This is my 10th year here in Istanbul, and even though it has become home and the newness worn away many years ago, this city still enamors me, especially when I get a weekend away in it with my husband.
We technically do not live in Istanbul, but in a developing suburb with fat-tailed sheep roaming in the village-dotted hills. And because we have full lives raising Ali and Omer, as well as full-time jobs, more often than not Istanbul the destination eludes us.
Istanbul is an amazing, beautiful, pulsing city, which I feel is even better experienced from its heart, Beyoglu. For the four of us, we usually enjoy Istanbul from nine am to about noon, and on the weekends. We do this because of the traffic, which starts getting heavy around noon, and to avoid the painful experience of being trapped in gridlock traffic with two active pre-schoolers; you can only listen to so many Curious George or Skippy John Jones audio books that melt into a seat-belted wrestling match in the back seat, followed by a series of empty warnings and threats (what can you really do in a car stuck in traffic?) before you start to go a little crazy.
Needless to say, we miss the pulsing beat of Istanbul by night.
But this weekend, Koray's childhood friend got married, so we decided to take full advantage of doting grandparents and the beautiful city whose far reaches we inhabit.
Once the grandparents arrived, we kissed the boys and happily hopped in the car, reveling in our newly found but limited freedom. The weekend started off with a monthly meeting I try to attend of professional women living in Istanbul. The snow flurrying outside distorting the view of the gray Marmara Sea, I sipped a cappuccino while talking and listening to a group of interesting and innovative women who have made their way here in Istanbul. It was a good start to a weekend that enabled me to re-charge and remember who the person is that sometimes gets buried under the identity of mommy and teacher.
As soon as the meeting was over, we made our way across the Bosphorous Bridge to a historical hotel in the heart of Pera. With a few hours to kill before the wedding, we treated ourselves to a Thai lunch. Soon thereafter that I indulged in a warm, sudsy hamam. Freshly scrubbed and refreshed, we headed into the old city for the merriment. It was the ride across the Galata Bridge that I was struck for the hundredth time--which always seems like the first time--as to how beautiful Istanbul is.
There is something about this city that cultivates a love-hate relationship with its inhabitants. The traffic, the over-population, the crazy drivers, all make me yearn for a quieter life back in North America. But then there are moments, or weekends, like this, and I wonder if I can ever go back to a life without the glitter and intrigue of a city like Istanbul. The sky line, the vibrancy, the city's texture and warm, lively people, it wins my heart over and over again.
So this is all this post is really about, that single moment in the weekend that I was struck by the beauty of this city reminding me that my wildest dreams of living abroad come true time and time again each time this magnificent city reveals itself to me.