My overall impression of Istanbul was of overlapping cultures and tastes, centuries of civilizations.
We were touched by amplified prayers wafting through this huge city, summoning worshippers to the mosques at mid-day.The windowsill in our hotel had a tiny sticker with an arrow pointing toward Mecca, making it easier for travelers to pray.
At the same time, life went on, with people dressing and apparently living their varied fashions.
We love cities. We took trams and ferries the way we take the subway or commuter train in New York. We found succulent small plates of appetizers -- mezze -- everywhere, but I have to say, our best meal was at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, a great airy space alongside the Bosphorus, with stimulating contemporary exhibitions. And I found a great bookstore near the ferry in Kadikoy, with soccer books by Franklin Foer and Simon Kuper, translated into Turkish.
One thing I did not do was take an anotated walk around the neighborhood featured in My Name Is Red, the compelling novel by Orhan Pamuk (please enjoy the Updike review from 2001), which takes place near the Galata Tower. Next time.
For sheer reading pleasure, please enjoy the current essay by Pamuk on the drying-up of the Bosphorus.
We went to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, expecting history and we encountered something close to literature.
One stele, or marker, contained a tribute to a Roman captain, Iulius Callineicos, from the third century, C.E.
“Greetings passerby! Callineicos, you have set sail to the limits of Lethe (the mythical river of forgetfulness), having survived many fierce tempests. Still the sea did not swallow you in its depths, [but] the earth has wiped you from the face of the earth, you who wanted to take after your brother Calligonos, who left long ago from the face of the earth. The decision of the Fates (Moirae) was thus: Here lies Iulius Callineicos, captain.”
Callineicos was sent by one great civilization; his service is still noted in the heart of another great civilization.