Spending a year in Istanbul alone changed me

‘If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital’ – Napoleon

I’ve been in love with the city, its culture, history and its people for as long as I can remember. The minute I stepped into Istanbul, until my last footsteps out of the city, I have been fortunate enough to experience some of the most cherished moments of my life. Istanbul is definitely the city of love – in every way possible.

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I chose to write this blog to highlight some aspects of Turkey that are not usually visible to one, unless they have lived in the city. The beautiful architecture and its exquisite history are only droplets in the ocean that we refer to as Constantinople. The first thing I noticed as I went into my apartment were the countless stray animals right across my street. As days passed by, I realized that even though none of the dogs were owned by anyone within my vicinity, the Turkish people there made sure that each one of them was taken care of and fed properly. The dogs in return would guard our streets and love each one of us, as if we were their owners.

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To say that Turkish people are hospitable is an understatement. The minute one steps in a metro bus, you would find someone ready to help you with your groceries or willing to give up their seat for you. If a child would cry on one of those journeys, the entire bus would volunteer to help the mother. During Ramadan, on my way home from work, I’d often hear the sound of the prayer and I would immediately be invited for aftar at one of the local shops. Often during times of loneliness, I’d find myself on the Istiklal Street, painting landscapes near the Galata tower, accompanied by different artists. They would sit for hours and tutor me, without asking for a single penny in return, only because I was interested in their artwork.

I guess that unconditional love and those kind glances my way could have been driven by the fact that I was living alone, but I don’t know many countries that would empathize with that feeling of homesickness.

You have to stroll around Bosphorus and Istanbul to feel the long history of warriors, traders, travelers and leaders that have once referred to this city as their abode. Everything, including civilizations, religion and dialect has melded here. Its incredible memoir, beautiful culture, mesmerizing skylines, the sapphire water of Bosphorus and the sympathetic people of Istanbul leave you awestruck, to say the least.

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Istanbul is a city with layers. It is a city rich with different ideologies and philosophies. One that has inspired artists, writers and poets from all over the world. The skyline during sunset from the boat from Karaköy to Kadıköy, with the call of prayer in the background spellbinds you for a moment. Istanbul is a city where no living being goes alone or unloved. And in some ways, it is a city that despite being distant and foreign, feels like home.

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