Text by Lucia Piemontesi

Translation by Elisa Borella

 

Let’s imagine to hop on the first flight to Istanbul and to be welcomed at Atatürk Airport – considering Turkish patriotism, no other name could have been better – by Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize in Literature 2006. Who better than him could guide us through secrets and wonders of a varied and faceted city, more than once defined as the door between East and West?

Well then, let our touristic and literary trip begin!

Pierre Loti Cafè

Let’s undoubtedly start from the vibrant and colored Çukurcuma district: from April 2012, in Çukurcuma Caddesi, Dalgiç Çikmazi, 2, 34425, Beyoğlu you can find The Museum of Innocence, which has been named after the title of Pamuk’s novel, published in 2008. What can we exactly find in there? It is a sort of ‘cross-media’ experiment, if we can call it so: in the novel, the main character Kemal, consumed by the forbidden love for the beautiful shop assistant Fusunn, decides to collect all the objects that belonged to her, who had mysteriously vanished without a trace. The young lover’s aim is to create a museum that could honour his beloved one, setting a remembrance walk made by objects, newspaper’s articles, pictures, clothes, jewels and so on. In the last hall, we can also find the copy of Kemal’s bedroom, which Pamuk says to have once visited and in which he had heard and jolted down the story of this man, who existed for real. The feeling of disorientation is massive: are we living in a dream, is the author playing with us or can love really reach such madness’ peaks?

Bosforo

In this peaceful district, we should also not forget the local art crafts’ shops: you will need to bargain over every single item, but this is the funniest thing in doing shopping in Istanbul.

In his last novel, A strangeness in my mind, the writer leaves us discover the narrow and wry lanes in the Beyoğlu district: the bozaci and yoghurt seller Mevlut paces back and forth through Istanbul’s streets, selling his goods, filling the houses’ rooms and the air with his shouted words. But, what is boza, is perhaps what you are asking to yourselves. It is a fermented wheat beverage, with a low alcoholic content – so that Muslims could always drink it – with a quite sour taste. In spite of being now the most western and renowned block for fashion in the entire city, with shiny clothes shops, restaurants, lounge cafés and cultural meeting points, the tradition of peddlers is everything but gone. Not even in the main and pedestrianized street Istiklâl Caddesi you can avoid finding sellers of mussels and salep, a creamy milk, boiled with orchid flour and sprinkled with cinnamon. Mevlut, therefore, tells that Atatürk himself said: “Peddlers are streets’ nightingales, Istanbul’s cheerfulness, part of the city’s life itself. You should not forbid them”.

Lanterne

And then there is the sea, the Bosphorus Strait and the Galata bridge, always packed with fishermen: “It was dark as dreams, deep as sleep. The cool breeze gently smelled of algae. The European part of the city was a whole sparkle”. So, take the first ferryboat to the Asian bank of the city, take it at sunset, keep quiet and spot the minarets and the mosques, the huts and the anchored boats, listen to the muezzin singing, to the seagulls’ voices, to the water’s sound, spreading from the moving ships. Look at the sun that, little by little, find its way to the horizon, leaving the sky burning with fiery colours, a bright red, an enchanted pink, a blazing orange.

Eventually, the hills stand upon the view: “Even further there where the light blue hills of the Asian part of the city. The Bosphorus was between these hills, but unfortunately it was not visible”. To see the Bosphorus, take the cable railway and have a refreshing break at the Pierre Loti Cafè: sip an apple tea and read a few pages by the French writer after whom the place was named. It was the artist’s favourite place.

Are you, by any chance, asking to yourself: no Gran Bazar? No Hagia Sophia? Well, we had a particular tour guide today, who would have never led us to banal places, we knew that since the beginning.

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