Turkish Holiday: Istanbul Part Deux!
Istanbul is a vast city with an absolutely unique identity, and a place I would encourage anyone to visit, if possible, at some point. It is a port city, as well, and is further fragmented by major waterways. Distinct sides of the city reflect Asian or European character, but it's the European side I have spent most of my time exploring.
One part of the city in particular, Rumeli Hisari, has a special meaning for me that I will always remember. Rumeli Hisari is essentially a fortress dating back to the 15th century, so it possesses an ancient character. It sits on a hill in the Sariyer district, right next to the Bosphorus, the major waterway dividing the European and Asian sides of the Istanbul. On my first trip many, many years ago, I was visiting with a friend who family lived there, and we stayed with them, so it quickly felt like a second home away from my familiar Germany.
Because we were right on the Bosphorus, we could just walk to the local & ccedil; ay bah & ccedil; esi, or tea house, and drink tea, play backgammon, talk to people. It was so delightful and pleasant, we would sit there for hours! For me it was a complete immersion in friendly, local culture. Also, as evening approached, we would watch the really ritzy people, all dressed up, standing by the Bosphorus awaiting their private boat transfers to their tony dinner parties.
The old fortress is still very much in use, and often, in summer, it is the site for local events where you go with the whole family. And really, that's the feeling I have always taken with me from my visits to Turkey: that I'm, somehow, part of a warm, gregarious, family-style culture.
Here's an example of what I mean. Because Rumeli Hisari is a very old Istanbul neighborhood, the streets are very narrow and steep. During one of my stays with my friend's family, I remember hearing a bunch of loud honking, yelling and all sorts of ruckus out in the street near the house. So, like many other neighbors nearby, we all went out to the street, and found that two cars – one going down, one going up – were jammed and could not move, could not budge, because it was just too tight. So everyone – and I mean everyone – mucked in and unceremoniously lifted one car as soon as the other could pass and clear the way. The neighbors, working together, physically moved a car like it was nothing, and everyone went about their business after. Is not that a fantastic spectacle? And so typical of the bustling, busy, friendly atmosphere of the Istanbul I love.
I know that purchasing a coffee set or an ottoman may not convey fully to you an experience of culture as I have described, but I do hope you understand my passion, my enthusiasm for bringing to you things that I believe speak as symbols of cultural identity , craftsmanship, and gestures of lifestyle from all over the world.
If, for now, you can not travel the world, allow me to bring parts of it home to you. It's my whole inspiration.