No expectations. No fears
I did not have any expectations of the city. I compiled a list of twenty-something items to see and experience, and tossed away the attempts to imagine how those items might manifest itself in reality. Until the very morning of the departure, I held on to the bliss of denial, and it didn't dawn on me that I was going to a different country until I was on the way to the airport.
When you have no expectations, the reality surpasses the highest of them. When you are not looking for anyone particular, you encounter the people you’ve been awaiting for years. When you let the road guide you, it brings you to the most wonderful destinations. Our road brought us to Istanbul.
Istanbul welcomed us with innumerable tulips and a gorgeous sunset. It charmed us tirelessly, and we fell in for this charm without resistance.
It gave us a cozy little apartment to stay overnight and countless sights to explore during the day. It woke us up at dawn with overlapping calls of muezzins and the smells of fresh pastry.
At times, it surprised and confused us, and made us take turns which one could consider wrong if only they didn’t bring us to the right places. It gave us winding streets to wander, ancient towers to climb, and empty bridges to kiss on.
It fed us with generous portions of kebab and spoiled us with baklava. It treated us with free cups of Turkish coffee and shots of Yeni Raki on the house.
It made us acquainted with people we seemed to have known for lifetimes. It made us inhale the spring as if we experienced it for the first time.
“Do you think we will ever return?” I asked looking at my feet as we were walking away from Dolmabahçe palace. It was our last day in the city, and Dolmabahçe was the last sight on my list. “Of course”, J.B. responded, “just not for a week”. I nodded in agreement. Or maybe, in relief.
Another week might be too long, but we have to return. We have to see Hagia Sofia in all its majesty, free of reconstruction scaffolding. We have to take shots of Yeni Raki (şerefe, kardeş! cheers, brother!) with Muzzafer, our favorite waiter from “Pala". We have to buy a carpet from our crazy friend Deniz, who took the plaster off his broken hand, just because "I want to go to the club, I want to go party, but with this fucking hand I can't!"
It’s been exactly two months since we departed from Istanbul. We come back to it almost every day in our thoughts and conversations. We look through pictures and got make our coffee the Turkish way. We seduce our friends into traveling to the city. And I know that when the time comes, we will even seduce ourselves.
I will pack another suitcase. I will compile another list. I will write down my expectations on a bright paper sheet. Right before boarding the plane, I will let the note slide out of my pocket – just so that the city has another chance to enchant us, just so that we have another excuse to fall in love with it.