Nothing describe a place and his people better than telling a story, mine is about a man of learning, that did impossible.
Ahmed Çelebi (1609-40) was a Turkish scientist living in Istanbul (at the time Constantinopolis) for most of his life. His studies of science and of ancient books lead him to study some principles of physics from the 10th century scientist Ismail Cevheri. This knowledge lead him to test and attempt a unique experiment, to be the first man to fly.
After have tried nine small successful jumps and gliding in 1636, he was preparing for a long time for his biggest jump. He climbed the ancient italian tower of Galata from where where the whole city was watching him be ready for the jump. He pronounced “Bismillah” (in the name of Allah) and launched himself, gliding toward the Bosphorus with the wings he put attached to his body. Everyone was amazed. Thanks to the wind from the south he flew across the Strait of Istanbul like a bird all over the sea, the one that divide the european Istanbul from the Asiatic one, landing safely on Dogancilar. Thanks to this feat he was awarded a purse of gold as reward from the Sultan Murad IV and all the people start to call him Hezarfen (which means possessing ˝a thousand sciences˝).
Unfortunately, despite this favor, religious leaders and palace advisers soon made change the mind of the Sultan. The records of Awliya Celebi say that the Sultan said, “It is not permissible for such people to live,” and exiled him to Algeria where he died at the age of 31.
If there is a moral, it is that here religion is what determine everyday life, very very strongly. Manners on how behave in public and rituals like washing before the five prayer of the day are present and somehow living together with the society which is quite modern and running ahead faster than religion. Even internet is not completely free from censorship. Still you feel always present and ongoing at any time of day and night the chaos of the people walking fast and pushing you away from their path in the main street of Taksim, like in the small streets where the Gypsy at night play and dance for the people in paticular festivities for some money. Even so, modernity and tradition feel living perfectly in symbiosis between modern buildings, stone colonial places and very old wooden houses blackened and ruined by the time.
Superstition is everywhere represented with talisman that can be found everywhere in the shape of the Evil Eye; as well everywhere you can find wonderful textiles and carpets beautiful decorated, pottery of amazing drawings, lamps and teapots made in brass, and colorful spices full of pungent aroma. The beauty of Turkey it is present and very alive in his ancient craft.
After all this beauty wondering from place to place, pushing between more than 13 millions of inhabitants which are always very visible, the real king and queen of this land, are not the people that live in here, but the street cats that are taken care, stroked and played with by the whole population. Those are, even the one that look scruffy, majestic and peaceful of a zen like atmosphere. You can find them in the street, at the seaside, and even inside shops and on top of tables everywhere in public places.
I am still waiting to see the most important buildings, mosques and Bazaar, but I already understood that all the Istanbul people are looking is for place to be in quiet and peace, like the harmonic seaside or the hidden parks.
What other things to say about my personal and direct experience? Could I tell you the story of the man holding the flag of his team in the wind while I was crossing the Bosphorus bridge? or maybe what I bought between all the beautiful things in the spice market Bazaar for myself? or do you want to hear the story about the drunk gay indian that wanted to take with him my white hat? or you hope to hear one day the story about the Princess of Malta, the best story that I ever told to anyone in my life, worth of the book one thousand and one night? or you want for sure to know why I was crying, laughing and making hurtful questions and silly walks at the Turkish Acting classes in Taksim? or should I hint about dancing with the gipsy at night in hidden streets away from nightly lights? or even better who I spent the most beautiful time in here by just laying in the grass hugging in the quiet and sun and make all those things so magical to make me fall in love with this place. Well, those particular stories are best kept secret, or told only when I can whisper it in your hears, in main while I will keep quiet about it, so I can just hold them sweetly in my fragile memories so close to my heart.
Keep expecting for more. I have 8 more beautiful days to describe.