Four in the morning! I really don’t like flights this early but it can’t be helped.
At least it will only take two hours to arrive which also happens to be the hours I slept tonight. And in case you were wondering, no, I can’t sleep in planes either.
At least Orhan Pamuk’s “Other colours” will keep me good company. His memoirs of his city are so vivid that I often feel I am present there, aware of Istanbul’s pulse, among the scented gardens of the past that are now gone. I can almost feel the chilly breeze from the Bosporus, hear the loud calling of the seagulls and get the scents of roasted corn and chestnuts in the air.
The cabin crew announces we are starting our descent. That went fast. I can see there are thick clouds underneath but once we land, all that matters is that I am here.
When the first buildings appear, my own past memories of Istanbul pop up. I have only been here a few times along the years but I never forgot those freezing days of March, when the city had a bright shine that warmed your soul. Or even those nightly walks when the city had a different vibe and I went on a culinary tour of the senses.
It is May this time and Sunday but the shopping streets are full of people, strolling, enjoying family time together. The restaurants and cafés are bustling with activity. You can hear people laughing and chattering away and the noise of plates being cleared by the busy staff.
Turkish but also many other languages are being spoken all around as is normal in Istanbul, a city spread on two continents. This is the vibrant Istanbul I’m used to.
Every few minutes a tram announces its proximity! The people, as if in a choreographed dance, get off the tracks where they walk to avoid the heavily crowded sidewalks.
There are always youngsters that take free rides hanging outside the tram. They seem to be having fun and a perfect balance.
But the best way to explore Istanbul is on foot. That is when you notice the details, the colours, the rhythm of the city.
This is just the beginning …