The Country of Red
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
By: Nuna Bagci
From the land of Doner Kebab – a warm welcome! I want to take you through a quick lyrical tour of the only intercontinental country of the world. Interestingly enough, the notion of ‘bridging’ two ideas is how I would describe this entire country and its familial people – inevitably, in a lyrical fashion.
The country of versatility, Turkey is a place that demands exploration. No city will be like the other; and no folk of one province will resemble the one before. Oh, I must say, it is certainly not easy to get used to this hub of exploration – one must have the ability to be empathetic, open to novelty and change, and accepting of cultural differences. Yet, once you’re used to it, it’s almost addictive. I can count the people who revert back once they leave this place. After spending half a year in another beautiful European city - where I grew up – I could feel the longing for the country of warmth and its people. Months on end were spent reminiscing the streets of Istanbul, chaotic and crowded but with a touch of content. The memory brings back simple lives and soft smiles. My mind brought me back to Kapalicarsi, also called the Grand Bazaar, visualizing the various vendors chanting songs of invitation to their shops, sometimes mocking each other and sipping tea. This place is alive, and it forces you to be so. Mind you, you do need to learn Turkish as English is a mirage, but in turn, you will feel at home without even realizing. The Turks enjoy treating guests just as much as they like drinking tea.
A few tram stops away lies the enchanted bosphorus. Even there the hustle doesn’t end; the sound of waves blends in with the voices of numerous tourists and Simit (local pretzel) sellers. Every once in a while, one has to take the intercontinental ferries to be reminded of Istanbul’s vast offerings. Inevitably, I’m also guilty of forgetting to be ‘alive’ in the city where I live. The blue bosphorus reminds you that there is much more to see than all you have seen before; your world is eternal. For a moment, I remember how disturbed I was by the chaos when I first came and longed to leave; yet how captivating it was shortly after. The blue city teaches you that a curse is a blessing sometimes. After some time spent breathing (much needed) fresh air in the metropolitan city, you can’t help gazing at the Maiden’s Tower, realizing how much history there is in this city. Inside this tower exists an ancient aura, the pictures of a legendary love story between a maiden and a young man who were separated by death. Despite all this, the beautiful tower stands alone in the middle of the wide sea, in the middle of Europe and Asia, in the middle of two worlds as if to create a magical balance.
The Anatolian side, much less crowded, is my mini paradise. Standing right next to each other are two entirely different districts – Üsküdar representing ancient Turkey and Kadikoy, the modern-day Turkey. I usually disembark the ferry in Üsküdar, just to pass through the old mosques, libraries, restaurants and schools. Kadikoy makes itself obvious with its punk cafes, international restaurants, and long, narrow streets filled with crowded pubs. This is a place where you can see nothing but young people, the seaside making a good hangout spot for couples or friends. As I walk through the street of colorful umbrellas I think to myself “Isn’t Turkey a weird place?” and smile. Then I realize, “Turkey? Did I just say Turkey?” and realize that Turkey is much beyond these streets and this blue city. Turkey is the country of hot air balloons, the spicy and aromatic food, steakhouses, travel and relaxation destinations, the cold, abandoned mountains and yet unexplored, astonishing forests. So much that I have yet to discover because in Turkey, you’re a lifelong tourist. Turkey is the country of simplicity and variation, just as its language suggests. Turkey, to me, is history wearing the clothes of modernity, walking along narrow streets towards vast oceans. There is never a day that something doesn’t change in this country, just like a growing flower, and exactly that is what I admire. I smile lightly. And while walking, I realize how safe I feel in this country covered in red flags.