My experience of Istanbul

In 2010 I went to Istanbul. As I got a regular not touristic bus from the Asian part of “the city”. I was blocked by a lefty manifestation about a referendum Erdogan wanted in order to make the Country closer to EU standards. Europe was looking at it with not so much attention. I had to reach the Karaköy, the line of the sea, guessing the way for a couple of kilometers. To stay sat down by the river-sea of the Bosporus and to see another continent so close and no not-reachable on foot was to me so frustrating! I decided to shop something to eat and go walking (with no maps at all, like often I still do, Viviana can witness) until a bridge I was able to see from there. “It’s not so far” I taught. It was indeed. The point is not this. The bridge we are watching these days on Tv is huge and it stretches much more beyond the shores, and even to follow carefully the two shores was an endeavor. As I found a way to climb the bridge to cross it with my baggage, I realized it was not for pedestrians at all. A young man, aged no more than 16-18 y.o., with a rifle almost longer than him (a regular soldier), told me in Turkish to go back and catch the bus (I think he said so…). I was trying politely to explain myself in English, and I understood that he was genuinely not understanding a single word.

During the first night in a not-to-be-suggested hostel I was schooled, as my passport told I was from Florence, that Constantinople had its Michelangelo, but Western historians were too biased to recognized it. I suddenly realized that my week over there would have been tough…

Along one week I searched in vain museums at the standard of a city like Istanbul, and I considered me disappointed. I fought to have real fun, but at least people don’t bother you if you sleep after the noon on a bench.

Likely and unexpectedly Istanbul was hosting just in those days the Basketball World Championship. What a luck! Yep, I spent many afternoons in watching games sat down in some of the many bars. One mint tea for a whole afternoon was not such a big affair for the Turkish bartenders who always looked at me in a very bad temper. I sincerely had few money to spend, I swear.

I remember during the finals of the Championship, USA team vs. … Turkey. Turkish things happened, such as a player shot some free throws replacing the player who was fouled (supposedly much less able to score). The most important game held each four years with international referees was subjected to what in Italy we call “Turkish things”. Not such a big detail to tell by the way, I think people are not anymore surprised by these things.

I also remember that while I was going to the international bus station I had to help an old woman who was trying to cross a massive street in high traffic. Other people were around but I was the only one helping. The woman said “thank you” and a lot of other things; she was also assuming I was understating all. As I spoke in English, a man confirmed she was saying thank you, but I would bet money she was saying something like “In this messy city there is still some good Muslim”. In Italy a woman would have said exactly the same, provided that “Christinian” would have replaced “Muslim”. What’s the difference?! I felt necessary to say to all the people around waiting for a cheap bus I was Italian. The woman made a very Mediterranean gesture with her hand that meant: “Italian? It’s 0k, we are not so different”. I agree sincerely still now.

I also went to Bulgaria, a trip I’m not going to tell in details, but for the splendid image to see the ancient Byzantium white and red walls at the sunrise coming for the deep European side. What surprised me was an enduring sense of superiority Turkish people had over Bulgarian. History gives some reasons to them, but currently the relations appear reversed: Turkey is the place from where many people (I can tell about Iranian people who get somehow Turkish passport) try to go away in order to access the real land: European Union!

Coming back to the Airport I found that the indication for the Formula1 Turkish Grand Prix were unreal: who were going to attend Formula 1 in Turkey? And in fact the Grand Prix lasted few years…

Once at the queue to embark, I had my last Turkish experience: a Turkish man purposely kicked my baggage because he felt walked by me (I was going a little on his side to be honest, but only to make the queue shorter). He also hit me with a very aggressive sight. I was happy to be Italian: a couple of guys aged like me with Roman accent were joking about  iconoclasm, miming a fight for this dispute. Irony is much better, although to know the real terms of iconoclasm satisfies better my nerdy life. They could have the same irony mode, I’m sure, but they are walking some reasons across the wrong path in this epoch, and they are getting step by step on the wrong side of History.

This Turkey will never enter the European Union, and billions of tons of water in the Bosporus have to pass until someone will have the possibility to cross the Istanbul bridge for tourism and in safety. That day Turkey will be free, really balanced between secularization and its identity, and ready to talk about the Armenian genocide.

It’s a pity, the tv advertisings related to the Basketball World Championship was great! This is an example.