stumbling across something new to explore – neighbourhoods, sights, food, music, meeting people – jumbling that up with what we thought we already knew about the city and then completely changing our mental picture of it. You become attached to and protective of cities because you’ve worked so hard to try get to know them.

Eminönü, Istanbul

The ferries and traffic that make up Eminönü

And so, how many times we’ve been to Istanbul is irrelevant. The more we go, the more we feel the need to go back for more. We’ve not even started with Istanbul. Could we live there? Maybe for 6 months or so before we once again feel the draw of the quiet life and open space, and even if we lived there for 6 months, we still wouldn’t really know Istanbul. That’s why we keep going back.

And yes there is, by default, a short 2012 trip to Istanbul that is already a definite. We’ll be passing through en route to another city of the world – but more on that in another post…

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Comments

  1. Take me next time you go!!

  2. @ Belinda: Ha ha, you’re more than welcome to join us! 🙂

  3. i would love to visit there!

  4. @ Jaz: Everyone should make it to Istanbul at least once in their life. 🙂

  5. This is true of most cities- but I think even more of Istanbul. I remember when I was there- I felt as thought I just got a ‘glance’ of the city- I’ve always longed to go back.

  6. @ Anjuli: I agree with you. I almost feel like I’ve done a city a disservice if I just spend a couple of days there and then never go back again. 🙂

  7. I couldn´t agree with you more…I´m afraid I´ve become an Istanbul addict. And, as you say, its irrelevant how many times you´ve visited Istanbul. She won´t let you go 🙂

  8. Some places are so hard to resist. I keep saying I’m going to leave Paris and move somewhere quiet like Croatia or Slovenia but I know I will be bored after a couple of weeks. I need to be surrounded by noise and activity! I’m yet to go to Istanbul though which I imagine to be the ultimate big city. 🙂

  9. I love the big city buzz of Istanbul (and London, Paris, New York) because I know I’m only visiting these days!

  10. @ Eleka: Strange isn’t it how you can become addicted to a city – or is it the city that grabs hold of you? 😉

    @ Andrea: You probably would get bored after a couple of weeks – but then you could always dip into other big cities nearby. You’ve got to see Istanbul. We’re biased but we do think it is the ultimate big city. 🙂

    @ Jack Scott: I think that’s it for us too. We know we’re only visiting so we can take from the city what we will and enjoy it before it saps away our energy. 🙂

  11. Great post guys! After 19 months of living here, I’m still in love with this fabulous, hectic, kalabalik, historic and beautiful city! Even walking down the same street can yield a different viewpoint than the previous day.

    When I was heading back to the US for the holidays, I had to stop myself from tearing up bc I didn’t want to leave….even for a few weeks. =)

  12. @ Joy: Thanks! We can tell you’re still in love with Istanbul!! 🙂 We love that you can always discover new things along the same streets. We remember you writing on Facebook that you didn’t want to leave. Strange isn’t it?!

  13. I used to work in Castlefield!
    What a small small world. 😉

    Perhaps I should ask my company for a transfer to Turkey? 😉

  14. @ London Caller: The world is getting smaller all the time! 🙂 It’s the first time a non-Turkey photo has made it to the blog as well. Castlefield should be honoured. 😉

  15. with you all the way with that place – we tell everyone we know that they should experience Istanbul at least once in their life!
    J and I get to go a couple of times a year as we have a jazz/music family and they always seem to do a European tours which include Istanbul – combining pleasure with pleasure is what I call it!

  16. @ Alan: Glad you agree, too. Istanbul is certainly an experience isn’t it? Lucky you, getting to go there twice a year – no, not jealous at all! 😉 It’s a just a great scene up there.

  17. after many years, i’ve begun to think of istanbul as a strange disease. when you look around, it really isn’t all that beautiful with the horrific concrete piles, the rude folk, the pushing and the shoving, the dirt and the mud, the mostly grey and wet skies for months on end and everything else. i’ve sat and thought for many hours why it is that i am just sick for this place. i have no answer. i’m glad others feel the same.

  18. @ oamletra: Thanks for your comment. It’s definitely an addiction. To be honest, we’ve not come across any rude folk ad the pushing and shoving is something we quite like because it’s so spacious where we live. Sure we’d get fed up of it after a while but it’s funny for a few days. 🙂

  19. A great post! I love visiting Istanbul – and London – too!

  20. @ Deniz: Thank you. Actually, we need to see more of London really. We don’t know it very well. 😉

  21. It’s certainly a city I want to spend time in, and from what I’ve seen, it’s a photographer’s paradise!

  22. @ Andrew Graeme Gould: Definitely a photographer’s paradise. I always take loads of photos when we’re there.

  23. Istanbul always makes me think of James Bond with nostalgia, especially with the ferries in the photo. Hopefully one day we can visit together 🙂

  24. @ Corinne: Once you’re back on the road, you can mosey on this way and we can meet up for a few ales / cocktails / martinis! 😉

  25. I feel much the same way about London; the more I see, the more I want to see. And Paris. And Istanbul.

  26. @ Sophie: Maybe I should have called it ‘Cities – It’s a love thing.’ Whichever city we go to, we know we’ve not given it the time it needs. We’re still biased towards Istanbul though. 😉

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