Tomorrow we take off for Istanbul. It’s about as centrally located as any place on our globe, and if it isn’t the actual center of the world (what is?) was the most important city of the most politically dominant land mass (Eurasia) for longer than any other city I can think of (like… 2000 years?) I’ve never been outside the airport there, so for me this visit will make Turkey the 76th entry on my list of Countries Visited. Steve spent some time there once before, though, when on a round-the-world odyssey with his parents. He celebrated his 9th birthday in a hotel overlooking the Bosporus. Though young, he was deeply impressed by the city and always said he wanted to go back. For the life of me, I don’t know why I also didn’t long ago yearn to get there.
Now that I’ve been reading about the Romans and Byzantines and Ottomans who ruled their respective empires from Constantinople (as Istanbul was known for most of its glory years), I’ve been lusting to go. I’ve “learned” 644 Turkish words (according to Duolingo), and if I can remember 30 or 40 of them in the weeks ahead, I’m hoping they’ll be useful. We plan to travel all over Turkey, but we’ll start and end in Istanbul, and I have to confess it’s the city that most fascinates me, at least pre-launch. I know all of Turkey has had some hard times recently — overseen by a brutal, backward-looking leader; and currently enduring inflation that will be the worst I’ve ever experienced first-hand (70% in the past year.) Yet it continues to be an economic powerhouse. Istanbul is still the biggest city in Europe, the rank it has held so many times over the millennia. Even today, it’s the fifth largest city on earth.
Will it be too depressed? Or depressing? We’re betting it won’t. But I’ll do my best to share whatever we find along the way.