Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Reasons to love Istanbul

Whirling dervishes
Originally uploaded by amsterboy.
"I wonder if you will fall in love with it like all the other people I know who have been there."
"Well, to start with, it is messy and loud."

Comments of some friends of mine raised my expectations quite high. This was my first visit to the Turkish capital.

A city divided to a European and Asian side by the Bosphorus. A city that has four times the population of my home country. A city that is now as hip as a city can be.

Just before travelling I finished a paper on Turkey and EU for the British Council Finland and Crisis Management Initiative which is probably going to be published next week. In the paper I reflected the image of Turkey also from a highly personal perspective. Prior to my visit I knew very few Turks and very little about the Turkish culture. My experience from the past weekend attending the conference of Eurozine makes me want to return as soon as possible.

- It is different. I did not find the time to go to the Asian side which is reason enough to go back. I saw a lot of things that were clearly recognisable but for example the gender roles are something that I do not yet understand in depth. The whirling dervishes (see pic) were something totally magical and mystical. And I want to understand the Atatürk myth better.
- The clubbing scene in Istanbul is superb. As a German friend of mine described it: it is like Berlin in the beginning of 1990s. You have to know where to go because many of the places are on small alleys and do not have names or even signs. One evening we climbed seven floors of stairs and ended to a simple roof terrace with windows only made of plastic and an amazing view over the city. On another evening I found myself from an electro club in an old store.
- The food. Istanbul is a heaven for someone who does not eat meat. I have not had that good vegetarian food and so excellent desserts for a while.
- The people. I met great people organising independent festivals, working as journalists, editing pop culture magazines or publishing poems and short stories written by prisoners. I felt a sense of freshness and a drive that I often lack in Finland.

Yes, Istanbul is chaotic and loud. Yes, there are too many policemen on the streets equipped with machine guns. Yes, based on the centre it seems like 85 % of the population would be young men. No, it is not the safest city to walk on the streets at night. But its five-day flirtation worked and Istanbul has a grip on me. I want to understand this fascinating city at least a little better.

1 comment:

Maria said...

I knew it! So when are we booking the flights?

Climb ev´ry mountain, la-la laa