The taxi pulsed with cool air that taunted the domineering sun above, as if it was coyly escaping its relentless blaze. Seeping into the pores of the local people outside, the sun’s rays crawled into every corner of the city. It was our guide. As we drove through the sweaty, crowded streets, I reveled in the scenery of this incredible place. Then he stopped. Our crazy taxi driver apparently decided the upcoming traffic was too much for him, so he threw the cab in reverse and gunned it. Within seconds, we went from enjoying the view to being thrown out into a chaotic traffic jam, left to navigate the city on foot.
After our fun little reverse suicide mission, I realized Istanbul and I share something in common- we were both on the edge of something. I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and Istanbul appeared to be on the edge of a serious identity crisis. Turkey’s cultural hub lives on the edge of two continents, Europe to the west and Asia to the east. Istanbul also resides on the edge of Western culture and Islamic culture. In a city where there is so much push and pull, it seems as though serious problems would arise. Yet, The City on the Edge does surprisingly well. Istanbul’s residents are able to live in two worlds. To my right, I can see a girl in a miniskirt with her face coated in makeup and to my left I can see a woman in a burqa with only her eyes exposed. While the world watches and waits to see what direction Turkey may turn, Istanbul seems to enjoy the freedom of choice.
Keeping in mind that Istanbul’s apparent identity crisis is actually one of its greatest charms, I traveled the city with a new outlook- a state of mind that was open to uncertainty. My new mindset was first tested when I tried to wrap my head around the history of the legendary [url=http://www.hagiasophia.com/]Hagia Sophia[/url]. The lumbering orange and pink structure truly perplexed me. After reading the numerous signs throughout the almost unnervingly spacious building, I had come to learn that it was once a church, then was converted into a mosque, and now offers itself up as a museum. The true beauty of Hagia Sophia lies in its fluidity. The building acts as a roadmap that visually displays the city’s changes in culture. Mosaics of Christian history decorate the walls, while Arabic symbols cover the ceiling. Istanbul, like Hagia Sophia, seems to be respectful of its past, yet open to change in the future.
Istanbul also taught me to welcome change and to embrace uncertainty. Our free spirited friend and wonderful tour guide, Naciye, initially left my control freak mind spinning with all of the changes to our ‘schedule.’ Yet as the days passed, I decided to release some of my uncertainty regarding the future and learned live in the moment. Although I may not have known where we would end up next, I was able to be totally consumed by the beauty of the [url=http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-blue-mosque]Blue Mosque[/url], the astounding view at [url=http://www.galatatower.net/english/]Galata Tower[/url], the relaxation at the [url=http://www.visit2istanbul.com/haseki-hurrem-sultan-hamam-bath/]Turkish bath[/url], the madness at the [url=http://www.grandbazaaristanbul.org/Grand_Bazaar_Istanbul.html]Grand Bazaar[/url], and the expansiveness of the city revealed through our cruise on the [url=http://www.goreme.com/bosporus-cruise.php]Bosphorus[/url]. And that is when I realized what the City on the Edge is truly all about. While Istanbul is able to pay tribute to its tumultuous past and welcome the uncertainty of tomorrow, its greatest feat is its ability to brilliantly embrace the beauty of the moment.
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