I had always had a yearning for Istanbul before I had ever been there. But I knew I needed to be there. I knew it was something I needed to see. To feel. People talk about how incredible it is, how much they love it. But it’s a city you can’t really understand until you go there. Until you feel it. Until you exist in it. Until you ride the ferry across the Bosphorus. Hear the seagulls near Sultanahmet. Watch as they follow the ferry, cover the city.
You can feel the life of Istanbul in the calm of its parks, it’s small alleyways and hipster cafes, the bustle of its markets. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. The aroma upon entering the Spice Market is one not easily forgotten.
About seven years ago, Istanbul started pulling at me. Calling out to me. Strongly. I felt the urge to go there, to move there, and I almost did. In the end, the job didn’t work out, and I didn’t go at that time. But the thrill of the idea of Istanbul never left me. Every year I wondered how I could go. How to finally get to Istanbul.
That moment finally came this year. After spending over a year in Georgia during the pandemic, I crossed over the Georgian/Turkish border with Art from Gringo Nation. We traveled for three months from east to west, knowing that Istanbul would be the grand finale of our Turkey adventure.
Anyone who ever said Istanbul was amazing, was right. But amazing is not enough. Existing in the shared air of Istanbul feels electric. There is a mood. An energy. Istanbul is the only major city in the world to cross into two continents: Europe and Asia. Istanbul is home to over 125,000 stray cats, and every single one seems to be loved and taken care of by the locals.
This is a city where history and modernity collide. Where cultures blend, and each layer of its past is filled with stories. Istanbul was Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire. The capital of the Byzantine Empire. The capital of the Ottomon Empire. The Aya Sofia was built as a church during the reign of the Romans- the largest in the christian world. It then became a mosque with the Ottomons, and a museum with the founding of modern day Turkey. There is an energy inside this building. Vibrant, yet serene.
We spent only two weeks in Istanbul, but a lifetime may not be enough.
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