Istanbul – The Dark Side (Not)

A faithful reader asked when the travel stories would appear and again expressed dismay (he’s complained about this before) at the limitations of “Her Spirits Rose…,” pointing out that my posts are always upbeat – is there no dark side he asks?

As I began to write about the trip, I thought about that and how little tension from travel travails really impacts a trip’s overall flavor. This one had discomforts for sure: the cold and rain in Tuscany, getting sick, and concern about the Turkish protests. (I had a moment of real iPhone love as I sat in my bed in Rome, found the Istanbul hotel on the Internet, pushed the phone number, and spoke to a reassuring desk clerk who explained how far the hotel was from Taksim Square). But modern travel is a miracle – waking up knowing I get to take a boat on the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, see beautiful things and historic places. No darkness there.

The sheer pleasure of being with my family in such settings overwhelms my memories. The trail boss has an infectious embrace of life. He searches for gardens now that he’s a gardener, loves to sit on the piazza and watch the scene, is pretty much indefatigable, and the best route finder and guide book reader imaginable. To try and keep up with him and his always game sweet bride makes me really happy. And laugh. At each other, at ourselves.

Because of feeling not so great some of the time, I was doubly appreciative of my good-natured companions, and I can’t help wanting to celebrate that here.

It’s a good adventure to follow along wooded lanes or through Istanbul’s ancient spice bazaar (with an unusual detour through the dog and cat food market, stall after stall of animal chow), around the New Mosque, the Galata Bridge, and the Istanbul Post Office! (Actually a swell place with wooden benches where we stopped to get out of the sun and the crowds, watched regular people mailing parcels and buying stamps, and admired tile and woodwork.)

There is darkness in the protesters hurt in Taksim Square, and in the reality of being in a country where local television didn’t cover the demonstrations at all. But we walked by an Iranian embassy in Istanbul, making you think about Turkey as a link between two worlds, that badly need connection, in the same way Istanbul physically bridges two continents.

It is such a privilege to have actually been in Istanbul, and I’ll finish out the record with a few album pages of our four days – no time at all in a city so rich. I imagine thinking back as time goes on – remembering food and sights not covered here.

On the Internet are beautiful photos, a Google away, of the amazing places we visited – digital albums of stained glass and tile and carpets, imagery as rich as Istanbul’s history. (Hagia Sophia, in particular, has a virtual presence with videos of the dome and gorgeous photos.)

I owe my sister-in-law, long-time Turkey traveler, for the pleasure of reading “Strolling Through Istanbul” by Hilary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely before we left – a way to really learn about the city, stroll markets and monuments – from a summer armchair!

Tiles - Topkapi Palace Harem

8 thoughts on “Istanbul – The Dark Side (Not)

  1. You are so positive!! I also saw protestors in Sofia – again concerns with the government. Sights of old churches and ongoing religious ceremonies demonstrate how close we all are.

  2. It seems we get enough of the “dark side” every day – in the newspaper, on the radio, driving past people standing on freeway ramps with their “homeless- please help me” signs. I love the paths to light that you celebrate in your writing, and look forward every time I push that little icon for your “Her Spirits Rose” to being lifted up for a little while, and to having those new thoughts and insights to carry with me through the day. Thanks for that.

  3. I’m grateful that you focus on the positive and the beautiful—there’s enough of the rest elsewhere. Thanks Katy!

  4. Isn’t Turkish food so tasty? When we stopped in Istanbul last October it was hard to decide what to eat. On the dark side though, when I went to Istanbul with my mom, when I was little, to get my grandmother (who was Armenian) we went to an Armenian wedding and they had to have the festivities hidden in a back room. We stayed four months that time and I picked up quite a few Turkish and Greek words.

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