Istanbul Part I–Time Changes Nothing

Time changes nothing here in Istanbul:

Istanbul, this historical city, being the old capital of four empires: the Byzantium, the Roman, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire, it is a big diverse mixture between all the cultures in the lands surrounding Anatolia.

Istanbul is unexpectedly dreamy. The city, especially the old town, seems like it has survived and distilled from time, none of the tears, blood, war, technology or globalization demolished the true beauty of this city. The smell of history lingers around every single well designed and preserved corner. I am impressed by how much Turkish people pay attention to the tiniest details of their city’s aesthetics. Even though the styles of architecture seem different due to the cultural diversity, they all perfectly blend in without any discomfort to the eyes.

It happens to be the first day of “Ramazan” in the islamic world. People, during this month, starve during the day and can only eat or drink when the sun goes down. A Turkish man tells me that this is not just about suffering. It is about understanding the poor, lowering all human beings, whether wealthy or not, to feel the same pain and hunger. This way, everybody is equal in the sense of survival. What a beautiful idea.

Istanbul is also the only city in the world that sits on two continents. Every sunset, we sit at the dock, watching the bridge, the ferries and the seagulls, going back and forth from the two massive lands of the earth, peacefully sharing the same hopes and dreams.

Turkish people seem to have a thing for Asians. As we constantly feel like two of the only Asians walking down the streets, people would gently greet us with their eyes or even say hello. I now understand how it feels when foreigners in China get asked to take pictures with the locals. Quite fun actually.

Before I came, I always have dreamt of Istanbul. A TV program in my childhood has made me long for the excitement of crossing through two continents, feeling the density of human civilization and breathing the air in the land of Anatolia. I imagine the sound of a choir singing, messengers in black robes covering all their bodies but their faces, walking out of mosques, mumbling words from the Quran. Doves fly over the domes of Hagia Sophia, taking the wind on them and heading towards the deep blue water.
Right now, sitting on a cafe drinking turkish mint tea and writing this article definitely feels like a dream come true.

I used to think of Istanbul in relations to Beijing or Xi’an. As these two cities have also been the capitals of many different dynasties in China. I love the culture and history of my country. But Turkey does it better and is more humble about it. China is often being called “拆那”(tear that down) because the government simply has full control in demolishing the residences that people have lived for generations just to build an ugly big office building or a massive mall. So much of the old architecture has lost to globalization and the need for development. Now, only some of the main sites or really important buildings are left. They always seem so alone, being surrounded by advertisements, skyscrapers, badly designed buildings and breathing the foggy air. Standing at the Galata Tower looking down on the city of Istanbul, and we compared it to some old panorama photos 150 years ago, almost nothing has changed. If we Chinese people are so proud of our historical culture, then develop inside these culture, not over it.

We took a day trip to one of the Prince Islands, Buyukada. Here, no motor vehicles are allowed. Simply bikes, boats, the sun, the sky, gorgeous gardens of residences’ houses and peaceful alleyways decorated with all their passion and love.

Overall, my first impression for Istanbul is truly amazing. I love how the way people live, the modern, international prospect of an Islamic country and the beautiful sceneries that have not changed over centuries of erosion.
















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