I arrived well after sundown to Istanbul. Even so, the main airport was bustling, an indication of the city’s center role in the country. Istanbul, known historically as Constantinople, is one of the largest metropolises in the world. Its history which dates back over 2000 years is rich. From the Byzantines to the Pagans to the Christians and Catholic Crusaders (I’m missing a few sieges) to the rise of the Ottoman Empire to the creation of the Republic of Turkey… there is no denying this city has earned its place of importance on the global map. I am not typically drawn to nor comfortable with large city hubs but there was something alluring about this colorful and energetic city. I was staying near the old city center allowing close proximity to the city attractions like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazar. And I was sure to see them all in the few days I had here.
Istanbul, however, has two sides separated by the Bosphorus strait. There is the European side and the Asian side. While the European side was rich in opulent signature attractions, the real magic happened for me when I took the ferry and crossed to the other side.
I am often drawn to and intrigued by the other side. The road less traveled, the life less ordinary. I strolled along the streets made alive with greenery and marked with colourful houses, eclectic cafes and bookstores.
I stopped for some lunch at a café and ordered a Beyti Kebab. Essentially, these are beef skewers wrapped in flatbread and drizzled with butter or oil.
I had one unfavourable evening in Istanbul walking to a restaurant for dinner on the European side. I was approached by a few men at different times, all of whom were invasive and bordering on aggressive. It was the first time in all my years of travel that I ducked into a public building when my hard “no” was met with further pursuance.
Many ask if it is dangerous travelling alone as a single woman. I don’t often feel unsafe. While there are dangers around me that may be out of my control and are unpredictable, I always have a say in how I respond or think about them and I try not to forget this. I can’t let fear drive my choices and create missed opportunities. I may be a bit technologically challenged, my sight may be failing me with age, and I may struggle with maps and driving… but I get by. I have a trunk full of faith and I’ve learned a thing or two stumbling along this journey trying not to miscast myself in this crazy drama of life.
I didn’t let it scare me. I kept moving towards my destination. The restaurant was at the top of a building and overlooked the Blue Mosque. I let my nerves simmer and placed the napkin on my lap. When I looked up and turned my head I saw not just a rainbow but a double rainbow, arched magically over the Blue Mosque. I got up quickly and made my way to the terrace and stood in awe. Never in all my years have I seen a double rainbow, nevermind one with an arch so perfectly in vision.
I heard that all rainbows are in fact double rainbows – a mere result of light being reflected and refracted by raindrops. On a spiritual level, a double rainbow is auspicious and signifies transformation. No one sees a rainbow the same way. I will take the science and wrap it up in the magic. I will take them both. Imagine if I had turned back in fear? I may have missed the rainbow.
Tomorrow, my friends, we head to Sicily where this journey changes course. Where I unpack my bags and settle in for a few weeks in the town of Taormina.
See you there!