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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ottoman Empire, Empire of Tolerance. A Short Business Trip to Istanbul.

Kabatas. View of the ferry port.

Kabatas. Sun on Marmara Sea.

Yesterday I was browsing through the CDs in a music shop in Istanbul when I came upon a CD with the title ‘Ottoman Empire, Empire of Tolerance’. It really made me laugh and think once again how different historical period are interpreted in entirely opposite ways depending on the political circumstances and the belonging to the ruling majority or the ‘tolerated’ or ‘oppressed’ minority. I am not qualified to say who is closer to the truth: the Turkish historians or the historians from the countries that were once a part of the Ottoman Empire. All I can say is that most probably they are both wrong. Most probably the truth is somewhere in the middle, maybe a bit left or a bit right of the middle depending on the precise period of the empire and the sultan in power.

I had a fully unexpected wonderful trip to Istanbul this week. I was a bit reluctant to get up at 3.30 am on Wednesday to catch an early plane, go west to Frankfurt in order to immediately come back East and fly over Budapest on my way to Istanbul. (By the way, this makes me think that if we invent a technology to kind of upload passengers in planes flying over cities, this might change the aviation business. Just imagine some kind of platforms hanging on 11,000 m. Then you are put into a vehicle that accelerates to the speed of the plane. Then the vehicle attaches itself to the plane and the passengers walk safely into the plane. Simple and cheap, isn’t it?)

So, I didn’t expect much from this trip but then the plane approached Istanbul from the Bulgarian coast and I started slowly getting into an Istanbulu mood. It was amazing to see so clearly the Bosphorus linking the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, so short from above but actually about 20 km. Then the plane started descending over the Marmara Sea went as far South as the level of the Princess Islands and then made a huge turn to land on Ataturk Airport (of course, what else could be the name of the Istanbul Airport).

I immediately got in a taxi and I was so happy to be there: a perfect spring day (on 21 Jan), a smell of salt and sea, people walking leisurely by the coast. In the afternoon I met my friend Ayzen and her husband. It was great to get in touch with her after almost 9 years. Ayzen was almost the same, a happy mother of the small Efe who, it turned out, was only five days older than Andrej.

I was really sleepy after the meeting and I even hesitated if I should go to bed at 8, having slept just two hours the night before but…I decided to ‘venture’ into the Taksim neighbourhood (Beyoglu), one of the liveliest in Istanbul. And lively it was, thousands of people woken up by the spring weather were out – talking and laughing.

If there was a device to measure the human energy, la joie de vivre, it would be measuring high. I forgot how tired I was and enjoyed enormously the walk. I browsed through old photography albums, listened and bought CDs, ate mussels with rice, spices and lemon at the Balik Pazar (Fish Market) and simply watched what was happening around:

- sellers of chestnuts were putting the grilled ones in a strange mysterious figures;

- CD shop sellers were playing nice new Turkish music;

- couples were playing backgammon in small cafes in the side streets;

- shops were trying to fight the global crisis at 10 pm.

The next day was even better. I woke up to a gorgeous view of the Bosphorus and the big bridge leading to Asia (by the way I paid 20 EUR more for that and it was worth it). I worked a bit with an open window (temperature about 20 degrees) and then went to REC’s office in Kabatas. It is by far the best office in REC’s structure with such an amazing view that I would have difficulties working if I had to be seated there.

We had a great lunch with Kerem, Yunus, Sibel and Yasin at a fancy, coastline café ASSK in Arnavutkoy (the Albanian quarter). It was sheer pleasure to be there at lunch, dressed in a shirt only, 2 m. from the water with a fantastic view over the Navy School on the Asian coast and the two bridges left and right. Unfortunately we had to get into a room with an artificial light but to compensate this, yesterday our UNEP Financial Initiative CEE Task Force meeting was at Kabatas again in a room with a fantastic view. This time the sky was low and grey but it was equally beautiful. And the tankers kept passing by….


Plamen said...

Руслане, хубаво описание на Истанбул. Точно преди три години бяхме там с Кайди, може би в същия хотел, близо до площад "Тексим" и неговата жизненост.

Ruslan said...

Merci Plamene,

Da, parv si. Kato u doma sme si tam...

:-) Pozdravi na Kaidi i na malkata.

Njama li da idvate kym BP?