In order to fall in love, the timing must be right. Conditions must be perfect. Love is a fickle, volatile thing.
I came to Istanbul expecting to fall in love with this city. Alas, it didn’t work out.
Make no mistake: Istanbul is a magical place, with minarets stabbing at the sky from every hill, romantic cobble-stone streets, and ubiquitous stalls serving up kebabs from vertical spits. Muslim women in colorful head scarves mingle with ladies in modern dress and designer jeans. Men play dominoes in street cafes while puffing on nargiles. Grand buildings and lovable street cats are everywhere. There is no shortage of charm in this megalopolis.
Like most all the girls I dated back in my single days, Istanbul was not ready for love, not ready to love me. Hitherto our arrival, it had been summer in Istanbul. I checked (and lusted) over the weather forecast daily, the way one might look at the online profile of a girl on match.com, and saw nothing but 80 degree days and sunshine. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the first cold front of autumn, and we’ve had moody skies, blustery wind and unrelenting, icy rain during our entire stay. Istanbul did not live up to its online profile.
Before the trip I fantasized about taking sunset photos from atop the Galata bridge, watching the sun slip behind needle-sharp minarets. I never imagined trying to enjoy the view amid gale force winds, stinging rain and a sky so thoroughly bruised that no sun could penetrate it.
I should have known better, but I didn’t realize how popular Istanbul was going to be, that I’d be vying for her attention with so many others. I got a cheap flight when I booked back in June during the riots and protests at Taksim Square. Evidently, no one was deterred. If this is the shoulder season, I don’t want to see this place in summer. The only riots now are formed by the rugby scrum of tourists jostling to get into the famous sites.
According to Wikipedia, Turkey is the 6th most touristed country in the world, and everything on Wikepedia is 100% accurate, so it must be true. I can see why. Luxor and Rome are the only two places I have been with tourist throngs this thick.
At the crossroads of two continents, Istanbul has one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia. All the cliches are true: it is a meeting point of East and West, ancient and modern. This is a country that borders Iran, Iraq, Greece and Bulgaria; it is a bridge connecting the Middle East, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Maybe that is why I couldn’t quite fall in love. Perhaps I needed Istanbul to make up its mind and be either European or Asian. Maybe I just needed the rain to stop.
In the end, I enjoyed my time in Istanbul, despite the rain, the ATM card fiasco of 2013, and the snafu with my hotel reservations – something that will be funny in time, but not yet. Too soon. I can see why others would love Istanbul. I can see why this place is so incredibly popular.
I just can’t see myself ever falling in love.
Have you ever been somewhere magical but didn’t quite fall in love?