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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Stuck in Istanbul - Page 2

Written by Antonina Okinina
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In the colorful quarters of Tarlabashi, reminiscent of poor past of the city, I recall Brodsky, who had been in that old Istanbul in the 80s and was inflamed with wondrous hatred. "Delirium and horror of the East. Dusty catastrophe of Asia... the black-eyed part of the world, by the evening overgrowing with three-day-old bristle," snorted the classic. Then, he was convinced that Istanbul is a forever dusty, poor, and useless city, devoid of any future.

Istanbul 01I wonder if he would be surprised to see the modern, rising Istanbul. With good roads, new houses, decent salaries, polite service, and stylish young people, among which every other is fluent in English. In fact, in Istanbul universities some disciplines are taught in English. As if continuing the good governmental tradition: to Europeanize the Turks under duress. As once Ataturk introduced fines for untidy clothes and spitting on the street.

If you believe Orhan Pamuk, a writer who won the Nobel Prize and a life-time Istanbul resident, the Turks have long languished for Europe. And it seems, not only in words. Even the numbers on their cars are suspiciously blue, as if the owners are just waiting to happily draw the white stars of the EU.

I had enough time to notice that in more than three-hour traffic jam. The reason was: thousands of Turks, and we together with them, were rushing to a new stadium for a U2 show. Three hours on the road. And in fact, we were driving only through the European side of the city. Perhaps if we had to get from the Asian coast, we would waste five hours.

Istanbul 10Oh yes, bridges across the Bosporus are the curse of any resident of Istanbul who needs to get from one part of the city to another. 12 million people and, sadly enough, only 2 bridges: during election time, they become a good way to manipulate people’s minds. To avoid the congestion, people prefer to sail on ferries for 1.5 lira (the standard ticket fee on any public mean of transportation); sometimes together with their cars – this ticket costs 16 liras.

We’re sailing to Eminonu, and from there, on foot to the Sultan Ahmed square, the magnet for tourists and pilgrims. Well, yes, 2.5 thousand years of history – there was enough time to store up values. Here are Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome square, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the old hammams. As well as my passion: the Archaeological Museum with a sarcophagus of Alexander the Great and marble head of Sappho.

Istanbul 17

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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