Last time I visited this place, Erdogan was just then beginning his "dictatorship"i and Istanbul looked like the run down shithole Bucharest was sliding towards. Twelve years later, any Romanian town you pick would hope and dream to look like Istanbulii, in vain.
A few highlights : I covered the 40 Kms from the Airport to Sultanahmetiii in all of 20 minutes. The driver kept it at 120, because the new highway allows it. And there's three new bridges and a new tunnel, and a boatload of extra infrastructure keeping the traffic quite pleasant, I don't think I've been ever in a column longer than five cars. Think of it! And while you think of it, think of this : they've added like a million new apartments in the past decade, they must have, there's just no other way. Compare and contrast to New York's 50k or whatever it was.iv
And now I figure maybe it's time for some pictures.
This is me saying goodbye yesterday.
This is a seagull. There's lots and lots of them in Istanbul, owing of course to the proximity of all the fish. The only animal there's more in Istanbul than seagulls are cats (perhaps owing to the same proximity of fish, but more likely owing to the very calm and tolerant behaviour of the locals). There's an apparent infinity of them, possibly more than actual people. I imagine the rats in Istanbul are consequently very very small and very very shy, peanut sized creatures.
Wanna play "identify the ex cathedral" ?
The only picture I'm going to post out of Istanbul's Archeology Museum. Turkey ended up with the lion's share of remains from the classical period, so let me put it this way : if you've never been to Istanbul you are not a classics anything : not a classics professor, not a classics student, you simply have nothing to do with the classics at all. You may imagine you do, but you don't.
Ok, I lied. Here's one of the best busts ever made of the best emperor that ever was.
Here's me considering your idea.
Here's some derp being pretty fucking awkward with some pretty blond girl for some god forsaken reason. All captured on film, for greater justice.
What's to say? Put your hand in a bowl of nuts, pull out three: that's the Warner brothers and their sister, Dot. Nuts. Crazy. But these kids knew from comedy.
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
And by the way, if you've never read Jerome K. Jerome, dov. He's roughly a British Samuel Clemens : polished, with literary reference, transfixing ad aeternitatem the environment of London clubs and Oxford jolly good old boys and whatnot, but just as deeply funny. A sampler :
But the river...chill and weary, with the ceaseless rain-drops falling on its brown and sluggish waters, with a sound as of a woman, weeping low in some dark chamber; while the woods, all dark and silent, shrouded in their mists of vapour, stand like ghosts upon the margin; silent ghosts with eyes reproachful, like the ghosts of evil actions, like the ghosts of friends neglected...is a spirit-haunted water through the land of vain regrets.vi
Stuff in a shop window.
Fried corn, and actual baked chestnuts. I've never found these outside of Turkey and I've despaired of the search. They're irreplaceable, once you've had the genuine article you can't anymore take seriously the puny offerings of other places.
The 13`875th Cat Regiment of the Foot reporting for catuty. Do you has any things that are bacon and also are fish ?
A collection of items and other things.
And thus this post ends, my dear reader. And next one, in Jerusalem!———
- In the words of the very amiable Mehmet Y. (hi! :D), he's done a lot for the country, but the people are just sick of hearing his voice anymore, which is kinda sad and pretty unfair but what're you gonna do. [↩]
- Perhaps worth pointing out that at roughly 12 million, Istanbul actually exceeds the sum total of Romania's urban population. And if you think administering a spaceship that large is no small feat, consider that New York isn't actually that big. Or that nice, but that's an argument for another time. [↩]
- The heart of the old city pretty much, between Aysofia, the Blue Mosq and Topkapi. [↩]
- And since we're on this "you vs them" kick : I landed on Ataturk, got off the plane, looking for a place to pick my bags. There's a huge immense swarm of people and an information desk. So I ask the girl, where do I pick my bags ? Through passport control first, she says. Where's that ? Get in the line, she says.
Apparently, God have mercy, the zerg swarm was a... queue. So I walk a quarter mile (I kid you not nor do I exaggerate : 700 steps of mine are a quarter mile pretty much exactly) to the end of the queue, ready to shoot somebody. Turns out, it was going pretty fast. You probably have no idea what "pretty fast" means in Ataturk, so let me point out that I was through the entire thing in about half an hour. The entire thing, which does not mean the quarter mile queue, because you see... once I was back where I started fifteen minutes later I discovered that the swarm of people was actually... a queue, wrapped up nine thick over about 50 yards. So... another quarter mile. Ataturk frontier police processes just about 5k people an hour. And they have to, because in the half hour I was there a total of five major landings were called (ie, 300 passenger and over Airbuses) not to count dozens of smaller flights, like my own. That's just about 3k people or so.
And then I hired a porter, which is a standardized service costing 10 bucks, whereby you get a guy that knows the place, with a cart, to find your bags and hail you a cab and get them loaded up. The whole thing took me fifteen minutes, and involved trying to keep up with this guy. Porters, you hear me ? Until the so called "civilised" West provides me with servants to carry my bags from the terminal to the car, Istanbul is the fucking capital of the world. Not New York, not vomitstain London. Istanbul.
I'm not even kidding, I fully intend to route all my future flights through there, including a few days of layover to take in the shisha and shish-kebap.
This is how the world ends : by another world being so much better that the people who actually matter simply move over. I wouldn't as much as fart in the direction of protecting France or the US or whoever the fuck else from anything whatsoever, including an invasion of terrorist slugs from outer space. I would however cut your throat with my own hand and watch you bleed to defend Istanbul's porters and hookahs from you. So there. [↩]
- And as to Bingo's remark : I read the whole book on the plane, among naps. It was about 6k lines, which means three days' worth of logs. And they're not even full lines, like the logs'.
The realisation scared me, like I hope it shall scare you,too. [↩]
- You are not expected to understand this. [↩]