Friday, June 22, 2007

from Istanbul, Turkey: coming home

No, not to Madison. Not yet.

It’s just that returning to Istanbul felt like coming home. (And returning later today to Paris will stir up those sentiments all over again.)

The familiar. The welcome from people who know you.

We leave Bodrum late. One last breath of hot air up there on the hill and then off, along the shore of this rocky peninsula, where the waters are the color of fairytale seas.

Zipping past olive groves...


... I am reminded of the drive in from the airport, just three days ago: curious then about the town that everyone here loves to remember fondly. Bodrum? I’ve been there! I plan on going back soon. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

A short flight and then a long, very long drive from the airport to our little hotel on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. Rush hour traffic frustrates even the seasoned cabbie. When it just moves too slowly, the taksi driver will bullishly forge toward oncoming traffic, up through detours, on the sidewalk – anywhere that will move them, us, forward.

And then we are home, at the Sumahan.

Welcome! You have your room again, the same one.

With chocolates and fruits and four windows looking out onto the dark waters of the Bosphorus.

And the distant mosques of Sultanahmet.


And the curving Asian shoreline, which for one more night is our home.


We eat dinner downstairs. Our favorite head waiter is there and he takes charge of our food and wine for the night.




He lives just a little ways away. Two daughters – one wanting to be a doctor, the other – an artist at heart.
He asks my little one (only she’s not so little anymore… sigh…) if she is studying still.
Yes, three more years.
In Istanbul?
No, no, back home.
So you are leaving Istanbul? That is so sad.

Yes, it’s sad to leave a home even if that home was only yours for a week. No more ferry schedules to take note of, no more lights on the bridge to admire.


No more fresh sea bass, daily, no more olives and cucumbers for breakfast.

The last sunrise over the Bosphorus, witnessed from the four windows of our room.


Orphan Pamuk writes about the Bosphorus brilliantly, lovingly, sadly. Istanbul for me has meant a daily intimate encounter with this wide stretch of water. Saying good bye to the city is saying goodbye to the boats that ply up and down, across and back. And to the muted sounds that travel across – mosque chants, pleasure-boat music. No traffic sounds. Only ferry motors and waves slapping the shore. It makes the city a dreamy place, far away, exotic.

One last coffee by the water, one last look out the window. Home to the Bosphorus, now home to the professed love of my life, Paris. You tell your children when they’re little– I love you the same amount only differently. Are cities like children? Or are they like lovers? I’m not sure.