Istanbul is more than a destination.
In a world where cultures and communities are tearing themselves and each other apart over their differences, Istanbul stands as testament to what results when centuries of differences and contrasts meet in one place, often clashing, but ultimately balancing each other out in the end.
Since its conception, Istanbul has been a major crossroads in the roadmap of the world. The scene of battles, of destruction, of rebuilding and rebranding, always emerging stronger and better than before, thanks to the lessons dug out of the rubble.
It has experienced probably the most consistently radical changes of any city on the planet, from its settlers, its cultures and its religions. Every single one has left its mark, not just physically, but in the hearts of the people and the blood that pumps through them.
As a home carries many layers of paint, each colour representing a different family and an important period in their lives, so Istanbul can scrape back the layers of paint and dust at any one of a thousand points in the city, to reveal the traces left behind by its predecessors. Each layer marking an event, a migration, or a social, cultural or religious change.
Istanbul is the only place I know of in the world, home to a building which has housed Pagan, Christian and Islam religions, each working tirelessly to cover the work of the last, until today, when the work of all three is revealed and celebrated.
Istanbul is also one of the few places in the world, where the old and the new operate alongside each other in perfect harmony. A tea shop is not a quaint antiquity, replaced by trendy cafes and juice bars, relegated to a tourist attraction. It is an ancient cultural tradition which has retained its importance and sanctity amongst the thrashing changes of the modern world. When you enter, the fast-paced world is left outside and everything slows down. The problems of the outside don’t disturb the peace of tea room dominoes. In a world of relentless activity and stimulus, Istanbul always offers the chance of escape into a quiet corner where time stands still.
In most of the world, we see different cultures in a state of imbalance – majority and minority – with each side always fighting for attention in a battle to demonstrate its cultural identity. Istanbul is a unique opportunity to witness two distinct cultures in equilibrium, neither one trying to outshine the other or fight for more attention, but simply co-existing.
Istanbul is a key point of human movement around the globe and it has the power to be both a facilitator and a constrictor of that movement. Over many centuries Istanbul has stood as a shining example of what is achievable when the meeting of people, the sharing of knowledge and ideas, and the force of mutual respect is facilitated. However it has also seen the results of differences turning to conflict.
And so Istanbul will always be more than a destination, as the first point where we see begin to see change in the world, because change is as much a part of our nature as exploration, and as we explore, at some point, we will all meet in Istanbul!
by KACH and JONATHAN HOWE