Constantinople brings to mind oriental tales, eyes painted with henna, glittering gold displayed in every bazaar and spices that stain the hands and give flavour to Arabian delicacies.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, their land is bathed in the waters of the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
A gateway between two interconnected worlds that, in the end, forms a single, unified world that is full and complete and brings dreams with the flavour of dates and long blond hair braided to the waist.
To talk about Turkey is to talk about the union of cultures and necessary coexistence. Walking around Byzantium is part of a whole, where individual races and creeds have no place and all belong together.
Spring in Istanbul comes alive with magic and blooming almond trees that colour the waters of the Bosphorus, giving credence to the country’s motto that is sung joyfully through its streets: “Yurtta Barış, Dünyada Barış” meaning “Peace at home, peace in the world”.
Walking around the city, my mind wanders into the distance, lost in the alleys and bazaars where carpets and cushions are sold, snacking on tasty kebabs in street stalls, enjoying the walk by the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, feeling blessed near the Golden Horn, climbing Istiklal Avenue, dreaming of incense legends between the Basilica Cistern and the Dolmabahçe Palace, having my eyes opened by the Blue Mosque and the Galata Tower. Istanbul brings together the Middle Ages, with the Topkapi Palace, and the sublime, with the Süleymaniye Mosque.
The Chora Church, the Spice Market, Miniatürk, Nisantas and the place of Beyazit all offer a living memory of cultures in the present. One feels at home in Gülhane Park, amused at the Veliefendi Race Course and exulted in the Ortaköy Mosque by the sea. While visiting the Sakip Sabanci Museum or the Pera Museum, its worth having your camera on hand for Emirgan park, the Valens Aqueduct or the Atartük Arboretum before finishing with dinner and watching the Bosphorus with a cold glass of Ayran.
Everything is possible in Instanbul, from relaxing in one of the Turkish Baths or “hammams” to belly dancing with technicoloured handerchiefs to buying the freshest fish you’ve ever seen in the market. The best port to visit is Karakoy, which is loaded with an old, living beauty and was the neighbourhood of Armenian traders during the height of the Ottoman empire. Centuries and centuries forming part of the living history of its streets.
With its Turkish Delight and Pistachio Baklava, Turkey beckons as a land of dreams and possibility made real, legendary throughout the centuries and object of desire.
Half moon and one star… travelling along the coast, through small towns and cities opening their doors to any traveller who respects the variety of cultures.
From the Blue Lagoon of Ölüdeniz Beach in Festhiye, bathed by the Aegean Sea, to the magical blue lakes and waterfalls in the province of Denizli in Pamukkale, which is translated as “cotton castle” in Turkish, in reference to the beautiful geological formations caused by tectonic activity and creating several thermal water springs which are crowned at their summit by the Hellenistic city of Hierapolis, a World Heritage site since 1988. Kas and Kalkan, next to Kaputas beach, with its blue waters, white sands and beautiful sun, is perfect for two days of beach time and water sports, while Izmir, a small city swimming in treasures, is the perfect place to get in touch with our inner archaeologist.
Turkey also holds in its heart one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: The Temple of Artemis. A city of legendary history receiving its name from an Amazon queen, the city has strongly protected its legacy of Greco-Roman, Paleo-Christian and Byzantine ruins, the Library of Celsus, the Augustus Gate and the Tomb of the Apostle John.
Cappadocia, Adıyaman, Trabzon, Doğubeyazıt, Antalya … Turkey is the perfect conjunction of nations, paradises and grandiose pluralism.
A land of conflicting powers, when trade rules it claims a unique essence of its own, one of coexistence and of home, to which all travellers, from any part of the globe, are welcome, those who crossed miles, seas and borders to discover the unique magic that turned the society of dreams into a human reality in the land of constant transit and living nature.
I dream of returning to Turkey, the night of the curved moon, travelling intonation, tales of the East…
POSTSCRIPT: I could not finish my text without a call for sanity, without expressing my desire for a place where we can travel in peace and harmony. When weapons dominate dialogue, we forget the history that precedes us and made everything we are a part of possible. When fists are raised, the magic cries out in desperation to reappear, wearing the ancient garments of a light-filled continent and demanding a humanity that belongs to all of us.