If ever you land at Ataturk Airport and make your way through the customs and baggage claim and the general civil anarchy that is Turkish travel, you’ll find yourself in a taxi weaving through traffic in a way that inspires the desire for a seatbelt, even in a New Yorker. He’ll use the exit lane and ask where you’ve come from, he’ll tell you about his family and 26-year-old son who died in a car accident last month. He’ll shed a rogue tear. Then he’ll drive you through the choked and narrow and tangled back streets off the highway, and down through Besiktas, past the old palace, onto the main road that winds along the Bosphorus.
That’s when it’ll strike you — the magnificence and its chaos. They’ll reveal themselves all at once, mutually exclusive, and Istanbul will remind you of other things (this is her greatest trick). The blurry expanse might recall the train ride between London and Paris, and the jagged coast of the Bosphorus will echo the California coastline, the sunlight shone through deep blue gradients. None of these similarities are actual; they are more like haunting whispers of nostalgia, another of her awesome powers. So then it will draw you into its wild beauty in the manner of all great loves: a sense of belonging coupled with a vast uncertainty.
This is my speculation. As it sometimes goes when one feels strongly about a place, I have the conviction that you would fall for it too; that you might, upon seeing it, wither away in an instant just to be injected with a red hot blood, for that is what this place is capable of. You’d love it. You simply must.