For the past two weeks I’ve walked and explored a tiny little piece of Istanbul. In a couple days, I’ll be off to Jerusalem and it seems like an opportune time to jot down a few impressions and thoughts about this incredible, overwhelming, immensely compelling city.
Tourists have started to return, slowly perhaps, to Istanbul’s streets. Chinese, Japanese and Germans are particularly noticeable. They join the throngs of young, fashionable Turks constantly moving along narrow, winding streets and pedestrians-only shopping boulevards night and day, seeming to never sleep. Mixed in with this is the troubling numbers of Syrian women and children, orphans and widows perhaps, who are reduced to scavenging and begging at all hours of the day and night.
Traditional basket maker, Istanbul, Turkey
Yesterday, I visited The Museum of Innocence, a project of Nobel Prize winning Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk. It’s a realization, an installation of sorts, of aspects of his novel of the same name. Using objects such as photographs, time pieces, identity cards, newsprint, and household items, it visually conveys and expands upon elements of the novel, giving dimension to the protagonist’s history and experience. To top it off, Pamuk himself was there with some French consultants working with him to expand the project.
I’d read a bit of Pamuk though I could hardly say I knew his work. Still, that didn’t stop me from walking over to him and offering my kudos for what he was doing with the Museum of Innocence and thank him for his work. He smiled and thanked me for stopping by. I thought he seemed like a warm, decent man, hardly the aloof writer caricature that can freeze people in their tracks. So, as I left, I purchased a copy there of ‘Museum of Innocence’ and thought I’d go back upstairs for his autograph. Something about that idea didn’t seem right and I waffled enough to veto it. To this day, I wish I had gone back up.