Istanbul. The first time I was here I was 12. Memories of smog, crowds, kebab and an
incomprehensible wait for the telephone in the lobby to connect with my mum in Denmark are left behind and 19 years later it’s a different city. The calls for prayer and the scent of apple tobacco are still the same but now they float through streets occupied by men in cravats and women with and without hijabs lunching at trendy cafes next to designer shops and photo galleries showcasing the latest from the international art scene.
As the plane approaches the airport it is increasingly clear to me that this is a metropolis with a responsibility. A responsibility to keep two parts of the world together so they don’t drift too far from each other, but also a responsibility to keep them separate so we still can tell them from us and us them.
Bosphorus is the name of the strait that cuts through the giant. With a head in one part of the world and a body in another the strait is like an aorta that pumps life into the Turkish economy as well as to the oil market in Europe via tankers full of the black Russian gold.
Also for the individual, Bosphorus is a vein of life. All along the many kilometers of coastline, couples promenade while local fishermen sells their catch of the day. Tivoli’s offer entertainment while small ferries sail back and forth non-stop, working as needle and thread tying these two continents together.
While the empty bottles on the table in front of me goes from one to two, ships slowly drift by in the night. Across the strait thousands of lights waver and then disappear one by one as we pass midnight. A new day is coming and one thing is for sure. Istanbul is neither Asian nor European, Istanbul is its own.
December 15, 2013