Istanbul – to eat
It is a sun-kissed day in May and I am devouring a sugary, dusty pink lokum that has been infused with rosewater. I have a splendid view of both Europe and Asia from the bohemian café that I’m sitting in. The rhythmic sounds of the sapphire-blue Bosphorus waves thrashing against the pavements are enough to lull me into a reverie. Home to a potpourri of civilizations; the Byzantine, the Romans, and the Ottomans, Istanbul is like an open storybook, luring me into its timeless pages of rich history, opulent palaces, and feasts for the souls. Its libraries are havens of muted stories, waiting to be conjured in the meadows of my mind. I read Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, a dash of romance, mystery, and philosophical riddles are sprinkled to create a rich tapestry representing life in 16th century Istanbul. I felt the love of the miniature artists as they caressed their brushstrokes and dipped them into golden paints to illustrate and illuminate words into worlds.
On my way to Haghia Sophia, I am greeted by bursts of colorful tulips perfuming the air with their summery scents. The mosque is a testament of beautiful cross-culture, originally built as a church that was later converted into a mosque. The dim candlelight flickered peacefully against the glorious names of the beloved Prophet PBUH and his companions. Topkapi Palace is a splendor of aristocracy and nobility that was home to Ottoman kings for 400 years. The locals in the Grand Bazaar entertain me with the Ottoman’s adventures as I sit on their exotic Turkish carpets and sip their minted tea. I was also delighted to chance upon a decorative collection of miniature illustrations of the gardens of Haghia Sophia and others of swirling dervishes. I got one for my personal art collection back home.
I hop on the first ferryboat that I find and sail for the faraway countryside on the outskirts of the city centre. It is difficult to muster the fact that the famous Trojan Wars took place in Troy, a few hours away from Istanbul. It is there that Homer inscribed in his Illiad about the doomed love story between Paris and Helen of Troy. Was the beautiful Helen casting her mesmerizing eyes far into the Aegean Sea and lamenting her unlived life without her true love? Reading her memoir in Helen of Troy by Margaret George created a certain unbreakable bond between her and myself that I cannot but be enamored by her fairytale. I have been reading more of her biographies ever since, mapping out the intricately woven details of her life; her visions of being a cygnet (young swan), her fervent love of Paris the Prince of Troy, and her deep-welled resilience.
Speaking of Paris, the 19th century Orient Express had traveled between Paris and then Constantinople (Istanbul) as a leisure option for the affluent. Agatha Christie had been one of its passengers. The mystery question posed now is where to have lunch for I am indeed famished. I stroll along the streets of Taksim and I am instantly cajoled into Saray restaurant. I devour succulent kebaps and perfumed baklavas that send me off into an addictive wave of second helpings.
When I left the restaurant, I felt sated, both in my body and my soul. Istanbul, thank you for enchanting me with your magic.