We sat on the Turkish Airlines flight this morning, the same one we took exactly a year ago on our way to Barcelona. I remember sort-of celebrating our anniversary at Istanbul airport while we waited to board the onward flight. I also remember staring out the window when the plane landed, longing to get off at Istanbul. The birds eye view of the city taunted me, its intricate maze of streets, its domes and spires, its Europen style ordered layouts, its vast water bodies.
So when Rahul and me planned, for the umpteenth time, a getaway for just the two of us this summer, Bangkok and Pattaya and even the European cities just didn’t cut the ice. Both of us sort of zeroed in on Istanbul as our first choice, did the needful to get visas and bookings etc. Today, as I sit here having just checked into the hotel, hearing the sounds of the old city around me, I feel like we completed a journey begun a year ago on our tenth anniversary. This evening, we shall go out to celebrate our 11th, in a city full of smiling, laughing people, proud of their culture and immensely hospitable.
We’ve already experienced that here. When you ask a doorman for directions, and he takes you inside, gets someone to type in your destination on Google maps and give you a printout, even though he knows you are taking your business elsewhere, that’s true hospitality. Another elderly gentleman distributing pamphlets to advertise his street side eatery actually stood out and stopped traffic to help us cross a tricky intersection. A bunch of young men on the tram kept everyone entertained with their presumably witty conversation; even without understanding, it was hard not to laugh along. People stood up to offer their seats to women, elderly and kids without the slightest hesitation; fathers out with their children are as common a sight as mums and kids; women in headscarves and women in business suits converse animatedly- I see many, many signs of a tolerant, progressive and socially adjusted civilization. Hope to discover more as we explore the city…..