istanbul not constantinople

Anyone who has spent any time away from home knows that the hardest times can come when the holidays arrive. I had never been a fan of Thanksgiving, I don’t really like the food, we don’t really have a family get together so why would I be feeling this sensitive? Turns out, you can get annoyed at a holiday as much as you want and one can make fun of how many times we go to Stator Bros or Costco but when it comes down to it, the people are what your heart longs for. Full well knowing this wasn’t going to be easy, we planned to spend Turkey day around some of our favourite humans doing some of our favourite things.

Near the midnight hour Turkey greeted us with a familiar face and warm atmosphere mesmerised by building that dripped with lights we made crossing the bridge over shadowed turquoise waters Asia noted it’s arrival with ruby red lights.

Our night was short-lived and soon enough Thanksgiving welcomed us with windows bejewelled by raindrops. We had our jackets and a plan for today stashed away in our pockets as we jumped off moving walkways that whisked us to the metro tucked far away from the entrance. Arriving at the dock I confidentially chose a ferry and off we went. It wasn’t until we were windswept and wet from the rain on land that we realised I naturally chose the wrong ferry and now Jess and I had an hour long walk through sprinkling skies and puddled streets until we arrived at the historic area.

Tightroping along sidewalks, dodging splashing cars and marveling at the scenery around us we eventually landed at the dock of the ferry we were supposed to take. Streets that sport European facades but Asian type sellers on the outside started to encompass us as we dragged ourselves up the hill to the Blue Mosque. A large part of the mosque was under construction but when we walked inside the large open room was dimly lit by streams of sunlight that poured through the sapphire stained glass windows with a ceiling dressed in magnificent patterns in shades of blue, gold and white. Light structures hung with upside flames of light illuminating the intricately designed structure held high with pillars of white. Slowly we drifted across the way to the Sultan’s Tomb where what looks like green velvet coffins lays in the middle of a room with elaborate patterns that reflected those adorned the mosque surrounded by windows plated with transformative colours.

We heaved ourselves up winding streets that cascaded down ancient hilltops slithering in and out of alleyways that opened up to buzzing stores and thrust us towards an angry sea. Feet upon a swaying ferry deck then ducking underground towards a sky raised apartment preparing for a holiday my heart was longing for. Three of us headed towards the store with silent demands and hangry diversions packed the basket with goods galore. Sipping on a ruby wine that winked as it proved to be divine, settled the nerves within my mildly homesick heart.

The perfect dinner was consumed with over-cooked corn, too-mashed potatoes and a dash of new Turkish dishes. I sat there knowing that even though our apple turnover was a couple ingredients short of pie the company I kept filled the spaces within myself that were longing for a sense of home. Laughter swirled within the air until the wine spilled upon the chair permanently commemorating my first ever holiday overseas.

Friday arrived with the sunlight spotlighting all of Istanbul. Jess and I made our way to the historic district allowing ourselves to get lost within the winding and temperamental streets. We found ourselves inside the bazaar dodging laughable comments meant to intrigue us and make our hearts flutter. Minutes skipped quickly and soon six feet were trampling towards Galata tower exchanging light-hearted banter that didn’t always play well upon nervous hands. I could feel the liveliness of the world around me when I strolled İstiklal Caddesi watching as the sky began to blush as the sun tucked itself beneath the sea. Once I got on the ferry it became vividly clear that I was in fact in Asia when the toilet was squatty potty that led directly to the water beneath. Unfortunately, at that moment in time I wasn’t above any relief that could be provided and my Thai training proved an invaluable skill.

The sky was bleeding navy ink and my heart was racing with unsteady hands when we arrived at dinner. Thoughts were racing within my mind clashing together providing awkward greetings because I couldn’t settle on one kiss to the cheek, two kisses, maybe none, do I shake hands, hug oh shit I have not a clue.  Suddenly surrounded by new friends with names that stumble from my lips as two languages twisted and turned within the airwaves overlooking a glistening city I found myself at ease.

Istanbul is a magical city with colourful corridors, a beautiful sea and delicious cuisine. It has a liveliness that is so deeply rooted in a chaotic clash of cultures that it can leave one stunned. Marbled streets and piercing mosques hug the hilltops that not so long ago dawned the name Constantinople. History is reflected in this city everywhere one turns; the Hagia Sophia (completed in 537 A.D.) stares you straight in the face as the the Galata tower (completed in 1348 A.D.) stands as reminder that the soil beneath ones’ feet has existed long before any one of us can begin to imagine. Textbooks refer to this city time and time again citing it’s achievements in art, science and medicine repeatedly highlighting the dominance of the Ottoman Empire. Sitting in a classroom in seventh grade I never thought that one day I would be able to witness such things on my own. As a girl from California it continually boggles my mind that my eyes are taking in more history within a single blink than I had ever seen within 29 years of my life. It’s humbling and can shake you to the core, thank goodness I have a good foundation.

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